A REVIEW ON RECYCLING – WHAT YOU SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T DO.
Many people are involved in recycling whether it is to minimise their use of materials or because of necessity. No matter what the reasons are, it plays a great role in reducing the impact we have on the environment. I know for some people there is a sense of overwhelm when it comes to recycling. What items can be recycled? Where do I start? Although some of you have a good grasp of what recycling is, I thought I would go through a few facts so everyone can understand it a bit better.
What is recycling?
Recycling is the process of using old materials or waste products and reusing them to make new products. Materials like paper, aluminium cans, plastic, glass, metal and electronics can be recycled. Recycling is good for the environment, recycling old products to make a fresh supply of new products and reducing the need to produce large volumes of single use/ newly created/ non-recyclable products.
Why we should recycle
1. Recycling protects the environment: a good example is reducing deforestation for paper, when we use recycled paper to minimize felling. With recycling we reduce the need to exploit our natural resources like plants, minerals and metals. All the paper we use in our business is recycled and it is as good as the non-recycled materials.
2. Reduces Energy Consumption: When you think of recycling, you probably think it only helps the environment by reusing the product, which you would be correct. But there is more to recycling. When products are produced a large amount of energy is required during the processing of the raw materials. Recycling helps to minimize energy consumption, which is crucial in mass production, such as mining or refining. Recycling reduces the need for large amounts energy by the manufacturers.
3. Reduces Pollution: With a lot of manufacturing, materials need to be heated or modified, which often leads to gases being released, such as carbon dioxide in smoke. Some industrial waste comes in the form of liquid, that can end up in our waterways. Even offices can be a source of pollution, generating a lot of printer cartridges and paper waste. If not recycled these end up in landfill and become a source of pollution for both the soil and waterways. Recycling of industrial products helps to cut down on the pollution.
4. Reduces the amount going to landfill or combustion centres. Waste management is becoming more difficult as our desired for the latest and the best means we need to throw more things away. Many councils have had to expand their waste management depots in order to handle the amounts of rubbish being dumped. As I have said previously, any waste in landfill is a pollution problem for both the soil and waterways. In some areas waste disposal is done by incineration. Although this reduces the amount going to landfill, depending on the materials being burned, toxic gases can be produced and end up in the atmosphere. Recycling avoids a lot of this pollution.
What can be recycled
Paper is a material that can be easily recycled. Paper recycling has to be a community effort as paper is everywhere - at home, the office, the school and industry. Waste paper needs to be collected, then sorted and separated into types and grades. The next step is pulping. Large amounts of water is added to the waste paper to produce pulp, which needs to be considered (what is the minimum amount of water required in order to prevent water waste and contamination). The pulp is then passed through a series of screens to remove larger pieces of contaminants and pressed to form the paper size and shape.
Some people hold on to tyres to reuse them around the garden and home, but this can lead to creating a home for mosquitoes and rodents. Also, the material in tyres leaches into the soil over time, contaminated it and the vegetables that grow in it, as well as polluting our underground water. Also, many people burn their tyres, releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Thankfully it doesn't have to cause these problems. Up to 80% of tyres are recycled which ensures old tyres do not take up space in landfill. This is why it is best to recycle tyres to make other products, like soft surfaces for playgrounds.
Aluminium is 100% recyclable and during recycling there is no loss of quality. Another bonus of recycling aluminium is that it uses only 5% of the energy to create it and emits only 5% of the greenhouse gases. Currently we recycle approximately 75% of the aluminium ever produced.
Plastics are huge pollutants, taking up huge amount of space in landfill and adding to the contaminants in our waterways. The breakdown of plastics can take hundreds of years, meaning the problem is piling up. Many plastics can be recycled like water bottles, beverage containers, milk bottles, plastic bags, etc. They are made up of polymers, that in most cases can be melted down to make other products. The problem is that most plastic goes into ordinary rubbish (and therefore landfill) instead of going for recycling.
When glass is placed in landfill it cannot decompose naturally. It will discolour but it’s composition remains the same. Although it has no effect on human or animal health, it is not natural to the land in this form and therefore it should be recycled. Glass can be easily recycled. Once sorted at the glass treatment plant, the glass is then crushed and melted, and can be moulded into new products such as bottles and jars.
Because we want the latest fashion, many clothes are thrown away that are not necessarily worn out or have lost their quality. There are other options. Instead of following the trends, we can pay a visit to our local op-shop or vintage seller or online. You will be surprised at what you can find. You can get some great finds by recycling clothes and remember, vintage clothing can be very chic.
Recycling Mobile Phones
Have you noticed the competition going on between all the mobile companies? It means every few months to a year there is a new version, giving us the latest features. This has given us the habit of throwing away a lot of mobiles without a thought to the waste. Mobile phones contain lots of metals and chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, barium, chromium, selenium, antimony, PVC, bromine and more. A lot of the mobile components can be recycled and used to make other products or electronics. Also, making them more safer to our health than leaching into the ground.
Instead of throwing garden waste in the bin or even throwing it at the end of the garden, you should consider composting. Not doing anything with garden waste is actually very wasteful, as much of garden waste like grass clippings, twigs and other garden waste are decomposed by worms and microbes and are converted into fertilizers. Set up a small compost bin/bucket in the kitchen to encourage people to collect the food waste. This can be transferred to your larger compost pile outdoors on a regular basis.
It is amazing the amount of food we waste. We know approximately 40-50% of food produced for supermarkets is thrown away before it is sold. Often good food, but because it has a best before date, it cannot stay on the shelves. Even in households, people throw massive amounts of food away because they buy more than they need, forget they bought it and sometimes choose they don’t want it anymore after they have placed it in their pantry. One way to avoid this is to do a meal planner for the week and only buy what you need. In some places people are recycling food e.g. stale bread becomes breadcrumbs that can be frozen, soft tomatoes can be used to make a sauce, bruised bananas can be used in cakes. Anyone can do this. Otherwise compost any food that is too old.
Before placing in the recycling bin
For some people this seems like a lot of work, but paying attention to what you are placing into your rubbish, will soon help you identify the items you should recycle. Ensure they go into the correct recycling bin. Clean food stuffs from bottles and containers to stop attracting rodents, but also it helps the recycling plants when it comes to sorting.
This is just a little synopsis of recycling, but I hope it gives you an idea of how the process works and how you can contribute. There are some other materials that can be recycle. Hopefully I will get to talk about them at a later date.
Let me know what you think? Are we doing enough? What else could we do?
Be earthly passionate,
Attracta & the earthly passion team.