Are you guilty of ‘wish-cycling?’
The UK may not be on track to achieve its target and recycle half of all household rubbish by 2020.
Experts have voiced their concerns as cash-strapped local councils increasingly reduce their spend on recycling services. Last year, the Local Government information Unit (LGiU) reported that six in 10 councils cited adult social care and children and education services as the greatest immediate pressures, compared with one in 10 who said environmental and waste issues.
Added to that, millions of Brits are still unsure what can and cannot be recycled – as highlighted in a shock survey by Beyond the Box, a team of leading UK packaging companies. A third of those questioned admitted that they were unclear what to do with empty crisp packets and one in 10 did not know whether glass bottles can be recycled.
For companies who require commercial waste collections, understanding the importance of correct waste segregation is critical to cost-effectiveness, efficiency and meeting their responsibilities to the environment.
“In an ideal world, everything would be recyclable, but the truth is very few things can be,” says Colin Harvey, Commercial Director at Fresh Start Waste Services. “Even the recycling symbol itself – known as the ‘Mobius Loop’ – can be misleading. It simply means that with the right technology something could theoretically be recycled, but not every local recycling scheme has the facilities to do so.
“Our mixed recycling bins are intended for plastic bottles, cans and tins, paper and cardboard only; however, we find everything from clear and black plastic bags to batteries and electrical waste inside them. It’s what experts call ‘wish-cycling’ – throwing things away that you wish could be recycled. That is why part of our ongoing service is continual support and education to make informed choices about what to put into our bins.”
What happens to waste that cannot be recycled?
China stopped accepting the world’s plastic in 2017 – announcing it had become too contaminated by other garbage. Costly recycling programmes in the US were suspended and waste rediverted to landfill, where shockingly 2.12 million tonnes of waste is still dumped every year (according to the United Nations).
Other alternatives include incinerating non-recyclable waste to generate Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), which can be used in a variety of ways – including to make heat and electricity – yet even this option comes with its problems.
“In line with the Government’s Carbon Plan, we are taking positive steps as a business to reduce our emissions as far as we can,” explains Colin. “RDF diverts waste from landfill, but often it is shipped overseas – creating a massive carbon footprint – so it’s a less than favourable solution.
“We are committed to seeking the most effective solutions for all our customers whilst helping them to minimise their environmental impact for future generations. Segregating your waste correctly reduces cross-contamination. This is not only the most cost-effective way to dispose of your waste, but it also gives us the best possible chance to maximise reuse of materials – a win-win for you and the environment.”