Today is Global Recycling Day. As explained by Ranjit S. Baxi, President at the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), “It is a day to showcase that whoever and wherever we live on this great planet, whether we are the humblest individual or the greatest leader, the responsible use of the materials around us, the better understanding of how they are used and dispatched, and the championing of recycled goods from the plastics in our home to the metals in our buildings, is a collective, and global, concern…By naming recycled materials as “resource” we are giving them their proper title; recyclables are as important, if not more, than all the primary resources we have here on earth.”
BIR highlights how we can’t continue to keep using up the six main natural resources of the earth (air, water, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals). In the past these resources have been thought to be limitless but we of course now know that these precious resources are finite. In 2017 we used a year’s worth of the earth’s natural resources in just seven months. We have been carelessly using up the earths precious natural resources and pouring tons of waste back into our natural environment. Humans have consumed more resources in the last 50 years than in all previous history and every year we dump a massive 2.12 billion tons of waste. To picture this, if all this waste was put into dumper trucks they would go around the world 24 times.
Recycling offers us a seventh resource, one that can potentially be indefinite. Not only does recycling offer us a chance to preserve and save precious resources it also has additional benefits such as saving CO2 emissions and offering employment and adding to the global economy. Recycling rates are now much better than they were, in the UK the rate of recycling has skyrocketed from just 11.2 percent in 2000/2001, to 43.2 percent in 2017/18, however the UK has a target of 50% by 2020, so there is still a way to go. As well as doing our recycling we also need to be making sure we are supporting the circular economy recycling promotes by purchasing products that are made from recycled materials. Industry is still using a lot of virgin resources, one example is that 91% of the plastic created is virgin and not recycled. This of course is not something we can ultimately control, it’s the large companies that produce these products but we can look at our consumer choices and ask ourselves some important questions to inform our waste and purchasing habits, as set out by the BIR:
1) Do I dispose of everything I have used (from plastic bottles to refrigerators to cars) properly, so it can be recycled?
2) Do I know my municipality’s policies on recycling and do I follow them?
3) Do I know what happens to my recyclables once they are taken away by my local municipality?
4) Do I, my family and my friends, mend, repair and reuse in order to sustain the usefulness of the items around us for as long as possible?
5) Am I committed to producing as little waste as I can?
6) Do I know how, and do the brands that I buy make it easy for me, to make the right ‘recycling friendly’ purchasing decisions?
7) Am I sufficiently aware of my government’s recycling legislation, or should I be demanding more?
By asking ourselves these questions we become responsible consumers and we start to put the planet first instead of ourselves, which is ultimately putting ourselves first because we won’t be able to survive without the earths precious resources. We depend on a functioning ecosystem to provide us with oxygen to breathe, water to hydrate, food to sustain us and using up these resources is destroying our ecosystem.
Find out more about Cornwall’s recycling here
Find out more about Cornwall’s recycling centres here
Find out more about the UK recycling and waste legislation here
Information from the Global Recycling Day Manifesto found here
UK recycling stats found here