Whither Recycling?

In the light of the recent report of recycling rates falling for the first time in England from 44.8% in 2014 to 43.9% in 2015, one wonders how sustainable is this, one of the main eco-friendly ways of dealing with waste. Have we reached our peak of this sustainable effort?

No doubt, recycling helps the environment, if done correctly and the momentum is maintained.
Why is the effort seemingly non-sustainable?
The reality is that the survival of the recycling movement depends on continual subsidies, sermons and policing.

The problems and obstacles facing recycling as a sustainable solution are:

  • We do not really understand our waste! There are many materials that we do not know if they count as recyclable or not. We try our best to dispose the right type of waste into the right type of recycling bins; but despite all the work into raising awareness about waste and its environmental impact, has anyone seen happens next after the bins are collected and the waste processed? If the recyclable waste does not get into the right bin, it will end up in the landfill! Bottles that have the wrong type of plastic, or a tiny bit of drink residue, are likely to be rejected as well.
  • The requirements and needs of the local authority’s recycling system are too daunting for one to understand and familiarise oneself with. Furthermore, each council has its own requirement as there is no standardisation. Hence incorrect recycling behaviour is common.
  • Recycling labels are not standardised and majority of the recycled items are not labelled properly. Recycling information is confusing and at times conflicting and hence incorrect recycling behaviour is common.
  • The recycling operations itself are not environmentally friendly as they involve more trucks on the road and composting facilities have resulted in nauseating odours and pests. Furthermore, the prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oilprices and reduced overseas demand.

We need to ask ourselves: What is the goal here?

To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, we’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming we fly coach. If we sit in business or first-class, where each passenger takes up more space, it could be more like 100,000!

The chief benefit of recycling is no doubt the reduction of carbon emissions and the greenhouse gases as we reduce the need to manufacture new products, hence less mining, drilling and logging.

But how much difference does it make? Here’s some perspective

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates, more than 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gases come from just a few materials - paper, cardboard and metals like the aluminium in soda cans.  Recycling one ton of metal or paper saves about three tons of carbon dioxide while recycling one ton of plastic saves only slightly more than one ton of carbon dioxide. A ton of food saves a little less than a ton. For glass, you have to recycle three tons in order to get about one ton of greenhouse benefits and it takes 20 tons of yard waste to save a single ton of carbon dioxide

We can accomplish more by sorting paper and aluminium cans than by worrying about yogurt containers and half-eaten dinners!

So how can we really build a sustainable community with a strategy that can’t even sustain itself?  What is the solution? Would a simpler disposing of products that will biodegrade in a landfill be more sustainable? One example of such a product is Element tableware.

Element is made from cornstarch and yam. It is 100% biodegradable and hence one does not have to worry about which recycling bin to put it in.  It is disposed off  into your normal waste heading for the landfill.

It has the following attributes:

  • 100% biodegradable meeting ASTMD6400 D6866 and EN13432 standards
  • Eco-friendly – carbon neutrality and facts on CO2 emissions and energy usage . The amount of carbon dioxide released in the creation of element is 72% less than conventional plastics.
  • In fact, 95kg of  carbon dioxide is released in the creation of the material granulate of element compared to 3.45 kg released in the creation of polystyrene.
  • Competitively priced to normal plastics and cheaper than most biodegradable and compostable products.
  • It come in twelve vibrant and fashionable colours to suit your taste and needs.