Recycling isn’t the answer!
Yup, we were pretty distressed to find this out, too.
There are a few reasons why recycling isn’t as effective as we think.
*Most recycling ends up in the wrong bin! This is a problem. Every area recycles differently, and I was shocked to discover that a lot of recyclable materials like Tetra Pak, shredded paper, and foil (amongst others) is not roadside recyclable in my city. Do you know what can be recycled in your city? (Be warned, you might be disappointed!)
*What if it does end up in the right bin? If it is not rinsed out and clean, it cannot be recycled. Any soiled items are immediately discarded. A whole bin full could end up in a landfill because of one dirty item..
*Even if items do make it to a recycling plant, plastics can usually only be recycled twice before heading to landfill, and paper 5-7 times. Glass, aluminium, and metals are infinitely recyclable, but to be produced they have a significant carbon footprint.
After finding this out, I felt pretty confused, not to mention, helpless. I realised that recycling was not the answer but moving towards zero waste, could be. ‘Zenful Zero Waste’ was making a lot of sense. Becoming self-sustainable meant being self-responsible. In this case, it meant no longer relying on others to literally clean up my mess.
The R’s came to me as I uncovered more and more information about a zero waste lifestyle. Now, they inform my thinking when it comes to buying and disposing of everything within my life.
Do we need it? Is there a better way to buy this? We live in a disposable, consumer driven society. Do we really need a new phone when our contract is up? Do we need a new set of plates because one has a chip? Being mindful of your purchasing is a big, big step!
Could you buy less for the same purpose? For example, opting for a natural cleaning solution like vinegar with water, versus numerous bottles of cleaning product.
Before you buy something new, or throw something out, challenge yourself to see if it can be repurposed. I actually made a bottle cleaner from a chopstick and an old sponge. It might be my best achievement to date.
The process of layering general waste at landfill sites creates methane, which has a global warming potential 21 times greater than carbon dioxide. Efficient processing of food waste can reduce emissions, capture energy, and recycle essential, yet finite, nutrients straight back into the soil for growing plants. Composting is the way. It is super easy, and even if you don’t have a garden there are indoor options.
When you have passed through every other option, if recycling is the best option, do not feel bad. All you can ever do is your best, so be proud of that.
I find thinking in this order works well for me. I use recycling (and then landfill) as a last resort.
The key here is about education, the more you know the more you can make an informed decision that feels right for you.
Stay mindful and ask questions
It is really easy to get pulled along with the seemingly better options that are being advertised as alternatives to single use plastic. Plant based “compostable” and “biodegradable” plastic is one of these options that at first glance seem like a great alternative to plastic. Many people believe that these “biodegradable” plastics will degrade if left in nature or in your regular household compost. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. Plant based plastics require a very specific environment in order to decompose. They need industrial composting facilities that offer high temperatures. Of course this is step in the right direction but without the infrastructure to support correct disposal of these items they remain a landfill issue.
So, we return to education and self responsibility. Ask questions and get all the information you need to make an informed decision that feels right for you. There is no right or wrong, just the decision that makes you feel best.
Find out more about All to Love’s 8 week Zenful Zero Waste online course, providing you with fun, informative written content and videos to help you transition zenfully to a lifestyle with less impact on the environment. The course provides access to All to Love approved retailers offering exclusive discounts for course participants and Team Love for support throughout your journey.