Recycling waste and rubbish in the UK
What is this waste problem, and why should we recycle?
On average, every household in throws away about a tonne of rubbish every year, based on Government figures. In 1999, about 26 million tonnes were thrown away by people living in England and Wales. In total, no less than 423 million tonnes of waste were created, mostly from farms, factories, sewage sludge, dredging, mines, quarries and offices.
Statisticians reckon that the volume of waste produced in just one hour in the UK could fill the Albert Hall! In one day, it would fill Trafalgar Square up to the top of Nelson's hat! And in a year, there would be enough dustbins to stretch from the Earth to the Moon!
Of the waste produced by families, factories and offices, around 83% is buried in the ground at 'landfill sites'. Around 6% is burnt in special power stations
to help produce electricity and other forms of power, and 3% is burnt without generating any power. Just 8% is recycled.
Producing new aluminium cans from used cans saves up to 95% of the energy needed to produce cans from raw materials, and produces 95% less greenhouse emissions.
Every year, 13 billion steel cans are produced, and up to a quarter of each of them is made from recycled steel - that's the equivalent of 3 billion cans. Still, there is a great deal of room for mprovement - every day, more than 50 million food and drinks cans are just thrown away.
Around 3,000 tonnes of aluminium foil packaging - that's £1.2 million worth - is recycled each year. But 20,000 tonnes - worth £8 million - is wasted.
Every tonne of glass recycled saves over one tonne of raw materials like sand and limestone. The more we recycle, the less we need to quarry, which means less damage to our countryside, less pollution, valuable energy savings and less global warming.
In Europe, people recycle an average 50% of glass containers, and in some countries the average is over 80%. In the UK, the average is 22%. For every tonne of paper we recycle, 15 average-sized trees and their surrounding habitat and wildlife are saved. Around 63% of the fibre used to produce paper and board in the UK comes from reclaimed papers.
The European Community issued a Directive which said that, at least half the packaging material we throw away must be recycled or used to generate power. It is up to each one of
us to play a part in helping to recycle more than we do
Easy steps to recycling our waste
A little smart thinking about recycling means we can help to reduce the millions of tonnes of waste we create every year. We can reduce the amount of materials we just throw away. If we reduce our waste we can reduce the impact we have on the environment, in terms of pollution caused by the manufacturing process and the need to dispose of our waste.
Buying food and other goods with as little packaging as possible is a good start. You could even begin growing some of your own fruit and vegetables, or buying it from
local farm shops, farmers markets or through a vegetable box scheme see Smart Shopping.
Re-using (a common form of recycling) instead of throwing away is another practical option in the home - bottles, containers and carrier bags can all be used time and again. Buying refill packs and containers whenever possible makes sense, too.
Recycling has clear advantages too. Recycling bottles, paper, cans and plastics means that the same raw materials are being used more than once - extending their life and maximising their value. This saves on the environmental and economic costs of producing products from scratch.
When you do throw things away, separate out newspapers and magazines, bottles, aluminium cans and even old clothes and take them to your nearest recycling centre. Phone your local council for details.
If you are taking material to the recycling centre by car, don't make it a special
journey - double it up with another errand. And keep your eyes open next time you go to the supermarket - many have recycling bins in their car parks.
Almost a third of what we throw away is organic, such as vegetable peelings,
leftover food and garden rubbish. Why not use it to make compost, which you can use to grow your own food?
Why not buy products made from recycled materials, such as bin bags and toilet rolls? The more demand there is for recycled products, the more manufacturers are likely to produce. And try to buy products which you know you can recycle. Use rechargeable, or mercury-free "green" batteries where ever possible.
And, if you re getting too much unsolicited junk mail, try returning it to the sender. Or get it stopped completely - by registering with the Mailing
Preference Service you can remove your name from mailing lists.
Their address is
London W1E 7EZ
What happens if we don't recycle?
By far the greatest proportion of household waste in England and Wales currently ends up as landfill.
The number of landfill sites in England and Wales has fallen in recent years, but those which remain have increased in size. In 1999 there were about 1,500 licensed landfill sites compared with around 3,400 in 1994.
Landfill is the only option for waste which is difficult to burn or recycle. But, landfill sites can release chemicals into surface and underground water, and soil, and generate
significant quantities of methane, which is a 'greenhouse gas'. In fact, more than a
quarter of the total methane emissions in the UK came from landfill in 1997.
This page is taken from Derbyshire County Council 'Smartliving' pages and comes with the following
'The contents of Smartliving are drawn from a wide variety of sources. While we have made every effort to ensure accuracy, DCC will not be held responsible for any errors in this publication. Views expressed, or mention of any organisation in Smartliving should not necessarily be
regarded as an indication of Derbyshire County Council's official policy or support.'
The assistance of Northampton Borough Council and permission to reproduce their information is gratefully acknowledged.by Derbyshire County Council
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"Its odd, that most people appear to like a nice place to live. They enjoy consumption and take little notice of what their actions have on the planet. I see litter where ever you go, and a general attitude that tomorrow will look after itself. There are no answers we will plough headlong into self distruction. I give it another 50years - if we are lucky - and then it will be to late for us. "
"i think that we should to continue to recycle because people just walk around throwing garbage around ; they don't care about the world they just live in it"
"i've really learned a whole lot about recycling.......;) thanks dude "