We're not running out of resources - we're just turning them into rubbish we can't use again.
The Zero Waste Alliance is working towards the elimination of all waste. Challenging us all to stop thinking of the earth's resources as ‘waste'. The Alliance asks organisations, groups and individuals to sign up to a charter committing us to achieving Zero Waste in Britain by 2020.
Zero Waste Alliance - Far Pasture Cottage, Ninebanks, Hexham, Northumberland, NE47 8DB. www.zwallianceuk.org
Zero Waste entails re-designing products and changing the way waste is handled so those products last longer and materials are recycled or composted. There is a growing awareness of the dangers to human health of waste landfills and incinerators.
Incinerators produce greenhouse gases, and are a source of heavy metals, particulates and dioxins. Landfills emit CO2 and methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times as powerful as carbon dioxide - and they produce a toxic 'leachate' that seeps into groundwater. Water and oxygen are necessary to break down rubbish but both are in short supply in a landfill, and so the contents take many years to biodegrade.
Zero Waste strikes at the cause of this pollution. It also lightens the ever-growing pressure on the world's forests, soils, and mineral resources by making more with less. Zero Waste will play a central role in cutting CO2 emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil.
There is a further economic dividend. Redesigning production and increasing recycling to eliminate waste is stimulating a green industrial revolution. New materials and growth industries are emerging, together with a growth in jobs. In Germany recycling already employs more people than telecommunications. In the United States it has overtaken the auto industry in direct jobs. Governments that have already embarked on policies to reduce waste in order to combat pollution and climate change, are now realising that zero waste is a key element in any post industrial economic strategy.
Local authorities and companies overseas are well on their way to zero waste. They have shown that it is possible to recycle and compost 70% or more of their waste streams with existing product design. Residual materials, which are hazardous, or are costly to recycle can be phased out and replaced by new clean materials that can be returned to use efficiently and effectively.
Increasing numbers of cities and states have adopted the goal of Zero Waste, including Canberra, Toronto, the state of California, and most recently the Government of New Zealand. The Zero Waste Charter seeks to extend these pioneering practices to all the municipalities and producers in the UK.
Our starting point is to create zero waste areas where we live and work - in our streets, and villages, in our schools and hospitals, in municipalities and our many different workplaces.
By ourselves we can only go so far. Many products are difficult or too hazardous to recycle. The Government can change this by making the manufacturers who produce goods responsible for the waste that results and for redesigning products so that they are safe, long lasting and can be easily recycled.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
In the UK we produce 434 million tonnes of waste every year; that's a rate of generation that would fill the Albert Hall every two hours. Or put another way, approximately six times your body weight each year is discarded as ‘waste'.
Paper and cardboard is recyclable and reusable. The average household throws away around eight trees worth of paper every year. Forest destruction is destroying the capacity of the planet to regulate the temperature of the earth.
Recycling paper gives wood fibres six lives rather than one. Increasing the productivity of resources in this way also leads to major savings in energy. Buying recycled paper helps create a demand for recycled paper products, reducing the amount of non-recycled paper/pulp being consumed. Charity shops welcome books and book swap clubs exist in many parts of the UK.
Kitchen and garden waste can be used for compost. The national Community Composting Network provides information, training and support for individuals, community groups, local authorities and business organisations. Local food, energy, jobs and quality soil are all part of getting involved in composting. Many local councils will supply you with a free or subsidised composter - ring your local waste disposal or environmental health department for details. (Numbers under your local authority in the Phone Book).
National Suppliers of Recycled Paper:
Paperback Ltd. Unit 2, Bow Triangle Centre, Eleanor St., London, E3 4NP.
Tel: 020 8980 2233. www.paperback.coop
Traidcraft Plc. Kingsway, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, NE11 ONE.
Tel: 0191 491 0591. www.traidcraft.co.uk
Plastic is made almost entirely from oil which takes hundreds of years to degrade in landfill or produces toxic smoke from incinerators. A code system (numbers stamped on the products tell you what kind of plastic it is).
