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Why Recycling Systems Need To Change

In 2018, 45% of waste from UK households was recycled.

This was a decrease of 0.5% from the previous year. Considering that the UK produces 100 million tonnes of waste each year, this is not good enough if we want to secure a sustainable and green future.

In the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, our recycling is shipped to multiple locations:

  • All waste is sent to Oxfordshire to be sorted and sent to its next location

  • Mixed paper is made into bales in Deeside, England and they are then sent off to Manchester, the Netherlands or Germany

  • Cardboard is sent to reprocessing plants in Indonesia and then it makes a journey to South East Asia to be turned into cardboard packaging

  • Glass is taken to the Midlands or the North of England where it is washed, sorted into colours, and either goes on to make new bottles, jars, glass wool insulation for homes or aggregate for the construction industry

  • Steel is sent to Port Talbot and Doncaster for reprocessing and ends up as parts for all sorts of new products such as: bikes, cars, bridges, paperclips, or even new food and drinks cans

  • Aluminium is sent to Warrington and reprocessed into cans

  • Plastic is reprocessed in Bedfordshire or Turkey, where it is sorted, washed, melted down and reformed into plastic pellets and used in a variety of new plastic products such as packaging, piping or even new wheelie bins

  • Food and garden waste are turned into fertiliser for local farms. Food waste is also turned into biogas which is converted into electricity for the National Grid.

  • Electrical waste is sent off to different contractors depending on the type of electrical item

  • Rags are sent to Black Country Rag and Wiper Company in the Midlands, where they are made into new fabrics for clothes and other items, as well as stuffing which can be used in car seats

  • General Waste is sent to an energy plant in Bicester where it is incinerated and turned into energy

Despite the fact that the majority of our waste is being sent to be recycled in Europe, we are still increasing our carbon footprints by doing so and thus further contributing to the climate crisis. The way forward is not to focus on increasing the amount of waste we recycle, but moving our focus to reducing the amount of waste we create.

At the moment, the majority of the world is focused upon actions such as ocean clean ups and preparing the world for a warmer climate. As important as these things are, surely the way forward is to stop the negative elements we are trying to reverse before they can have a detrimental impact on our planet? If world governments put funding into creating circular economies instead of ocean clean ups, after the damage has already been done (which they have permitted), less money would be spent on clean ups in the future and more on helping those in need. If we tidied our oceans and land of the waste currently within them and then put an end to the endless cycle of waste abandoned in places of natural beauty, we would end the throwaway culture that our world is founded on. If cars were banned from travelling in dense town and city areas, we could significantly reduce the current 28-36,000 deaths caused each year by air pollution, ease the pressure on the NHS and reduce our carbon footprints all at the same time.

Terracycle have been combatting waste in a new and innovative way since 2001. They have taken recycling to a new level by involving large, nationwide and international companies in recycling their own waste, such as Burts Bees and Walkers. They provide multiple locations around the world where ordinary citizens can drop off their otherwise unrecyclable waste, for example: crisp packets and old board games. You can see their recycling schemes here.

While we are a long way to a sustainable world, we can still make a difference today. The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Environment and Climate Strategy has been released and you can have your say on it.

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