What happens to recycling in the UK?
Recycling is now more important than ever. The world has been knocked out by a climate crisis and recycling is one of those activities that could help us feel like we are making some difference. And yes, recycling and composting are very effective ways to decrease the generation of greenhouse gases. Always try to Reduce & Reuse & Recycle. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to manage construction, office, garden, or commercial waste, you always need to dispose of any waste you may have in an environmentally friendly way. On the other hand, the largest part of this process is not in your hands, it’s the responsibility of your government.
The latest reports say that the UK will, sadly, not be able to meet its 2035 recycling targets. The report, a product of a partnership made by packaging producer DS Smith and Central Saint Martin’s college in London, concluded that the pressure on the UK’s recycling system is too high and the system will break down if we fail to react.
Reports from previous years were very optimistic. In 2014, experts expected from the UK to recycle at least 70% of household waste by the end of 2020, to completely ban the landfilling recycling waste by 2025, and to increase the amount of recycled packaging waste to 80% by 2030.
However, according to the already mentioned report, recycling rates stagnated at 44% and the UK is not going to hit its (now already adjusted prognosis) target of 50% by 2020. The UK does not have the required infrastructure to recycle its plastic waste. This is why the UK found another solution and has been sending waste overseas since 2002. The countries like China, Turkey, Malaysia, and Poland are the endpoints for some of the UK’s waste.
The UK Government is expected to achieve a recycling rate of at least 65% by 2035 and to limit the amount of waste sent to other countries to 10%. Despite Brexit, the UK Government has said it remains committed to achieving all the goals that were previously set by the EU.
DS Smith’s Report is Not an Optimistic One
And in its “Tipping Point” report, DS Smith states that not only will the UK fall short of the 65% target and that it will reach that target in 2048.
What is Holding the UK Back?
The Lack of Investment
The lack of investment is the main cause of this “crawling” improvement. The report points out that the total amount of funds delegated for recycling services dropped from £630 million in 2013/14 to £569 million in 2016/17. This is why the local officials in the UK are forced to think about prices rather than about the quality.
The other problem is overcapacity. This means that we don’t have the infrastructure capable of using all the waste the UK is currently producing. There will be more energy from waste plants than waste to fill them. This will result in burning the waste that could’ve been recycled.
E-Commerce and The Lack of Knowledge
The UK’s infrastructure was created and designed in a pre-e-commerce era. This is why they don’t know what to do with an influx of more and more packaging materials. Packaging recycling obligations require more than 7,000 firms to do their duties and properly recycle a certain amount of their waste. But this is, sadly, not the case. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), only 64% of packaging waste was reported as recycled in 2017. Instead, the system relies on exporting materials to other parts of the world without some adequate checks to ensure that those materials are recycled and without even thinking about the fact that these countries can’t continue to accept the waste indefinitely.
The other thing is that people don’t know how to separate their waste. The people do have a great desire to recycle and do what is the best for the environment, but only 18% of people (officially) felt well-informed about recycling, 34% wanted to see clearer labeling on products they buy.
What are the options for the Government?
These reports suggest that there are some suggestions on how the UK could increase the recycling rate:
- A minister that will do only one thing, focus on the issue in the government;
- The increase in funding;
- Better waste separation;
- Universal labeling on all the packages and bins;
- Circular economy.
What can you do to help? Well, R&R&R!
The first thing you can do is a little R and R and R. This means “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” So, you can help to recycle by reducing the amount that we consume and shifting your consumption to well-designed products and services. You can also REUSE some of the materials in your backyard inside your household, and in the end, you have to recycle regularly.
You should also learn what you can and can’t recycle. And the rules are different for different areas. You don’t want to send anything that can’t be processed.
The essence of recycling is reusing the recycled waste, but in some different form. So, buy recycled!
Composting is one of the simplest ways and the most effective recycling method. Your garden cuttings and your green kitchen waste can all go into an outdoor or indoor composter. And in the end, you should recycle all your electronics separately or by returning the electronics to the manufacturer.