How we deal with waste and recycling as a population is a growing issue in Wales and across Britain, with the vast majority of the resources that we rely on to sustain our life styles are limited.
Traditionally, we dispose of our waste by either burying it or burning it. However, the practice of burning or burying our waste creates many disastrous environmental issues. Burning waste releases climate changing gasses such as carbon dioxide along with other harmful substances. Burying waste also releases climate changing gases, most notably methane. Methane is produced through the decomposition of our organic waste and it’s 25 times greater than carbon dioxide.
There is also the potential for the contamination of water from decomposing waste together with the release of dangerous compounds into the soil and water supplies. Landfill sites try to minimise the potential for this but we can all do our bit to help.
Waste reduction and recycling should be seen as part of the wider effort to reduce our impact on the planet and ensure our lives are sustainable.
For example, recycling one tonne of steel uses just 5% of the energy required to produce the same from raw materials, therefore saving large amounts of carbon dioxide. Likewise, each tonne of aluminium recycled prevents the extraction and use of a massive five tonnes of bauxite and the associated impacts of processing bauxite.
Aside from risks of pollution, burying or burning waste represents a wider loss and potential waste of the vital resources our planet provides to us.
The prevention of waste top tips
- Avoid buying more than you need.
- Try only printing documents and emails that have to be legally stored in paper form, for example, contract documents and building designs.
- Try not to print emails or other documents unless absolutely necessary.
- If the information is essential, make use of removable electronic storage such as a memory stick or copy important information onto CD (you should always back up electronic storage).
- Wherever possible, avoid the use of paper communications, if your group is organising a meeting, send out the invites by email along with attached agenda and minutes.
- Another method of preventing waste is to use online resources or broadcast media instead of buying, for example, weighty newspapers.
Reducing your waste
Try wherever possible to reduce the amount of waste you create in the first place. Ensuring that when waste is created, it is kept to a minimum.
- If something has to be printed ensure that it is double sided.
- Avoid wasting food by only purchasing what is required.
- When purchasing something try to avoid products with excessive packaging, buy lose vegetables instead of pre-packed goods.
- When looking at larger goods such as fridges or televisions, try to only replace these when the originals are beyond use (such as when repair is uneconomic).
- Replacing your kettle because it no longer matches the decoration in your kitchen is wasteful!
- If an electrical item or piece of furniture is not broken and can be reused, offer the item to a local charity or a person in need.
Reuse what ever you can
Extending the life of something by either continuing its use or making use of it in a different way can reduce the need to produce more products therefore, the total amount of waste produced is kept to a minimum.
For example, reusing old carrier bags when shopping avoids the use of production of new bags. Using old carrier bags as bin liners or dog mess bags reduces the demand for new bags to meet those purposes.
If you have to dispose of items such as electrical goods or furniture that still work (fit for their original purpose), you can offer these for sale at a car boot sale or on an online auction site. There is also the possibility of donating the item to a charity or to someone else who can make use of it.
It is possible to donate decorating products for reuse through a scheme if there is one in your area, These centres take in excess decorating supplies and distribute them to community and education projects.
If you cannot reuse, recycle
Once you’ve reduced the amount of waste you, your community or your group produce through prevention, reduction, and reuse measures, the next step is to ensure that of the waste you do produce, everything that can be recycled is recycled.
As an individual you should have access to a local authority operated doorstep recycling scheme or if you are in an area where one is impractical the local authority should operate a communal service.
In addition to doorstep collections, most local authorities will operate Recycling Centres, where materials for recycling can be deposited. Most sites collect items not normally collected from the doorstep, such as glass, shoes and clothing.
For details of the location of your nearest Recycling Centre, contact your local authority. These sites will accept a wide range of materials including white goods, such as fridges, washing machines and cookers.
If a local community building you use for group meetings and activities does not currently have recycling provisions, or access to nearby recycling facilities, try contacting your local authority’s recycling officer. They will be able to advise you on any recycling facilities available to your group, and may even be able to offer you, where viable, your own community recycling facilities.
Why not try composting
A large proportion of the waste we throw away is organic and can be composted. At a domestic level, composting at home is relatively easy.
It’s also possible to access subsidised compost bins from the local authority or you could construct your own with timber (even better if it’s reused).
Home composting only really makes sense if you have the ability to use the compost. If you have a small garden but produce a lot of compostable waste, it would be better to access a communal composting scheme or make use of a council-run green waste scheme.
There are examples of community composting schemes where compostable waste is collected by volunteers. Here waste is processed in large composting bins, normally at an allotment site or community project, and then the compost is distributed to anyone who has contributed.This type of scheme removes the need for the householder to find space for a bin on their property.
For further advice and guidance on community composting, groups should try to contact their local authority’s recycling or composting officer. Alternately if there are no green waste or community composting schemes operating in your area it may be possible for a group to establish their own scheme. Funding can be sort and there is extensive support on offer from various organisations such as Recycle Now who also subsidise domestic compost bins and the Community Composting Network.
If you or your group have a lot of meat waste, it is not advisable to put this meat waste into composters.You can, however, place meat waste into domestic digesters.
These are more unusual and use a combination of UV light and bacteria to breakdown organic waste, with the residue dispersing directly into the soil. Digesters are more expensive than compost bins and generally can not deal with the waste generated by more than a couple of people. Talk to your local authority’s recycling / composting officer for further advice on food digesters.
What you can do as an individual
- Recycle via kerbside collections.
- Avoid disposable batteries – use rechargeable ones.
- Refuse plastic carrier bags – use a ‘bag for life’ or a natural fibre one instead.
- Buy loose fruit and vegetables from a local market or grocer rather than highly-packaged goods – it can be cheaper too.
- Buy cotton cloths for the kitchen clean-up instead of disposable kitchen roll.
- Buy refills for sturdy packs of washing powders, liquids, salt, and so on.
- If you do print, use both sides of the paper.
- Don’t throw away old computers – sell them online at eBay or donate them by reusing and recycling other wastes to charity.
- Making your own lunch instead of buying from a sandwich shop saves on packaging, and could also save you more than £4 a day or about £1,000 a year.
- Clearing out the attic? Try selling your stuff rather than taking it to the dump. Check out online auction sites like eBay or donate to charity.
- For fixtures and fittings for use in DIY try reclamation yards, skips, auctions, and second-hand shops.Mend, re-upholster, or restore old furniture before buying new.
- Hire tools or borrow from friends or family for odd jobs, rather than buying your own.
What you can do as a community
- Set up a community composting scheme.
- Fix bikes, sports equipment or furniture.
- Set up a community swap shop for clothes, books etc.
- Set up a garden community swap shop.
- Organise a monthly car boot sale for unwanted items.