By now, we’re familiar with the ecological and environmental arguments for recycling, not only to benefit ourselves but also the future generations. Although responding to our personal responsibilities in this way is a good thing, there is still the wider community conscience and national responsibility to consider too.
This national responsibility is a significant factor in the UK’s need to recycle effectively, as Britain has a strict undertaking to meet EU targets which state that by 2020, the UK should be recycling half of all household waste. With the waste figures of 2012 – 2013 weighing in at just 9.8m tonnes of rubbish recycled, compared to 12.8m tons of rubbish into landfill, the UK has some way to go if it is to meet this 50% EU target.
Click to watch our mattress and bed recycling video.
Benefits of recycling:
Quite aside that the UK needs to keep its own house (holds) in order because it’s fast running out of landfill space, it’s also entirely appropriate that we should be doing our utmost to meet the Euro-led goal, as waste and the over-use of some of the world’s non-sustainable resources is a global issue. Reducing landfill, developing methods for large-scale recycling of a range of materials and finding alternative ‘clean’ methods of waste disposal are all ways which benefit the planet, not only by reducing contamination of the environment but also by developing sustainable methods of manufacture and waste and more eco-friendly living and business practices.
Keeping the cycle going:
At times though, caring or demonstrating concern about the issue by sorting your waste rubbish from your recyclable items every so often isn’t enough. In all contexts, sustainability can only come about when action is sustained, and as a nation, it seems that the UK is starting to get tired of making an effort, with a phenomena dubbed “green fatigue.”
According to the Guardian newspaper (October 2014), from 2001 – 2012, the recycling rate for UK households rose dramatically from 11% to 43%, a leap largely assisted by local authorities making household recycling easier with the introduction of green wheelie bins and collections, as part of their own efforts to meet regional recycling targets. However, over 2013 – 2014, this increase rate has all but ceased, having risen by just 0.2% during 2012 – 2014.
Keeping the cycle going isn’t just about domestic households and businesses recycling though; it’s also about making green choices. As consumers and customers we have more power than we realise, and caring about recycling means more than separating out our rubbish, it’s also about putting our green thinking hats on when making commercial choices. Such choices include:
- Buying from local suppliers rather than national or brand names, to ensure a lighter shade of carbon footprint for items.
- Purchasing items such as furniture and beds manufactured from sustainable and recycled materials. Such items can also be ethically disposed of using environmentally friendly services such as Collect Your Old Bed.
- Having items fixed and reusing them, rather than dumping them and buying an alternative.
- Seeking alternative or reduced-packaging options, to reduce overall waste.
Of all of these, the issue of packaging offers a possible reason for the apparent reduction in the amounts being put into recycling, it may not be purely a case of having “green fatigue” but more of being “waste wise” as conscientious households try to reduce their use (and therefore waste) of glass and paper. The recycling of these heavy materials count by weight against local targets, so if households are using less of these, they are in turn recycling less (by weight) even if they are using recyclable alternatives, such as plastic bottles instead of glass ones. Such waste-wise changes may account for some of that shortfall when it comes to measuring up to the EU’s 50% recycling target. So we might still have some way to go, but it’s possibly because we’ve already come so far!
Whilst UK residents in general are clearly showing a collective responsibility towards recycling with vigour and conscience, to assist the global cause, to help Britain meet the tough EU targets we certainly need to show we care by thinking outside the green wheelie box.
Thankfully though, some local authorities, such as the London Borough of Lewisham are already being pro-active by scrapping the fee for council collection and disposal of mattresses, to encourage households towards more ethical disposal of items too big to fit into that green bin. Hopefully other local authorities will follow suit as those target dates start to loom large, but in the meantime, it’s up to households to minimise waste and maximise use of recyclable materials and disposal methods to keep the recycling cycle going.