What Really Happens To Your Recycling?
Recycling is undoubtedly a critical process, and we still need to encourage it, but it is by no means the be-all and end-all of sustainability. In Britain alone, around 27 million tonnes of waste is thrown away per year with only about 45% of that reported to be recycled, but in reality, that number is far smaller.
Britain itself lacks a great deal of recycling infrastructure and so sends large amounts of its waste plastic abroad with nearly 2/3rds of that ending up in China, and large quantities making its way to Indonesia and other parts of South-East Asia. The problem with this is that this system is very, very fallible.
For one thing, transporting waste uses large amounts of energy, often from fossil fuels that, in themselves, pollute the environment. But the major issue is less so how it gets there but what happens to it when it arrives.
At present, there are not adequate checks to make sure this plastic is actually recycled, and often it just ends up in a landfill or the ocean after being shipped to the other side of the world.
There are also problems with whether these countries will continue to accept this waste as Indonesia and Malaysia have both returned shipments of waste back to the UK, and other countries, after a backlash against developed nations using South East Asia as a dumping ground. China has also banned the import of 24 kinds of solid waste, including plastic water bottles.
It is evident that recycling is a good thing and still much needed. However, with faults in the present infrastructure and more and more plastic still being produced, the best way to deal with this is to switch to biodegradable products and reduce our overall plastic consumption altogether.
Bamboo is an ideal replacement in the case of many single-use plastics as it continues to grow once it is harvested, is biodegradable and very durable. Essentially acting as a superweed, it can grow up to 10-metres a day without chemicals or fertilisers.