I guess starting this article with “did you know” does not score high on the originality rating but it’s as good a place to start as any. Are you aware that of the UK’s Household plastic waste, only 9% actually gets recycled? And of the remaining waste, a whooping 79% ends up on waste mountains in poorer countries, and inevitably at the bottom of the ocean? We all try and do our bit, putting our waste in the recycling bin every week but hearing these stats sacred the living bejuzus out of us and really got us thinking.
So why is it that so little of our plastic waste actually gets recycled and turned into something new? It comes down to a few simple facts…. the single-use plastic packaging that seems to form such a big part of everyday life is simply not worth recycling due to the cost and the effort involved and as a result it ends up being waste within just 1 year.
So what happens to it? It is our packaging and in particular the fluffy plastic kind, that get transported far away to countries, where it is easier and cheaper to get rid off. This is down to a couple of reasons; firstly, their local processes for recycling are much less restrictive than ours. Secondly, the cost of labour (for doing such a job) is next to nothing and thirdly, and this is the most painful part, due to a lack of regulation and control in many of these countries, the waste either ends up in the sea (with no sea-mermaid to scoop it up with her shining tale) or is left on the streets for children to sort through.
The biggest tragedy is that our government knows this is happening and not only does nothing, it continues to ship our waste to these places.
We found this article in the Guardian that explains this whole awful truth in more detail - the cost of recycling?
Once we woke up to these facts we really started to see how wide spread the use of single-use plastic really is and how challenging it can be to move away from buying or using it.
For example, many supermarkets opt for plastic wrapping around everything, rather than opting for natural, bio-degradable alternatives where possible. The irony of shopping for organic avocados and having no option but to buy your piece of fruit in a carefully placed single-use plastic tray, wrapped in some soft (non-recyclable) plastic wrapper. Why, o, why?
If it was just for the food the issue but it’s not, whatever you find in your basket - offline or online - fruit, veggies, sauces, bread, bin bags, dishwasher tabs, washing up liquid, laundry detergent, body lotion, toothpaste… and we can go on and on and on… it all finds itself cosily wrapped in public enemy number 1, single-use plastic.
So let me leave you with a few parting stats, the average person throws away 400kg of waste each year, and most of that ends up on someone else’s plate to sort out.
For some extra shivers down your spine, we have a short list of forever-taking decomposing (on their own) timings:
* Plastic Bottle > 450 years
* Disposable diaper > 500 years
* Plastic six-pack collar > 450 years
* Polystyrene foam > more than 5.000 years (!!!!!!!!)
We’re in a desperate state with the waste mountains growing and something needs to change but what can you and I do to help? This is something we’ve asked ourselves and we think you probably have too, so we put together a few quick, simple and cheap ways to make a small difference every day...