Many of us are learning that recycling is not the answer to our waste problems. Councils find it too expensive and can’t keep up with the amount to be recycled and they have sent the recycling to be dumped in other countries. These countries are not taking our rubbish any more. Quite rightly so. Councils are also unable to cope with soft plastics recycling.
The new option to cope with this has become creating energy from waste.
It’s really important to look at the waste hierarchy at this point (shown in the image). It shows the different things to be done with waste and the hierarchy of their environmental impact.
The worst thing you can do with waste is put it into landfill. This is not only because of the space it takes up but because of the methane that it produces. Most of it will take hundreds if not thousands of years to decompose.
The best thing is to not have the waste in the first place.
Creating energy from waste is only 2nd to landfill in the worst things you can do with the waste. Yes, burning the waste produces energy which can be used by us, but the carbon fumes produced are in huge quantities and being released into the atmosphere.
Energy from waste should only be carried out on waste that can’t be recycled.
I recommend you watch this episode of dispatches which shows that pretty much every council in the UK is burning rubbish which should be recycled. It’s a whole tangled system which will see energy from waste producing more CO2 than coal in a few years time.
Unfortunately, I came away from the programme feeling quite helpless. I have no control over what happens to my waste once it’s left the kerbside.
Recently, I have been collecting soft plastics (not recycled by the council) and placing them in the black bin to be collected for energy for waste. I hadn’t really thought through the environmental impact and how I was supporting the increase of CO2.
But there is another option for these items. Recently Tesco announced formal collection points for soft plastics recycling at their stores. They will take all these plastics and recycle them. This is really great news because it will reduce the amount going into landfill and being burnt.
However, let’s not forget the hierarchy. At the end of the day, the best thing we can do is to minimise the waste in the first place. Manufactures should be working to minimise packaging on products, create reusable packaging, and certainly make it recyclable if nothing else. We clearly can’t cope with the amount of waste being produced in this country so wouldn’t it make sense for the government to work with them on this somehow?
And us consumers? Well, if you’ve read this far I know that you are already working hard to reduce your waste as much as you can. We can do our bit in our small way and this will add up to the big changes.