REDUCE Rather Than Reuse and Recycle

Reduce your use of plastics!

Most of us find our weekly trash compose more of recyclable pink bags than the black garbage bags. We tend to put all kinds of ‘recyclable’ waste into these pink bags. Does this mean we are doing our bit for the environment?

Our recyclable pink bags are mainly full of all kinds of plastic waste. Does all of it get recycled? And if it doesn’t then where does it end up? Questions we should all be serious about getting answers to.

According to the British Plastic Foundation UK uses over 5 million tonnes of plastic each year of which only an estimated 29% is currently being recovered or recycled.  UK has a plastic packaging recycling target of 57% by 2020.

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) developed a standard code in the late 1980s to help identify and sort recyclable plastic internationally. The code, usually found at the bottom of the plastic container is denoted by three arrows that cycle clockwise creating a triangle with rounded corners and inside each triangle is a number that identifies the plastic type. Yes, the code simply identifies the type of plastic used to make that object and does not indicate whether recyclable plastic was used to make that piece, nor does it indicate whether that type of plastic can be recycled. With the code, what you need to do is to contact the local government of recycling agencies to ask if that code corresponds to a type of recyclable plastic.

The most common recyclable plastics are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and are assigned the number 1; used to make soda and water bottles, medicine containers and many other common consumer product containers.  PET can be recycled to become fiberfill for winter coats, sleeping bags, and life jackets. It can also be used to make beanbags, rope, car bumpers, tennis ball felt, combs, sails for boats and furniture.

The main reasons for not being able to recycle are the nonexistence demand for the recycled materials and the technology to sort out the different types of plastics. So if your local recycling facility cannot recycle the plastic waste in your pink bags, it lands in the landfill that not only incur costs for dumping but damage the environment.

REDUCE your plastic waste!

As consumers and a household, we can help to reduce our plastic waste. This way, we need even have to wonder whether the plastic waste we are putting into our pink bags is recyclable and will find its way to its right destination.

It will not be easy, given our ingrained habits of buying everything wrapped in plastic and widespread and readily available plastic packaging for every conceivable household product in the shops.  But we can try and start by making small changes to our shopping habits.

Here are some helpful easy tips to start with:

  • Never leave home without a reusable cloth/paper or biodegradable bag in your bag. You never know when you might enter a shop and be faced with a single-use plastic bag!
  • Buy in bulk from your grocer or local farm shop if one is available nearby – buy loose rice, cereal etc and use your own containers that you are going to store them in.
  • Stop buying single-use water bottles – bring your own reusable water bottle.
  • Avoid straws –you do not need them!
  • Need a cuppa? Consider pausing and enjoy your drink in a reusable cup/mug at the cafe rather than the takeaway coffee cups. If you do need to have a takeaway, go topless and skip the plastic lid.
  • Avoid plastic containers and go for glass jars as much as you can as they can be reused.
  • Choose cardboard and paper packaging for your groceries over plastic wrappings.

In a nutshell, one of the largest benefits we can use at the consumer level is to reduce our use of surplus or one-off-use disposable plastic items