Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where There’s Muck … Part 2

Having looked at the rather unusual things that people throw away in their rubbish (trash if you are an American) we now come to a report on source wire - Britain Sees the Death of Throw-Away Culture, which identifies the rise of the ‘Re Generation’. Instead of disposing of unwanted items, consumers are choosing to recycle, re-use or re-sell items they no longer want or even upcycle things other people don’t want.
The figures reveal an overwhelming reluctance to consign used items to the bin. The Ipsos MORI survey found that 94% do not usually throw away clothes and 96% do not dispose of their old mobiles, with the majority of respondents (65%) recycling, re-selling or giving away their phones. Even when it comes to food, the most disposable of everyday items, there are five million adults in Britain who never throw food away.
Instead of taking the ‘easy way out’ and binning leftover goods, consumers are now trading online, swapping with friends and family or donating to charity as well as using more traditional recycling channels.
This follows on from a report last November showing that for the first time since these records began English local authorities recycled, composted or reused more than they landfilled.
The figures go on to outline that in 2011/12, 43 per cent of household waste was recycled, the highest ever recycling rate recorded for England. However, the year saw the lowest year-on-year increase in a decade, with 2011/12 rates increasing by 1.5 per cent on the year before.
Defra says that this could indicate that authorities ‘have by now exploited the easiest targets in terms of recycling, and are increasingly facing challenges in influencing behaviour change and identifying new areas and efficiencies in the waste services they provide’.
So it doesn’t help when the Daily Fail print stories like this: The great recycling con trick: How 12million tons of your carefully sorted waste is being dumped in foreign landfill sites.

Here’s the response from Waste Watch which the Daily Fail didn’t print. Key points below:

  • Recycling is just like any other sector - it is driven by ‘value’ across international markets. Most recycling is dealt with in the UK. Often, however, there is more demand for recycled materials from abroad in places like Indonesia or China.
  • Ships need to return anyway, so shipping recycling is carbon neutral - all ships need ballast when empty; this could be sea water, but increasingly it is recycling.
  • When recyclables are shipped overseas they must be ‘pre-sorted’, i.e. not mixed together but single material streams e.g. wood or glass.
  • There have been some recent high profile cases in illegally dumping waste abroad, and associated criminal convictions and large fines. The media attention around these cases, along with articles like the recent Daily Fail example, may be impacting disproportionally on public perceptions of the problem and its extent.
  • Contamination of recycling is an important issue in the UK – councils need to do more to help households do the right thing – this means not just asking people to recycle more but to ensure they recycle correctly. Clearly communicated information and support about what can and cannot be recycled and why can go a long way to ensuring what is collected is of a good quality – this also makes sense economically as reprocessors will pay more for good quality materials.

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