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The Myth Buster: from poor recycling infrastructure to non-recyclable paper

The Myth Buster: from poor recycling infrastructure to non-recyclable paper

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As you wade through the minefield of how to be as eco-friendly as possible, it's easy to feel lost. How well do I need to separate my recycling? Are paper straws recyclable? Is it true that some of your recycling doesn't get recycled?

In this week's blog entry, we try to shine a light on some of the most common myths...

 

1. The UK is bad at recycling

This is unfortunately true. It's estimated that in the UK, around 42% of rubbish is recycled. However, the issue lies with our infrastructure to process this waste. In part, this is because previously a lot of rubbish was previously shipped to China for processing - a door which has now been firmly shut. In the year ending in October 2018, the UK exported over 600,000 tonnes of recovered plastic packaging to other countries including Indonesia and Malaysia. However, a few months ago, Malaysian authorities confirmed that they will send back 3,000 metric tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries including the UK.  

plastic-waste-malaysia

 

2. All paper is recyclable 

False! Take receipts for example... the UK hands out 11 billion receipts a year, and shockingly, about 50% of these are not recyclable. Those with a slightly more shiny finish contain chemicals that would be released into the environment if the receipts were recycled, so it means they go to waste instead. 

 

3. Paper straws has fixed "the straw problem"

Kind of. Whilst paper straws are recyclable, our ability to always recycle them is not so certain. Last year, McDonald's announced that unfortunately their paper straws could not be recycled because they are too thick. A statement from McDonald's about their switch from plastic to paper straws was “Whilst the materials the straws are made from are recyclable, they cannot currently be processed by waste solution providers or local authorities unless collected separately. This is a wider industry issue, as the infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws”.

paper-vs-plastic-straw-recycling

 

4. If you're not sure whether it's recyclable, leave it out. 

Another true one. It's easy to have a mentality along the lines of "if it’s going to be sorted anyway it doesn’t hurt, right?" - especially in an age of mixed-recycling. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. Apparently throwing away a non-recyclable item along with your recycling could ruin an entire batch! It really is worth taking the extra few seconds to separate a plastic lid from a recyclable container or the foil seal from the coffee pod.

recycling-plant-uk

 

5. Recycling uses up loads of energy so there's no point

Although recycling plants consume a lot of energy, the important bit to note is that up to 95% less energy is needed to make a product out of recycled materials. So, it's definitely worth recycling! 

 

@ethicalstoriesethicalme

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