Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Well here it is, our first Luxecycled blog post.
And being a business encouraging recycling and reuse we wouldn’t be supporting our cause if we didn’t start by addressing the issue with some concrete facts and figures, so here’s the low-down.
'There is no such thing as"away". When we throw something away it must go somewhere.' - Annie Leonard (Greenpeace)
Recycling - The Facts
Recycling is one of the easiest and most pro-active ways to help protect the planet. If it sometimes feels overwhelming to read about the diminishing natural world, polluted seas and the increasing greenhouse gas emissions, there is simple positive action we can take every day to help.
Just by reducing waste, recycling our rubbish properly and by making better choices on what we buy and how we shop we can all contribute to a better, healthier environment.
But although we know what we should do, how much do we really know of the facts and figures behind it and exactly how does recycling help?
What's the problem?
There are 5 main areas of concern around waste and the reasons for our need to reduce and recycle:
· pollution and climate change,
· energy consumption,
· landfill space,
· environmental impact
· the conservation of resources.
Pollution and climate change
Modern society has an insatiable appetite for brand new things but producing new products requires a huge amount of fresh resources, man power and energy. Recycling the old and used reduces the need for extracting, refining and processing raw materials, all of which create air and water pollution and cause damage to the #environment on not just global but also regional and local levels.
The more we manage to #recycle, the less harmful #greenhouse emissions such as carbon dioxide are produced, air quality is improved and waste in landfill is kept to a minimum helping to prevent the anaerobic decomposition that creates methane and contributes to increased global temperatures.
Along with the destructive effect on the planet, direct #pollution of plastic and other waste in our seas and rivers is an increasing problem. By failing to recycle properly and safely many of these #plastic items get blown or washed into rivers and end up on our waterways and coastline, in our wildlife, and ultimately in the food chain.
Conserving our natural resources
Diverting waste away from landfill and into reprocessing saves valuable resources as converting recycled materials into new products reduces the need to consume more natural materials such as wood, iron ore, precious metals and cotton, helping to protect the forests and natural habitats of wildlife as well as rural populations that depend on wild land for their homes.
'Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need but not every man's greed.' - Mahatma Gandhi.
The world’s on-going obsession with new consumables has led to devastation of ancient woodland and virgin #rain-forests that can’t be replaced and to more of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities being exploited or evicted from their homes in the search for cheap timber.
Although we consider it a synthetic material, plastic is actually made from fossil fuel #hydrocarbons and is a combination of natural substances such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil.
Reprocessing it, or minimizing its production reduces the need to grow, harvest and extract new materials from the earth, something which we cannot sustain in the quantities and speed at which we are doing.
Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process calls for considerably less energy than that required for producing products from new raw materials. Energy plays a part in several stages of the life of a new product: the extraction of raw materials to create it, the manufacture of these materials into products, transportation, consumer use and the eventual product disposal.
'Recycling 1 aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours.'
In most cases recycling uses less energy and man power, and at lower costs, than those involved in disposing of the unwanted product.
This has many knock-on effects:
· The energy saved prevents further air and water pollution to our atmosphere and waterways.
· Fewer fossil fuels are burned and emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change are subsequently reduced.
· Raw materials require large amounts of energy to extract, refine and process them.
The effects of obtaining new resources can be felt on many levels. Accessing new raw materials not only causes environmental damage but also air and water pollution for local communities. Mining for new metals can have devastating effects on the landscape and the potential to endanger wildlife and the populations who live and work in and around the industry.
Mining precious metals like silver and gold causes erosion, contamination of soil and water and the loss of biodiversity. Excavating for raw ore involves deforestation and the movement of large quantities of soil and vegetation and can cause injury from sinkholes and collapsed tunnelling as well as the release of toxic chemicals such as sulphuric acid, into the environment. There is also the potential for ancient rock to emit radioactive elements and dust into the atmosphere - a whole host of nasties.
Recycling reduces landfill
By recycling our waste properly and efficiently, discarded materials can be reused or re-processed into new products resulting in less #rubbish sent to landfill. The benefits of this are felt both locally and globally, not least the decreased emissions of methane and other harmful substances into the atmosphere, but also at considerably less cost to local authorities.
It's estimated to be 6 times cheaper to manage recycled rubbish than dispose of general waste with correspondingly less use of energy or new raw materials as a result.
All good reasons to sort your rubbish right!
So now we have the facts, what about the figures and how well are we actually doing?
According to the Gov.UK website, the total waste generated by UK households in 2018 was 26.4 million tonnes. Of that, only 45% (11.88 mill tonnes) was sent for recycling, a reduction on the 45.5% the previous year!
This year the government target for recycling household waste is 50% minimum, in stark contrast to that already being collected in other countries, notably Germany (56.1%), Austria (53.8%) and South Korea (53.7%).
But we could, and should be doing much better.
We all know that packaging, and plastic packaging in particular, is the scourge of the household waste bin, and we'd be right. 11.5 millions tonnes of packaging (44.5% of all household waste) is generated annually, although with increasing awareness of the environmental damage it does approx 70% is now either recycled or recovered.
Sadly little of this is plastic.
Last year 32% of all recycled packaging was paper and cardboard, followed by metal tins and cans, then glass with plastic lagging somewhere behind. Of the overall 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging generated by UK households per year, 371,000 were plastic bottles, but currently approx only 45% are recycled compared with the 90+% in Germany and Sweden.
Government figures for 2018 show the percentage of materials recycled:
Paper and card - 79%
Glass - 67%
Textiles - 25%
Steel - 77%
Aluminium - 52%
Plastic - 46%
Wood - 30%
However bad all this sounds, it pales into insignificance against vast swathes of waste generated by the construction, demolition and excavation industries (soil, building materials, etc) at 62% of the total UK waste, followed by commercial and industrial waste (offices, shops, restaurants, factories) at 18% overall with household waste at only 12%.