For many of us, recycling has become a part of everyday life. Some items, like bottles, jars and cardboard packaging, have become second nature to recycle. Many councils have facilitated this and we have designated recycling bins and collection days. But have you stopped to consider what happens to our recycling once we have gotten rid of it?
After your recycling rubbish is collected, it’s taken to recycling centres, where the rubbish is separated into different materials. Unfortunately, in many countries, including the UK, we produce more waste than we can process at home. The reality is that much of our recycling (particularly plastics and around half of our paper/cardboard) is loaded onto container ships and taken to other European countries or Asia to be recycled. Anything that cannot be recycled is either burned or sent to a landfill.
The sad reality however, especially in Asia, is that they are simply unable to deal with the amount of waste being produced and sent there. Much of the waste that we assume is being recycled, is in fact ending up being burned (with dangerous and often toxic poisonous gases being released) or abandoned in illegal waste dumps, because there is simply too much of it.
So, do we have any alternatives? One way independent businesses, in particular, are trying to combat the problem is to encourage people to buy in bulk, to bring and refill their own containers and to buy fresh produce in an attempt to reduce food packaging. But what about all the other materials and the rest of our waste?
TerraCycle And What They Do
We came across TerraCycle on a piece of packaging last week. TerraCycle’s biggest aim is to “Eliminate the Idea of Waste” by recycling all materials, including those that are currently considered non-recyclable. They promise that “TerraCycle will never landfill or incinerate your waste.” So, what do they do with all the waste they receive?
Where possible, TerraCycle try to reuse it for its original purposes as this helps to reduce further waste, energy and materials needed to remaking products. TerraCycle also tries upcycle materials, whereby they use the materials to create new products (e.g. creating backpacks using juice pouches). 97% of the waste they collect, however, is recycled.
To this end, they have partnered with several major companies, manufacturers and retailers (as well as smaller businesses and individuals) to create drop-off centres throughout over 20 countries in the world, where you can take your waste to be recycled. You can search for your nearest public drop-off location on their website, or even set one up yourself in your community. There are details of what happens to each type of waste, including the recycling process itself on their website.
TerraCycle also has Zero Waste Boxes available, which you can buy in various sizes, for you to recycle all types of materials and products at home. Meanwhile, ‘Loop’ is their initiative (currently only available in the US and France, but due to launch in the UK soon), whereby you are able to replenish various products as you need them, including those from large brands, and have them delivered to your door in waste-free product packaging.
By working with individuals, as well as big brands/manufacturers (who are often the biggest contributors to packaging waste), TerraCycle appear to be paving the way for more efficient and sustainable waste management.
This week, we would like you to consider if there is any item of waste that you could reuse or upcycle yourself.
Do you have any regular items that you buy (e.g. handwash or cleaning products) that can be refilled rather than bought anew?
Are there any items that you can put to new uses? Can you reuse bottles as vases or create your own lampshade or wall decorations from reused materials?