Everyone produces waste – no matter how careful we try to be, we all generate a certain amount of it every day – but fortunately there are now more recycling projects than ever to help reduce the impact it has on the environment.
With many councils running schemes to encourage us to recycle our waste, much of the material which was once destined for landfill can be reclaimed and re-used – bottles, cans, paper and the like all have well established recycling programmes in many areas.
Even for those parts of the country which do not have dedicated collections for these sorts of materials, there are facilities at civic amenity sites and increasingly in supermarket car parks too which will accept our sorted waste.
All of this means that it is now easier than ever to go green and take more of a direct role in what happens to what you throw away – at least for those materials featuring on your local authority’s “dry recyclables” list. However, the real challenge remains to find suitable ways to start reusing and recycling those that don’t.
The Three Rs
The three Rs – “reduce, reuse, recycle” – has become firmly established as the magic mantra of modern waste management and it’s a very successful way to get everyone to begin to look at the whole way they deal with waste.
The idea is as compelling as it is simple. You won’t have so much to dispose of, if you don’t produce so much in the first place – so trying to reduce waste at source has got to be a good start – and as a nation, we can be a fairly wasteful bunch.
On average, each person in the UK throws away more than their own body weight in waste every couple of months – and that amount is increasing by around 2 per cent every year.
It can be difficult to see how any individual attempt to reduce is going to have any effect, and it’s certainly true that you won’t save the planet single-handed. Never-the-less, a few minor changes to the way we all buy things – selecting less heavily packaged items, for example or picking items that come in reusable or refillable containers – can start to reverse the trend.
When it comes to finding ways to reuse or recycle items that aren’t routinely part of the normal recycling landscape, it pays to be inventive and start thinking differently.
A number of communities and environmental groups have come up with novel approaches to recycling and interesting ways to get the “waste not, want not” message across – from swap shops to organising junk art competitions.
Much of this kind of project depends on the interests of the people involved, the local area and, of course, the kind of waste or unwanted material, but whether it’s a need for furniture recycling or dealing with a straight forward litter problem, there’s plenty of scope.
The Community Angle
There are clear advantages in approaching recycling projects as a community, especially if where you live, the current facilities to recycle waste could do with improving. One possibility for areas without doorstep collections, if there is enough space and willing volunteers, is to collect traditional dry recyclables centrally and then transport them to the appropriate recycling site once you have a full load.
Alternatively, if your scheme is well supported and successful, you might find the council would be willing to make a periodic collection from your unofficial central “depot.”
Another area where community schemes can prove very successful is with composting. Many groups have found that encouraging home composting or collecting and composting waste communally – perhaps associated with creating a community garden – can do wonders for generating a sense of involvement which then often spills over into other sustainability projects.
However, if you’re thinking about starting any sort of community waste management project, it’s vital that you contact your local authority at the outset; the legislation surrounding waste collection and transport is quite tricky.
While it’s one thing to deal with your own material, the position is more complicated when you start dealing with other people’s too – so it’s best to make sure your good intentions won’t land you on the wrong side of the law.
With around 14 million glass bottles being buried in landfill every year along with 9 million plastic ones, every UK household getting through an annual total of 600 steel cans and an average of 200kg of paper being used for every one of us, it’s pretty clear that waste is a big issue. It’s a problem that is unlikely to be solved in a hurry – but well-thought through recycling projects are certainly a good start.