A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the excellent government initiative to ‘eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2043′ as part of my focus on the packaging debate.
This of course doesn’t address the issues of today and whilst we’ve all been encouraged to reduce, reuse and recycle waste for some years we are still sending staggering amounts to landfill.
Every year British households throw 22 million tons of waste into the bin. And worse, recycling rates have stagnated at some 44 per cent and the UK is unlikely to hit its target of 50 per cent by 2020.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of recycling sorted by households are being sent to landfill or incinerators because it has not been properly sorted and this has increased by 84 per cent over the past four years, official figures show.
In some areas, as much as 15 per cent of the rubbish separated for recycling is rejected. Council officials suggest the reason is that some bins are ‘contaminated’ with items which cannot be recycled, after waste has been sorted incorrectly.
So where does the fault lie?
There are a number of factors at play here but it seems that much more can be done to help households recycle their waste more effectively.
In a recent survey commissioned by the British Science Association, two thousand people were questioned on their recycling knowledge.
None of the people surveyed got full marks, with many making mistakes that could result in entire bags of recycling being rejected and sent to landfill.
Two thirds of those surveyed thought kitchen foil and foil trays could not be recycled when – on the contrary: as long as they are clean, they can be.
Just over half of people did not know that empty deodorant aerosols and hairspray cans are fit for recycling, along with the plastic cap.
Also, more than half did not realise metal can lids, empty surface cleaner bottles and empty bleach bottles could also be recycled.
Meanwhile, almost half of those surveyed incorrectly thought used kitchen roll could go in the recycling bin and 24% made the same mistake with coffee cups, which cannot be recycled because of their plastic lining.
Other mistakes included not emptying and rinsing shampoo and conditioner bottles or food containers and not taking the plastic out of paper tissue boxes.
So it seems that the simplistic system we have of identifying items as recyclable through one standard symbol combined with a lack of clear information are woefully inadequate and surely it’s time for a more sophisticated information system that could help every household push us closer to our 50 per cent recycling rate and prevent much of our sorted waste from going to landfill.
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Last Updated on 18/05/2020 by Eddie Stableford