Managing our Waste is Recycling the Answer?
Like many people, I wanted to find out more about recycling, how the process works, are our products getting recycled and does recycling help our environmental impact.
The Recycling Process
After our recycling is collected, it is emptied into a collection vehicle and taken to an (MRF) Material Recovery Facility and loaded on to conveyors.
The materials go on a conveyor, and incorrect items are removed either by hand or machine. A vibrating machine separates cardboard and paper, and magnets remove steel, and aluminium cans and optical scanners separate plastics. Finally, glass drops off the end of the conveyor to a large container.
Once separated, the materials get taken for reprocessing at specialist factories for manufacturers to make into new products.
Watch this short video courtesy of Recycle Now which shows the recycling process.
Recycling has come such a long way in recent years, thanks to technology the machines used today are much more effective and can sort through many different materials which have led to a rise in recycled products produced.
For instance, in the UK, our newsprint uses 100% recycled paper, and over 80% of glass are recycled and reused to make new glass bottles and jars.
More independent designers are creating artwork and furnishings using recycled materials, additionally, larger companies making recycled products such as flooring from old fishing nets and underlay from used tyres.
Take a look at Smithers Stamford they have a great collection of both upcycled and recycled furniture.
Is recycling a good strategy?
I often wondered if the energy, transportation and power used to recycle materials were counterproductive to the environment. According to the (EPA) Environmental Protection Agency, the energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will operate a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
Also, when making new plastic using recycled materials, we use anywhere up to two thirds less energy than raw material. Additionally, recycling minimises the need to use raw natural resources and recycling reduces energy use and carbon emissions during the manufacturing process.
In the UK around 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away every year, and this food waste not only has a damaging effect on our environment but our pockets too.
An average family in the UK throws away around £700 per year of food shopping. And most of our food waste will end up on landfill where it rots and releases methane which is a damaging greenhouse gas.
Many local councils collect food waste: The food waste goes through a composting process which then turns into a valuable resource. Used for fertiliser for agriculture and to generate electricity, heat or transport fuels.
What goes into the pink bags?
This one is a doozy if you are anything like me I thought if in doubt put it into the recycling as indeed this is better than going to landfill, and the recycling machines sort through what can’t be processed.
I have since learned that this is the worse thing I could do. Unfortunately popping that plastic bag or carton into the recycling causes more harm than good.
Firstly, unrecyclable materials have to be removed by hand, which slows the recycling process, and if missed, they clog up and damage the machinery. Additionally, contaminated waste such as a greasy pizza box, glass and plastic shards contaminate the rest of your recycling. Once the materials are contaminated, they can’t be recycled, so they end up in the landfill.
Fortunately, Recycle Now have made it easy to find out what you can recycle in your local area pop your postcode into the Recycling Locator and to find out what you can recycle in your local area.
Learn more about the recycling label system watch this short video courtesy Recycle Now
Do you want to recycle at home but don’t have the facility?
I live in an apartment where we have communal waste bins; however, we don’t have any recycling facility.
Here is some good news, years after carting my recycling up the road or to bottle banks I found out that our local waste company Veolia are more than happy to supply us with a recycling and food waste bin at no cost.
In fact in the Southend Borough Veolia who manage our waste is actively trying to encourage more recycling. I spoke with Anika at Veolia, and she was extremely helpful in implementing our new recycling facility. So if you are struggling, call your local council and ask who manages waste then contact your waste company to ask if they can offer a solution.
In conclusion, while recycling isn’t the cure for our burdening waste problems, it does help the environment by lessening poisonous gasses being released from landfill and using our depleting natural resources. One thing is for sure I will be rigorously checking those labels to make sure what I am putting in the recycling bag can be recycled.
Small Actions Count!
- Put a stop to junk mail.
- Mindful Decluttering
- Donate good-quality goods to charity.
- Sell unwanted goods on preloved, eBay, Gumtree.
- Give unwanted goods to friends, family or post on Freecycle & Facebook selling pages.
- Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags.
- Bring your cup when getting a coffee.
- Recycle your unwanted paint at Community Repaint