Member Article

Recycling: Misconceptions and Innovations

Recycling has embedded itself into the routines of many, but has the habit shrouded understanding?

While modern-day recycling in the UK can be traced back to 1970, archaeological evidence suggests the practice can be dated back as early as 330 AD.

Proof also exists that the early Romans up-cycled bronze coins into statues, though intentions were then based on value and less virtue.

And, in the early 20th century, auction houses saw a rise in books sold for the purpose of recycling to keep pace with the nations desire to read.

Fast-forward and 2020 is the year of the UK’s EU-set target to recycle at least 50% of household waste.

The most recent government figures showed Wales as the only nation exceeding the target at 54.1%, with the UK total standing at 45%.

There are also targets set specifically for packaging waste, with the UK exceeding the 60% EU target, recycling or recovering 70%.

While the government stress difficulty in calculating figures for commercial and industrial waste, it is thought these sectors produced 37.2 million tonnes of waste in 2018, with an ever-increasing amount of large and small businesses alike committing to a greener waste strategy.

And, in an age of Greta Thunburg, Extinction Rebellion and of course, coronavirus, the masses are as eco-conscious as ever.

But with recycling bins now a staple in homes and businesses, and a target for seemingly every element of waste production, has understanding grown alongside the green revolution?

**Recycling Misconceptions **

When things become habitual, they can often become insignificant, and while many are pleased to do their bit for the environment, they can fall victim to common misconceptions.

Many are surprised to learn that material that can usually be recycled, such as cardboard, loses its recycling potential once contaminated with food.

This means the likes of used pizza boxes and sandwich containers cannot be recycled.

Take for instance, the much relied-on supermarket meal-deal; the crisp packet, the sandwich, and drinks bottle.

The crisp packet is usually sent to landfill, with what took minutes to eat taking up to 80 years to decompose. Although, in 2018, Walkers were forced to launch a recycling scheme for their packets after they were the target of a protest which saw empty packets posted back to the crisp manufactures.

The leftover sandwich has contaminated the cardboard packaging material meaning that it is no longer recyclable, so again it is sent to landfill where the leftover food waste rots and produces methane gas.

Leaving just the plastic drinks bottle as the only recyclable item within a standard meal-deal.

If the meal-deal consumer had been health conscious, banana skins and apple cores can take years to decompose, although weather and insects can aid the speed of the process.

If the plastic drinks bottle was not to find its way into recycling, land-filled, it would take around 450 years to disintegrate, and if a Lucozade sport had been the drink of choice, the chief executive of the Recycling Association has labelled the plastic sleeve as “impossible to recycle.”

Like Walkers, organic baby and toddler food company, Ella’s Kitchen, runs a scheme offering free recycling of any baby food pouch, which typically would not be able to be recycled.

This is because although crisp packets and baby food pouches cannot be placed in standard recycling, they can be recycled through a more thorough and expensive process which includes the removal of contaminants.

Another shock to some is the receipt received upon purchasing the meal-deal may not be able to be recycled either.

The UK hands out an estimated 11.2 billion paper receipts a year, though the type that are printed onto shiny, thermal paper are not recyclable due to their coating of bisphenol.

Bisphenol can be harmful if released into to the environment, and many shops now opt for emailed receipts.

**Innovative Recycling **

Although recycling misconceptions can show resting on laurels leads to slip-ups, it also highlights some innovation and indeed responsibility in the business world when it comes to recycling.

It is the responsibility of a business to do everything they reasonably can to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste – in that order – so it is expected businesses practice techniques that avoid the creation of waste primarily.

Cosmetics brand, UpCircle, prevent used coffee grounds and brewed tea spices going to landfill by bringing them back to life as beauty products.

The sustainable brand also commits itself to 99% plastic-free packaging.

Similarly, Lush offer a free face mask initiative to customers who return five empty product pots, which will then be ground down and made into new packaging.

The recycled plastic drinks bottle from the meal-deal may find itself reinvented into clothing, with sock brand Swaggr boasting garments made from 91% recycled plastic bottles.

**The Future **

While some elements of recycling may be surprising despite forming part of everyday routine, it is something both household and workplace will see increasing as time progresses and targets loom.

The UK has committed to eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042, while EU targets may face uncertainty amidst Brexit.

Businesses looking to kickstart their own recycling can benefit from the assistance of waste management companies such as CheaperWaste, who operate a minimal landfill mantra.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by CheaperWaste .

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