Counting on …day 189 

21st May 2022

HDPE and LDPE are widely used for packaging – plastic bags and wrappers, margarine cartons and milk containers  – and both can be recycled. As with PET bottles closed loop recycling is possible but more often these plastics are recycled into none food items such as pipes, plastic ‘wood’ for outdoor furniture,  recycling bins and rubbish bags. Clearly it would be better for the environment if all recycling were closed loop recycling as this is the best way of eliminating the use of oil to make virgin plastic. 

Again ask companies whether they use recycled plastics and of not, what not. 

NB the recycling of plastics is made much easier of the plastic is washed/ cleaned before it is put in the  recycling bin. Dirty plastic can contaminate a whole batch sent for recycling .

Counting on …day 187

19th May 2022

If only 44% of plastic packaging waste is recycled, what happens to the other 56%? 

Some will litter the streets and pavements, before being blown into hedgerows and trees, into waterways and out to sea. There it will break down into smaller and smaller bits until it is small enough to count as micro plastic (less than 5mm in length). Micro plastics have been found in the ice at both north and south Poles. They have infiltrated the food chain. They have even crossed the placenta from the mother to the foetus. 

Some of this litter will be eaten by animals and birds almost certainly causing premature death. Some will go via domestic dustbins,  public waste bins and commercial waste bins, into either landfill where again it will break down over time into micro plastic particles, or it will be burnt in an incinerator further adding to air pollution. 

Want to recycle ‘hard to recycle’ plastics? Here is a partial solution – https://greentau.org/2022/04/13/counting-on-day-150/

 Counting on …day 184

16th May 2022

Most plastics can now be recycled especially as much plastic packaging is what is known as ‘soft plastic’. Soft plastics can be recycled at various supermarkets including the Coop and Amazon Fresh. To check what counts as soft plastic, the Coop has a good listing- https://www.coop.co.uk/environment/soft-plastics/packaging-list

Want to know what happens to the plastic that goes into the recycling bin? https://greentau.org/2022/02/10/green-tau-issue-33/

Counting on …day 183 

15th May 2022

An update from DEFRA reported that only 44% of the 2.5m tonnes of plastic packaging waste produced in 2021 was recovered for recycling. This compares with 73.6% for glass. (https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-waste-data/uk-statistics-on-waste )Plastic can seem harder to recycle because it comes in so many different categories each with its own recycling protocol. Greenpeace’s plastic survey – The Big Plastic Count – which starts tomorrow will collect data that can be used to ease/ resolve this problem. https://thebigplasticcount.com/

 Counting on …day 150

13th April 2022

We have just invested in a Rework recycling box for all our otherwise un-recyclable plastic. We will continue to use our kerb side recycling bin for plastic pots and bottles, the soft plastic recycling facility at the Coop, toothpaste tubes at Boots, but this box will be for all the other plastics we cannot otherwise recycle. We can even use it for lateral flow test kits. It should reduce our landfill to nil. 

 Counting on ….day 124

16th March 2022

Recently I have inquired of a number of producers whether their plastic packaging uses recycled plastic. The response has been mixed, but two commented that part of the issue was a lack of recycled plastic. According to Recycling Today  ‘The collection rate for plastics packaging recycled from April 2019 to March 2020 is 59 percent for bottles; 33 percent for pots, tubs and trays, 7 percent for film and 39 percent for all household plastic packaging’. https://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/recoup-plastic-recycling-rate-april-2019-march-2020/

This highlights the importance of ensuring waste materials are recycled and not jettisoned to land fill/ incineration. It also highlights the importance of cutting back on the amount of plastic we use. 

Counting on …day 106 

26th February 2022

Slowly we are seeing more products being made of recycled materials. Brabantia is one such producer. Their StepUp Pedal Bins are made from 91% recycled plastic consumer waste from Dutch households. The bins are also 99% recyclable. The Cradle-to-Cradle Products Innovation Institute assesses products on material quality, material reuse, the use of renewable energy and CO2 management, water management and fairness, and has awarded these bins a silver accreditation. 

