Tackling the issue of plastic waste can sometimes seem like a losing battle. When we see campaigns like the one recently published by Greenpeace - citing the heaps of plastic we continue to 'dump...on the rest of the world' - or when we discover that a portion of our recycling is incinerated, the whole question becomes fraught and daunting.
It’s for this reason that we hear the same troubling questions repeated again and again: 'is recycling worth it?’ ‘Does our plastic waste even get recycled?’
These questions are more than understandable - there’s always been a lot of chatter in the media regarding our recycling system’s reliability (or lack thereof). It's totally reasonable to use our lack of collective confidence in the recycling system as proof that we need to consume less, in order to reduce the amount of plastic we need to recycle.
What this does not mean, however, is that we should give up on recycling altogether! They’re called the ‘Three Rs’ for a reason, and, whilst ‘Reducing’ and ‘Reusing’ are important strings to our ecological bow, there is still a place for ‘Recycling’.
The problem lies not with recycling, but with ineffective recycling. With that in mind, we thought we’d offer you a few simple tips on how to ensure that your plastic waste ends up in a recycling plant rather than a landfill.
- 1. Here’s the first and most important tip - don’t lose hope! Though you can never be 100% sure of where your waste will end up after it’s left your home, it'st pl always better to send plastic to somewhere it might get recycled than to somewhere you know it won't. To help replenish your stores of faith, here are a few reasons to be sanguine when it comes to the British recycling system.
- a. Recycling in the UK - although far from perfect - is going in the right direction, and there is a high demand for recycled plastic (especially the type we use for our products). If UK companies continue to supply this demand at a growing rate, companies may soon be able to source all of their recycled plastic from the UK, meaning their empty receptacles won't have to travel halfway around the world before being made into a new product.
- b. The number of local authorities that are collecting a wider range of plastics - including bottles and pots, tubs and trays - has increased to 79%. That’s up from 18% 10 years ago. Progress! https://www.recyclenow.com/news/2019-01-31-recycling-is-it-worth-it
- c. Currently, 59% of plastic bottles are being recycled in the UK. This figure isn't great, but it's encouraging to see that a majority remains on our own shores. Unfortunately, though, this rate drops for pots, tubs and trays - only 33% of which are recycled in the UK. https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/sustainable-living/recycling-bin-how-to-correctly-b1810416.html More worrying still, a mere 7% of films are recycled in the UK. That's why we chose to trade in plastic bottles - they're much easier to recycle domestically! Action is needed on tubs and films, but it’s clear that the figures are far from hopeless. https://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/recoup-plastic-recycling-rate-april-2019-march-2020/
- 2. If you're unhappy with the way things are, take a stand and write to your local MP! Alternatively, get in touch with a representative from your local council. While it may feel like you don’t have much of a voice, local MPs are extremely keen to be seen as receptive to the views of their constituents - your influence is magnified significantly when you act on the local rather than the national level. Get involved in local politics - even if it is only by sending a letter or message - and you’ll likely find that your voice is a little louder than you’d previously thought.