What Do We Waste & Why Is It A Problem?
Waste is everywhere. We waste natural resources by digging up, using and burning more than we actually need; we waste the products we make with supermarkets leaving unwanted food to rot in fields and we even waste our waste by sending masses of items to landfill that could be reused, recycled or composted.
This isn’t just an inefficient use of our resources, as when waste decays it gives off climate-changing emissions and can pollute soils and waters. Let’s be honest – we have got a massive waste problem in the UK however the good news is that we can tackle it through prevention, reuse and recycling.
Is There A Problem With Plastic?
Plastic is one of the most popular and useful materials of modern times – we now use about 20 times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. Its popularity and widespread use is why handling it responsibly and correctly once it becomes waste is so vitally important with 99% of all UK local authorities now offering collection facilities for plastic bottles either through household recycling collections or at designated recycling centres.
By optimising the lifespan of plastics by re-using and recycling items as many times as possible, for example, recycling plastic bottles into new ones, we can reduce our need to create new plastic. Mixed plastics packaging such as trays, tubs, pots and films can also be mechanically recycled with 79% of councils currently collecting other rigid packaging such as pots, tubs and trays in household recycling collections, which is both economically and environmentally effective to do so.
By recycling plastics, we can conserve non-renewable fossil fuels like oil, reduce the consumption of energy used in the production of new plastic, reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfill and reduce emission of gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, currently most plastics isn’t recycled with a lot of it ending up in landfill where it reportedly takes up to 1,000 years to decompose.
What’s The Problem With Landfill?
In the UK, we send over 15 million tonnes of rubbish from our homes to landfill every year. That is the equivalent in weight of burying over 100,000 adult blue whales. Filing our land with rubbish is ugly and it also causes significant problems for our environment.
Landfill sites generate climate-changing greenhouse gases when biodegradable materials break down. Electronic and building waste often contain toxic substances like mercury, arsenic and solvents and when combined with leachate – a toxic liquid formed when all types of waste break down – these waste products pollute our soils and groundwater.
Waste: The Facts
To put the UK’s waste in perspective, here are a few waste facts. So, did you know…
2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are binned each year in the UK alone.
7% of plastic bottles are recycled globally.
1/3 of all food produced across the globe is lost or wasted.
1 truck full of plastic is dumped in the sea every minute.
1 billion black plastic food trays go to landfill every year in the UK.
What Can I Do To Waste Less?
Find out when your recycling days are from your local council
Discover what you can recycle from your doorstep from your council website
Research local schemes to help you recycle almost anything
Only print when absolutely necessary and use both sides of the paper.
Start a paper recycling scheme in the office.
Don’t throw away old computers – sell the on eBay, donate or recycle them.
Remember, be part of the solution not the problem by being more aware of what everyday items contain plastic, be conscious of using unnecessary plastics and follow our top tips to ensure you are helping to tackle the fight against waste and plastics, at home and at work.