They are on sale in our local hardware shop – however only buy one if you need it. It is more ecological to stick with the bin you have. 

Green Tau issue 35

22nd February 2022

What is a circular economy? 

It is easier to describe its opposite. A non circular economy is that takes, makes and throws away. For example, chop down a tree, make its wood into a sheet of paper and then, after a single use, throw the paper away. Another example would be taking oil out of the ground, making it into a plastic cup  and then, after a single use, throwing it away.

In a circular economy the ‘throw away’ section is discarded. Instead the product is reused or recycled or repurposed so that its value is not lost. In a circular economy the sheet of paper after its initial use, may be reused (writing on the back of it), possible repurposed (used to wrap a parcel) and then recycled. Being recycled the waste paper may become a fresh sheet of (recycled) paper. Going back into the economy that sheet of paper can be recycled 6 or so times before the fibres become too short. At that point the sheet of paper might be recycled as a lower grade material and become a paper bag, a news paper, a cardboard box etc. Ultimately this paper based waste product can be composted and its nutrients returned to the soil. 

In a circular economy the intention is not only to ensure the reuse of waste material (really it is not waste but ‘raw’ material) but also to ensure that there is no waste of energy and water.  Recycling paper uses about 70% less energy and water than making virgin paper and produces about 70% less air pollution. If the paper mill has solar panels, say, it operate with zero loss of energy. If it can clean, reuse and/ or  return its water to the water system, it can operate without loss to the water system.

A circular economy seeks to regenerate natural resources. In the case of paper this would be planting and maintaining woodland to ensure supplies of wood for future generations who wish to make and use paper. Not all resources can be regenerated. Once fossil oil has been extracted from the earth, more cannot be generated. Oil was created 300 million years ago when climatic conditions were particularly suitable for its formation. The formation itself took place over 200 million years during which time climatic conditions were again suitable. Oil is finite resource. 

Is the rate at which we using the earth’s resources sustainable? Bluntly, no! If we compare the amount of resources we use each year against the rate at which those resources can be replaced, then we have not been living within our means since 1970. Each year the Global Footprint Network calculates the resources we use against the capacity of the earth to regenerate its resources and pin points that day in which the two coincide. In 1970 that date was 31st December. Since then this date – Earth Overshoot Day – has rapidly receded global consumption has exceeded the rate of regeneration. In 2021, it fell on July 29. Our current lifestyle is unsustainable. Moving to a circular economy is one way of addressing this problem. 

The development of a circular economy, both globally and locally, is happening. We see it in recycling schemes where plastic bottles are collected, processed and remade into new bottles. We see it with clothing manufacturers where clothes no longer required by the user are returned and either re sold or recycled to create new cloth. There are schemes which reuse and repurpose old furniture. There are even companies that reuse and repurpose unwanted kitchen units. Some projects are small, others large but they are all a step in the right direction. As consumers we need to step up and activity choose to be part of the circular economy.

Further reading: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/06/what-circular-economy

Counting on …day 102 

22nd February 202s

Another refill? Did you know that Lush make their black plastic pots from recycled plastic and that each one that is returned, goes to their own reprocessing facility to be remade into a new pot ready to be filled again. And for each one returned 50p is paid back! Lush calls this ‘packaging as a service’! 

Sadly only about 15% of pots are returned. It sounds as if we consumers need to be more proactive participants of the circular economy.  

Counting on …day 97 

17th February 2022

Tanker lorries transport goods other than petrol – even marmite!

Can we expect marmite pumps in our local refill store? 

I suspect the tankers are transporting the yeast extract ‘waste’ – a byproduct  of the brewing industry – en route to the factory where it is transformed into a spread. I equally suspect that the consistency of the spread doesn’t make it a ready candidate for refill stores. But could not the glass jars be returned and refilled as per milk bottles? Maybe write to your preferred yeast extract manufacturer?