Welcome to EDWaRD, the blog about recycling in East Devon! Sounds dull right? But the aim of this blog is to make our little corner of the world the leader at recycling, waste reduction, teamwork, planet protecting and ‘closing the loop’. No small aims here! So stick with me, ask questions, get a discussion going and learn how to do the best you can for our planet.
Why did I mention teamwork? Surely it’s up to the council to sort out recycling? Well, yes – but with a few tweaks we can all really help. At the moment we have a system across the world that works very badly, when it comes to waste management. Here in the UK we have got used to a standard of living where we have so much choice; where our choices haven’t been influenced by our footprint on our planet, but by marketing, price and convenience. We buy a plastic bottle of water because we are thirsty, without thinking about the fact that water is in fact available through taps and the company making the product are profiting from selling you the plastic bottle, not the water. We give little thought to the long-term life of the bottle (500 years+ potentially!), the environmental costs of taking that water from its source, shipping it around the world, chilling it in open display fridges etc, or the resources and methods of production of the bottle itself (fracking has given us a whole new source of shale gas, of which a bi-product, ethane, is used to make plastics, and the oil and gas industry now have a job to create more markets for its plastic! Read more here. So our system is an ‘open loop’ – not enough gets recycled or reused, and resources are wasted.
It’s going to be hard to encourage people to voluntarily switch back to a less convenient lifestyle, in order to close the loop. Zero waste shops have started the trend but for today’s average consumer that is a step too far until it becomes mainstream at supermarkets. So what can we do instead? We can start seeing ourselves as part of the team to make changes. Every pound we spend is like a vote for businesses to carry on with ‘business as usual’ – so given the choice between a heavily packaged item, (or a meal that generates lots of different bits of waste, all made of different stuff), and an environmentally ‘better’ one, can we make it our job to make the right choice? For example, Easter Eggs – plenty of producers are saying no to plastic now, so let’s support them by buying them over products that are plastic bound. It’s a simple switch that makes a huge difference.
Another way teamwork can help will be in finding out exactly what the recycling teams find most useful, or most irritating, about how we recycle, so I’m going to research their top ten tips! Watch this space.
I will detail in future blog posts what happens exactly to your recycling but for now I will just say that it gets sorted, bailed up and sold on (within the UK). Aluminium, from tins and drinks cans and tin foil, has a very stable market price and makes us money (which goes back into council finances). Cardboard prices have currently dropped right off – this is the ‘Amazon effect’ – there is a HUGE amount of cardboard hitting the recycling market at the moment and the price has dropped. Plastics have a very low value and it is currently still cheaper to make new plastic than it is to use recycled plastic – what a crazy situation. ‘Closing the loop’ means making it the norm to use recycled materials again and again (aluminium is virtually there). We need plastic to get to this stage ASAP. The government have been discussing an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme (EPR) which will put the cost of recycling back to producers, putting them off from designing complicated, multi-material packaging (such as Tetrapack), but it keeps getting pushed back – please lobby your MP! Also a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is being discussed but again it has been pushed back. This will make it far more rewarding for all of us to take back our bottles and cans and get a financial reward – but it will change the way all councils run their recycling services and we are currently waiting to hear just how it will all work.
Anyway, enough information for now. I will focus my next blogs on one thing at a time, in order to really inform those who care (hopefully lots of people) about how to recycle really well. Do remember though, that recycling is only one part of the equation – what we really need to do is REFUSE (overly packaged stuff), REDUCE our consumption of packaged goods, REUSE wherever possible, REFILL then RECYCLE. Lastly we have the general waste bin…not landfill in East Devon, it goes to the Energy Recovery from Waste (ERW) plant in Exeter (read more here)
Plan of next blogs…
- Top 10 tips to help your recycling team
- Where does my recycling go
- Clothing and textiles
- Small electricals (WEEE – Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
- Where does my general rubbish go? How does the ‘Energy Recovery from Waste’ plant work? How is recycling sorted out?
- Food waste – the cost to the environment and how to reduce it.
- Dog poo
- On street bins – does it get recycled?
- Recycling better in flats/shared accommodation
- Meet the recycling teams
- What can the teams do better? Constructive feedback…
- FAQs Ask me and I will try and find out the answer!