Recycle Week 2012

By Emma McNeill, Organisational Support Manager and Environmental Champion at Better World Books.

One of Better World Books Guiding Principles is ‘Invest Well. Waste Not – Choose wisely, consider the return on your efforts and the impact in your actions. Reuse, reuse, reuse…then reduce and recycle.’ It’s a great message and one that I believe in.

It’s coming up for Recycle Week 2012 (organised by WRAP under the Recycle Now brand) and I will be using the week to encourage the people around me to recycle more by letting them know the reasons why recycling is important. So here are 5 Good Reasons To Recycle:

  1. Recycling Conserves Resources – if we use recyclable materials to make new products, then we don’t need to use raw materials and therefore protect natural habitats for the future. There might not always be the option to replace what we have thrown away!
  2. Recycling Saves Energy – making products from raw materials uses energy for extracting, refining, transporting and processing. Less energy is used in the manufacturing process of making products using recycled materials.
  3. Recycling Helps Protect the Environment – if more items are recycled then there is less need to extract, refine and process raw materials, a process which creates water and air pollution. Current UK recycling estimates more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 is saved every year simply from recycling.
  4. Recycling Reduces Landfill – when we recycle, we send less to landfill, which means less materials buried under ground and less methane emissions from the decomposition process.
  5. Recycling is Good for the Economy – the Scottish Government estimates that there is over £100 million worth of untapped resources in household waste alone. The UK Recycling Industry has a current annual turnover of £17 billion and has said that the waste sector could create 84,000 jobs by 2020.

So we now have 5 logical reasons why we should recycle but even with good reason people still don’t. According to WRAP, 90% of councils offer plastic bottle collection service for households, yet out of the 580,000 tonnes of plastic used in households every year, only 48% is recycled. So why don’t people recycle? Here are 5 Reasons Why People Don’t Recycle:

  1. Inconvenience – Not everyone has kerbside collections which means they need to take their recyclables to their nearest recycling point.
  2. Storage – If you don’t have a kerbside collection, you have to store your recyclables until you get the chance to take them to a recycling point and not everyone has the space for it.
  3. It’s Confusing – Some plastics are recyclable and some aren’t, you can’t recycle plastic bags in a plastic bin but you can take them separately to the supermarket to get recycled. Some local authorities can take certain plastics but not all of them….
  4. Misinformation – Some people don’t believe that they can make a difference to the environment by recycling their materials.
  5. Don’t Care – some people simply don’t care and don’t think about our future generations and the legacy we are leaving them.

I’m not yet lucky enough to have a kerbside collection in my area, so I searched to see where my nearest recycling point was. I found that I have 5 recycling points within 1 mile of my house and that got me to thinking about everyone else who works at Better World Books in the UK warehouse and I found that 99% of employees (that do not have the recyclable kerbside collection) have a recycling point within 0.2miles (0.3km) of their house, around a 4 minute walk – that’s quite convenient. 100% of staff have a recycling point with 0.5 miles of their house.

Having them so close definitely helps with the storage issue too. If you don’t have space you could recycle every other day – a 4 minute walk to the recycling point, 2 minutes to recycle your items and then 4 minutes to walk home. It feels a little less convenient now and it does get you out into the fresh air for a little walk, it can’t be all bad.

In regards to the confusion over what can and cannot be recycled, I totally agree with that! It’s a minefield but if you realise the potential of recycling and you really care then you can find out easily what can and cannot be recycled. You can go and check on Recycle for Scotland website, Recycle for Wales or Recycle Now (for England and Northern Ireland) to check what can be recycled and where. In the meantime, here is something that not everyone knows: 100% of plastic bottles are recyclable, whether it a shampoo bottle, a bleach bottle, a juice bottle….the list goes on, they are all recyclable!

In regards to misinformation, the impact of 1 person recycling really does make a difference:

  • Recycling 1 plastic bottle saves enough energy to a power a 60W light bulb for 6 hours.
  • Recycling 1 aluminium can saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
  • Recycling 1 glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.

So now we know why people don’t recycle, the logical reasons why we should and where we can find information about what can and can’t be recycled. I hope more people start to remove valuable resources out of their landfill bin. I will certainly keep encouraging as many people as I can to recycle as much as they can. Not only is it better for the planet, but in this current climate, the fact that recycling has the potential to create so many jobs, it basically means that by recycling more we are helping to improve our economy. For me the benefits definitely outweigh the cost to my time and convenience.

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