10 Things You Didn’t Know About Recycling
The 18th of March 2021 is Global Recycling Day! The team behind Global Recycling Day have a gorgeous outlook on recycling, and we love them for it - 'we must think again about what we throw away – seeing not waste, but an opportunity.' By embracing recycling, we engage in the circular economy and consider what happens to our purchases before and after we've used them.
Why Recycling Matters
But recycling is more than the economy - it's part of our battle against climate change. Climate change affects global temperatures; it's melting ice, destroying continents, killing species of animals, causing wildfires, natural disasters, and rapid deforestation. These things directly contribute to the displacement of people, increased poverty, loss of community, increased unemployment, and the destruction of habitats. We can't let these things happen to our planet and our fellow human beings.
The Good News is…
According to Recycle Now, while many more people recycle than ever before, only 58% of plastic bottles are recycled when 99% of councils collect and recycle them. That means that 42% of plastic bottles created and consumed are sitting in a landfill and will stay there long after we've gone. As a nation, the UK only recycles 32% of all plastic pots, tubs and trays that we use - all of these items add up to a massive problem.
Recycling can be confusing, especially when it comes to plastic. Global Citizen (Global Citizen is a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030) asked Ivvet Modinou, (Former Head of Engagement at the British Science Association) what can be done about plastic; "The industry as a whole needs to address this issue if we are to collectively improve recycling performance," he said. "Manufacturers of plastic products could provide clearer information on packaging, and local councils could be actively working to improve guidance for local residents." You can read the full piece here.
What Recycling Can Do
The organisers behind Global Recycling Day describe the importance of recycling as 'Recycling is a key part of the circular economy, helping to protect our natural resources. Each year the 'Seventh Resource' (recyclables) saves over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions, and this is projected to increase to 1 billion tons by 2030. There is no doubt recycling is on the front line in the war to save the future of our planet and humanity.' - So let's get stuck in, shall we?
Keep Your Lid to Yourself
When you recycle a bottle or a carton, take the cap or screw-top off the bottle and recycle separately or dispose of the top separately. When the lid or top still attached, the bottle or carton may still hold some liquid, and when the bottle comes to be weighed at a recycling plant, it can't be processed correctly and may end up in a landfill.
Food is a No-No
If there is still food on your recyclable product, it cannot be recycled as it is likely to be rejected by most recycling plants. Wash out all your bottles, cartons and tin cans BEFORE you recycle them.
The same is true of cardboard pizza boxes - rip off the clean bits of cardboard and recycle those but any with delicious pizza marks; can't be recycled.
It is hard to eradicate plastic, especially in times of Covid. When you buy a product in plastic, potatoes, a bag of onions or Quorn products, the plastic bags can be recycled but not roadside. Check with your local supermarket as many of them have plastic bag recycling stations where these items can be recycled.
And while we're talking plastic bags - please don't put your recyclables in a plastic bag - the whole thing will go to landfill.
Recycling Boosts GDP
The recycling industry's annual contribution to global GDP is predicted to reach $400 billion in the next ten years.
The Key is in a Circular Economy
The real key to making a substantial change to our environment, especially when we talk about plastic, moves to a circular economy.
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation (who are passionate about plastic consumption and the effect on our oceans) describes the circular economy as a process that considers every stage of a product's journey - before and after it reaches the consumer. The Foundation notes that a circular economy has the potential to reduce the annual volume of plastics entering our oceans by 80%,
You can read their full report here.
When our founder, Hema Chauhan, launched Curlicue, she knew that she wanted to create a product that was made of recyclable materials in the first instance and would be entirely recyclable once it is enjoyed and used. That’s why we also offer biodegradable tape and twine. We want to be part of the circular economy to be part of the solution.
You can sho pour eco-friendly wrapping paper in our super cute Baby Dragon print here.
You can also recycle electrical items - some smaller appliances can be disposed of roadside, and others may need to go to large waste disposal sites. You can dispose of any electrical items, from appliances to toys, but there are a few things you need to consider before you recycle.
Recycle Now has fantastic guidance on how to recycle electrical items. First off, we need to ask a few questions:
Does it have a plug?
Does it use batteries? - Take the batteries out and dispose of them separately at a specialist bin (lots of supermarkets have these)
Does it need charging? If you have the charger and it still works, why not donate it to a charity shop or shelter? Many paediatric units love donations of old games consoles that still work (please check in advance and do not just show up!)
Does it have a picture of a crossed-out wheelie bin on it?
If your item doesn't work and you can't dispose of it in a wheelie bin, go to the Recycle Now website to find your closest recycling station.
What do we want? Recyclable plastic!
Friends of the Earth ask you to demand that the major supermarkets produce non-recyclable ready meal black trays. The black pigment often means that the sensors at recycling stations don't pick them up. According to Friends of the Earth, for just 0.05p per tray, manufacturers could change to a pigment that is picked up and would mean that these items are properly recycled - over 1 BILLION of these trays were sent to landfill last year.
If you're in the market for a ready meal, make sure you avoid meals with this colour tray.
Recycling = Employment
Approximately 1.6 million people worldwide are employed in the process of recycling.
Plastic is Big in the Ocean
Plastic is an epidemic in our oceans, and it only looks to get worse. The team at Global Recycling Day predicts that by 2050, we will increase the amount of plastic that enters our ocean from 150 million tonnes. That is one of the primary reasons we need to reduce the amount of plastic consumed in the first place.
To put the impact of this into perspective:
100% of sea turtles are known to have ingested plastic.
15% of a bird chick's body weight is often plastic.
450 individual pieces of plastic were found inside one albatross chick.
57.9% of North Atlantic Whale deaths in 2003 - 2018 were due to entanglements in plastic.
Know your PETs.
'Polyethene terephthalate (PET) is a highly recyclable plastic resin and a form of polyester. It is a polymer created by the combination of two monomers: modified ethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid' - thanks to thebalancesmb for the science!
PET is used a lot, and you'll often see PET followed by a number - this number often dictates whether or not it can be recycled, which is dedicated by your local council. Check your local council website to understand which PET products you can recycle.
Recycling PET products is so important. PET is a 100% recyclable material and has a lower carbon footprint than virgin PET. Recycled PET (RPET) is shatterproof and is safe to use with any food packaging. By using RPET, businesses can have a positive environmental impact - but they can only do that if you recycle!
Want to learn more?
There are many excellent resources out there, including many that we've included in the links above.
We recommend going to the Earth Day website, using their online Plastic Pollution Calculator, and downloading their toolkit to better grasp your plastic problem.