Have you ever wondered what happens to your big black bag of rubbish when the refuse collectors come to take it away? No? Well it’s about time you did!
Read on to find out the true ‘life cycle’ of your trash, the effect on the planet, and how some organisations are doing their bit to raise awareness of the situation…
The Rubbish Life Cycle
Or should I say, the Life Cycle of Rubbish. Of course, it’s important to point out that when we all start making products more responsibly, the need for non-recyclable waste disposal will be greatly reduced, leading to a more sustainable economy. Now I’ve got that out the way, let’s take a look at what happens once that truck drives away with our waste.
An example of a common non-recycled product is the plastic bottle. Around two-thirds of plastic bottles are sent to landfill, despite being an easily recycled product. Landfill costs on average £53 per tonne of waste, and considering plastics take around 450 years to decompose we’re looking at an expensive method of disposal that will eventually see us running out of land to fill.
In addition to landfill, waste can also be incinerated. Disposing of waste this way makes up for 30% of the UK’s methane emissions. If you were to pop that plastic bottle in the recycling box instead of in the bin, it could be sorted, washed and enjoy a new life as a piece of furniture, or even a jumper!
How it’s Affecting the Planet
As well as an unsightly and smelly mess on our beautiful land, landfill is posing serious risks to the planet. Space is running out and we could see it hit zero in the next 5-10 years, according to the government’s Environment Agency.
Biodegradable waste such as paper and food, although composted, release what we know as ‘greenhouse gases’ – carbon dioxide and methane – into the atmosphere.
Although around 48% of gas emissions are now captured by the UK landfills to use as renewable energy sources, over half are still creeping into the atmosphere, leaving us with the ominous cloud of global warming. The pollution caused by living near a landfill site has also been associated with health implications such as cancers and respiratory illness such as asthma.
Some businesses are doing something about the global waste crisis. In Rio de Janeiro, the Recycle your Attitudes project features a giant fish installation piece made from plastic bottles, emerging from the beach in an imposing and beautiful display of the scale of our waste, and what can be done.
In the UK, the Too Good To Waste campaign, run by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, features restaurants around the country who are actively trying to reduce their food waste… by giving away their leftovers! Participating venues offer guests a ‘doggy box’ – a recycled box containing extra food instead of wasting it. Check out the campaign and find your nearest restaurant here: http://www.toogood-towaste.co.uk/the-campaign/overview/
What are you doing to reduce waste?
Stephanie Broad is a keen journalist and interested in all things green. She writes about the environment, ethics and society. Stephanie currently blogs for Eurocell.