Recycling has that calming effect on me when it comes to “doing my part for the world.” At least is has for a really long time.
Shop, unpack, use up, put in the recycling bin. Simple, right? If only.
Recycling is not as straightforward as one could think. There is a pile of issues with it. Let’s name just a few:
It is extremely confusing to get your head around what is and what isn’t recyclable. And let’s be frank with ourselves – do we really know what our own council accepts to recycle? And they don’t want to make it easy for us either. Almost every borough in London has different rules about recycling.
It’s pretty much straightforward, or at least much less complicated, when it comes to paper and glass. Having said that, let’s consider the following questions: can one recycle baking paper, coffee cups, paper plates? But when it comes to plastic – the problem becomes a much bigger monster. There are so many types of plastic that one needs an encyclopedia to even start to understand it.
UK has been exporting plastic to China for a long time, but they’ve had enough (quite rightly!) and told us to get lost. So now we send it to other countries, like Poland or Indonesia. We basically dump our crap on other, often poorer countries with legislation that does not protect their residents. Nice one UK…
Now my last point, and this one is the biggest one for me. And believe me, I had no idea about this and it was like a revelation to me when I first found out about it: a product made out of recycled plastic becomes a lower quality plastic and is therefore less possible for it to be further recycled. So basically, there is a finite number of times that you can recycle the same plastic and make it usable. For example, you can make a jacket out of recycled plastic bags, but how many jackets can you use? And what are we supposed to do with those jackets once they are worn out? Landfill. Landfill. Landfill. In the end, plastic will always end up in landfill. Or in our bodies, for that matter.
So next time when we buy something in ‘recyclable’ packaging, let’s think about it for a few seconds. And perhaps consider these:
1. Does my local council recycle this type of packaging?
2. Do I really need this item?
3. Can I get it packaged in a different way? Or without any packaging?
4. If there is no alternatives, can I spare 15 min and write an email to the producer / importer asking whether they would re-consider their packaging strategy?
Take one step, one action. Choose a product that you frequently buy, only one product and try to look for alternatives following the steps above. Choose something that is easy to change, like a plastic bottle or a bag of bananas.
If you succeed in finding an alternative way of buying it, then stick to it for a week or a month. Until it becomes your second nature. Then choose another product. And repeat 🙂
Baby steps can change the world 😊 Or as someone else put it: A little goes a long way.
I’m choosing a bag of apples. I will tell you why another time. xx