In the past the mantra has always been reduce, reuse and recycle. There are 3 more Rs that have joined the Green Mantra. They are Re-Think, Refuse, and Repair.
Whilst Reduce and Re-use are generally carbon neutral actions, there is a flaw in the argument for re-cycle. Re-Cycle tends to involve transport, process and re-assembly all of which do not tend to be carbon neutral activities.
At this point it may well be advisable to put some pointers in regarding recycling, some of which I was not aware of until recently, and I like to think that I am pretty clued up about recycling.
- Do not put items for recycling into plastic (shopping) bags and tie them up. It complicates the process and may result in the bag and it’s contents just being thrown to landfill. Most supermarket chains now charge for carrier bags now and they no longer provide what they call “single use” bags. They have the more grandiose “bags for life”.
- If you are looking to recycle shredded paper, make sure it’s a small amount. As then it can be mixed with your composted waste and go on the garden. Large amounts can go into the normal waste to be composted in landfill. Most waste companies will not thank you for large amounts of shredded paper.
- Compress plastic bottles and put the lids on This makes for more room in your recycle bin. Milk bottles and tetra packs should be rinsed, and be either compressed or flattened. (Washed and squashed).
- Do not put black or brown plastic into the recycling waste. It confuses the technology. (Annoyingly it has to go in the normal waste. I am hoping that one day somebody will develop the technology so that this type of plastic can be recycled).
- Do not put wastes contaminated by liquids, food or animal waste into the recycling waste streams. Waste from your fish and chip suppers and the like should be put into your normal waste bin.
- In the UK, differing councils have different guidelines of what can be recycled, and nowadays tend to issue these guidelines to local council tax payers that they serve. It should also be pointed out that some councils have been known to carry out sanctions against those who have breached these guidelines.
Any road up, as my Mam used to say these 6 R’s. Rethink, refuse, reduce, repair, reuse,recycle.
The questions that people should be re-thinking about are
- Is there likely to be another use for this product. Can it be used for something else or be given a complete change of use. For instance, there are businesses that take in old bottles and converts them into beverage glasses.
- Are there greener alternatives for this product? Can it be obtained from sources closer to the place of consumption? Is the product available with less packaging? More environmentally friendly packaging?
- What is the end of life situation for this product? Landfill? Reuse, recycle / remodel? How easily can the product be adapted
Refuse is largely carried out by those refusing to consume. This may be because of strongly held ethical beliefs or experience.
I personally know of people who refuse to buy many products that use palm oil. The rise in veganism can be attributed to people believing that the production of animal products is causing an increase in global warming. The meat eaters would argue that a lot of the vegan food consumed in the UK has travelled considerable numbers of air miles before consumption. It is not an argument that I wish to get into within this site.
Refusal may also be an outcome from products having a short shelf life before it becomes inedible or unusable. Something that I have personally experienced and has been influential in my own purchasing decisions.
Another influence of consumers buying decisions may well be a company’s policy on ‘built in obsolescence’.
All of these decisions that are taken on the basis of refusal will result in less waste ultimately.
So the first most obvious way to reduce waste is to consume less. There are several ways of doing this
- Buy only what you need. Discourage the idea of buy one, get one free (or the most eloquently termed BOGOF) culture which encourages waste (and also obesity).
- Buy and use refillable items eg Bags for life, a coffee mug instead of plastic lined paper cup.
- Buy in bulk where it is sensible to do so ie with products that have a long shelf life with minimum waste
- Avoid single serving sizes when buying for numbers of people
And finally buy products with less packaging and more environmentally friendly packaging.
Straightforward really. Reuse or re-invent a use for an item to extend a products life. One company that I know of are taking glass bottles and making glassware out of them. Even making compost out of perishable items is a form of reuse.
Of course one could send items that are no longer wanted to a reuse centre or else sell it on as preloved. It doesn’t have to be online. Plenty of newsagents place cards in windows if you want to keep your moving of unwanted items local.
Of course there may be a desire to be rid of something because of the fact that the item may be damaged. Well could that item be sent to a reuse facility for repair and then reuse.
Most local authorities have reuse centres that are attached to waste and recycling centres. Details will be able to be found on the web.
Additionally there are non council run centres that are supporting or are charities. I have provided details of 4 below.
There are many other charitable locations that run reuse centres. Many will come and collect bulky items if you are not in a position to take it to a centre
And finally, if an item is to far beyond repair it should be taken to a recycling facility. There it may well be broken down and parts be sent off to be recycled into new products or become ‘raw’ materials for processing into new products.
OK, recycling is the most energy consuming of the 6 Rs however recycled products generally take a lot less energy to process than producing from the base raw materials of a product. Items made from glass, metals, plastics are but a few. Wood can be refashioned or else chopped up to be made into chip board.
Many products on the market today have it stated on the packaging how much of a product is made from recyclable materials, and many products will state what steps can be taken at a products end of life. Before making a purchase, just stop a minute to take a read of this advice.