Recycling, Reducing, & Reusing: How to Save the Planet
We all bear the responsibility of maintaining our planet for future generations. Although large corporations and world leaders must make the bigger changes and decisions, we too can make switches. Whether these choices are big or small, we can still make a sustainable impact. In today’s blog, we talk about the fundamentals of recycling. And, we dive into the other decisions to make regarding waste hierarchy.
What is Recycling?
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new material and objects. The recovery of energy from waste materials also occurs in this concept. It prevents the waste of potentially useful materials and reduces the consumption of fresh raw material. Thus, reducing energy use, air pollution, and water pollution.
Recycled materials include many kinds of:
Alongside this, composting (such as food and garden waster) is also a form of recycling.
It is our job to ensure that our household waste is organised in to the correct categories. Different cities and countries have different rules — so, be sure to read up on your local council’s rules!
Humans have been recycling for most of their history. In fact, archaeological studies show that waste such as ash, broken tools and pottery did not appear in waste dumps. Therefore, implying that they recycled the waste into new materials.
Other occurrences also presented themselves through history:
- In 1031, Japanese shops sold re-pulped (thus recycled) paper.
- Dust and ash from British wood and coal fires served as base material for brick laying.
- In 1813, rags transformed into wool to be combined with “virgin” wool.
- Manufactures of beverage bottles offered refundable recycling deposits in Great Britain and Ireland around 1800.
Wartime (especially that in the 19th and 20th century) also played a large role in the boom of salvaging. It boosted a mentality of allowing people to make the most of what was available to them. This is an ideology that we would benefit from taking advantage of today.
How to Read the Codes
Most items nowadays have recycling codes. Thus, telling the consumer how much, if any, of the product can be recycled. Not sure how to decipher them? Look no further!
- As a general rule, three arrows in a triangle means that the item is capable of being recycled.
- If the triangle has a number in it, that shows how easy or difficult it is to recycle. 1 means that is it widely recycled. Meanwhile, 7 means a mix of different plastics — thus making the process more difficult.
- A rounded arrow with a heart-like head means the product is widely recycled. This is more commonly found in the UK.
Recycling is part of the waste hierarchy. This is a tool that evaluates which action is most favourable based on sustainability. It is usually presented as a pyramid:
- Prevention. Reducing waste generation at the source. For us, this is avoiding plastic products.
- Minimisation. Again, a form of reducing. This is buying with in our means.
- Reuse. Giving products a second life before they become waste. The best products are those such as shopping bags and metal water bottles. But, other household objects can also be up-cycled and reused.
- Recycle. Try to choose products which can be recycled.
- Energy Recovery. Using waste as input material to create valuable output materials.
- Disposal. The least desirable action. This includes landfills and incinerations.
When buying something new — do your part in thinking how this contributes to the waste hierarchy. To remember it simply, think: reduce, reuse, recycle!