We’re optimists here at DAME and in terms of the plight of our planet we try to stay upbeat and positive because we know that we’re best poised to make more of an impact if that’s the case. When it comes to recycling though, we can’t help but feel a bit peeved, to put it lightly, that the recycling system globally is broken.
If you’re engaged and interested in environmental issues then you may have heard that we here in the UK are shipping most of our recycling to Malaysia. It’s shocking really but the UK only has a handful of specialist recycling plants for compostable plastics and the more general recycling plants, again, of which there aren’t that many, are completely inundated with plastics that they just can’t cope.
90% of people recycle in their homes, but are we using it as a way to feel good about our plastic consumption?
If one were to take a positive from all of this then it would be the fact that roughly 90% of people recycle in their homes, but are we using it as a way to feel good about our plastic consumption? “It’s fine to buy this because I can recycle it.” There’s so much ‘recycling-washing’ from big brands out there as well, who have either been told they need to be more sustainable, or are facing demands from their customers to be more sustainable, and so resort to a don’t worry it’s recyclable approach, when we really should just be reusing, repurposing and reducing consumption in general.
The UK used to have a recycling contract with China, (we shipped all the recycling we couldn’t handle to them and paid them to recycle it responsibly for us), but in January 2018 China decided they were producing enough waste of their own, thank you very much, and they didn’t need the extra and it’s since then that the problems have begun. Although, clearly it’s a problem that as a country we can’t deal with our own waste in the first place…
The issue has gained so much more scrutiny recently thanks to Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s visual representation of the issue. In a recent BBC documentary he travelled to Malaysia to see one of the illegal recycling plants that’s sprung up to opportunistically take advantage of British money in exchange for their services, only to find recycling bags from Wales’ local councils and numerous UK supermarket shopping bags. The evidence is completely irrefutable, we’ve been irresponsibly disposing of our recyclable waste for
quite some time.
In fact, it’s more irresponsible than you might at first think. Much of the waste making it to Malasia gets burned at the roadside, polluting nearby towns and villages, compromising the health of local inhabitants and contributing to environmental pollution. Last month the Malaysian government permanently banned the import of plastic waste, a step in the right direction, but they are still accepting plastic ‘recycling’ - essentially we can’t dump waste there any more but we can send them clean, quality recycling.
There’s a reason that in Lucy Siegle's book, ‘Turning The Tide on Plastic,’ recycling comes last in her 8 Rs:
record, reduce, replace, refuse, reuse, refill, rethink and recycle.
It’s a good mnemonic to remember because it places the emphasis clearly on reducing and repurposing before recycling, and certainly until our broken recycling system gets fixed, throwing your plastics in the green bin isn’t as environmentally responsible as you’d be forgiven for thinking.
Reusables are the way forward, and what better than a reusable tampon applicator that’s self-sanitising, sleek and functional? By swapping to the D. reusable applicator you can save 12,000 tampon applicators from ending up in landfill or our oceans over the course of your lifetime.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU RELY LESS ON RECYCLING: