“Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…”
I often find myself having the same conversation with so many people about recycling… why it doesn’t work, why it isn’t the first thing on our list, why it isn’t enough, and why it really isn’t the answer to climate change!
Recycling is often the ‘go to’ answer when we think about how to be greener, but recycling alone really isn’t the solution, sadly we can’t recycle our way out of the climate change mess we find ourselves in!
Don’t get me wrong, recycling is definitely part of the solution, but a lot of other action also needs to be taken.
Our whole waste and recycling infrastructure in the UK is poor and so inconsistent. What you can and can’t recycle varies hugely from county to county and council to council, and leaves many of us very confused about what we can and can’t put in the range of different bins we’ve been given.
But, even if we had a consistently outstanding recycling infrastructure across the UK, we’d still have a big problem… the HUGE amount, and difficult to recycle type of waste we continue to produce.
We need to turn off the waste tap…
If you think of our waste as pouring out of a tap into an overflowing bath… you would reach for the tap first and turn it off before starting on clearing up the mess.
We all need to step up and recognize the huge amount of unnecessary waste we are producing in our lives on a daily basis, and start taking action now to reduce it.
And this is where our mantra comes in… Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…
Notice that recycle is last on the list!
Here is a quick explanation of the what and the why…
Refuse – the first way to start changing our waste production for the better is to stop letting it enter your life in the first place. By refusing to buy single use items or items with packaging non-recyclable packaging you don’t then have to then deal with the resulting waste stream.
Think of disposable coffees cups here as a super quick win. By refusing to use a disposable cup and instead taking your own reusable cup, or by enjoying your drink while ‘having it in’ in a washable porcelain cup, you have refused one item of non-recyclable waste.
If we all refuse to buy single use items they will stop being made, meaning this particular waste tap will be turned off!
Reduce – after you start refusing new waste streams at the point at which they enter your life, you can then start looking at how you can reduce your dependency on all types of harmful, wasteful, and non-recyclable products.
Reducing your use of things like plastic will result in less waste materials ending up in landfill and the associated negative environmental impacts.
A super easy win here is opting for things like mayonnaise and ketchup in glass bottles instead of plastic when you next need to buy them.
If we all stopped buying plastic bottles of sauces for example, and instead only bought them in (infinitely) recyclable glass, we’d remove the harmful plastic from our lives and send a clear message to the companies making them.
Reuse – the introduction of single-use items (more often than not plastics) has created a convenience driven and throw-away culture which normalizes using materials once and then throwing them away.
We need to recognize there is no ‘away’!
All items, recyclable or not, end up somewhere…
Take a look at items you currently have and start making use of them and reusing them before simply binning them or recycling them. Quick wins here are food containers which can be used again and again in the freezer, or as storage, or try taking them to your local refill shop and fill them with more food to avoid new food packaging completely!
Recycle – recycling is the final process in our mantra because we should be avoiding the need for it as much as possible.
Things like plastic CANNOT be recycled infinitely, instead they are ‘downcycled’ up to a maximum of 7 times and then ultimately end up in landfill, being burnt, or floating in the sea. So, when companies try to make you feel better by telling you their plastic product is ‘recyclable’ don’t fall for it, instead refuse to buy it.
Recycling options vary so much based on where you live in the country make sure you take some time to read up on what is actually recyclable in your area before you pop anything in the recycling bin.
And there you have it, our mantra Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…
Start taking some action today to help turn off the waste tap!
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