Details of plastic types at: www.wasteonline.org.uk
Recoup - Plastic Bottle Recycling - 9 Metro Centre, Welbeck Way,
Woodston, Peterborough, PE2 7WH.
Tel: 01733 390021. www.recoup.org
Metals: Two-thirds of the metal wasted comes from steel or aluminium cans and foil. Recycling these is easy, profitable and saves lots of resources and energy. Aluminium cans could be recycled indefinitely saving 95 per cent of energy needed to make new ones.
Apro - Aluminium recycling organisation - 1 Brockhill Court, Brockhill Lane, Redditch, B97 6RB. Tel: 01527 597757. www.alupro.org.uk
Glass: The UK glass-recycling rate is among the lowest in Europe. But thirty gallons of oil are saved for every tonne of glass, which is recycled.
The rest Many things like old clothes, toys and furniture can be re-used. The best environmental choice is to repair, restore or adapt a product you already have. You may need professional help but it could still be cheaper than something new - half of electrical goods left at dumps require only very basic servicing.
Textile Recycling Association: 16 High Street, Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 4TU. Tel: 01480 840098. www.textile-recycling.org.uk
Furniture Re-use Network - 48-54 West Street, St Philips, Bristol, BS2 0BL
Tel: 0117 954 3571 - www.frn.org.uk
Give away or sell. Charity shops and local voluntary groups welcome goods for resale. The Freecycle Network is made up of more than 4,000 groups with 4.5 million members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely non-profit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Membership is free. You can also buy and sell unwanted goods through local jumble sales, bring and buy sales or through the Internet.
The Freecycle Network - www.freecycle.org
Other products can be reprocessed if they are broken down into component parts. Manufacturers should be making products that last and are recyclable. Everything could be recycled.
Using this 'waste' would not only save energy, with less raw material having to be processed, we would also be conserving valuable resources such as the world's forests.
Every year in the United Kingdom, 1.5 million computers are dumped in landfill sites and a million more are kept in storage and not used. Old computers that are being discarded have higher and higher specifications, what may not be of use to you could be a wonderful opportunity for someone else. Yet these - and 20 million ‘redundant' and toxic mobile phones -could be collected and reused.
Computer Aid International - 114 Belgravia Workshops, 159 Marlborough Road, London, N19 4NF. Tel: 020 7281 0091. www.computeraid.org
Mobile phones 4 charity - phone re-use, - Dorset House, Regent Park,
Kingston road, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 7PL. Tel: 01372 824265. www.mobilephones4charity.com
Keymood UK Ltd., Electronic recycling company: Wolf Business Park, Alton Road, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 5NB. Tel: 01989 565288. www.keymood.co.uk
List what you throw away during a week and think about how you could reduce this. By avoiding disposable products and reusing, repairing and recycling where possible. You will be amazed at how much waste can be avoided.
But don't forget the bigger picture, If you use a car to take materials to the recycling bank/s, make sure to take a full load. Make the journey worth while and avoid wasting any energy that will cancel out the benefits.
1. Get your local authority to sign up to the Zero Waste Charter
Local Councils have increasingly higher recycling targets to meet. By getting your local authority to sign up to the Zero Waste Charter you will help make it easier for everyone to cut down on the resources that we throw away.
2. Separate your waste into recyclable and non-recyclable items and recycle
There are five basic groups of recyclable waste - paper (including card and magazines), glass, plastic, aluminium and steel cans and organic waste. Set yourself the goal of reducing the contents of your dustbin to zero! Find out where your nearest collection points are, use them and encourage your neighbours to do the same. Lobby for better services. More than three-quarters of domestic waste can be recycled, and you will soon discover what can't be recycled and the products to avoid buying and using in the first place.
No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
Edmund Burke - Philosopher, & Politician (1729 - 1797)
3. Avoid plastic and other products that cannot be recycled or reused
Avoid buying plastic or products if you don't have a way of recycling them. Use plastic containers again and again - ask your school or workplace to provide reusable cups, plates, cutlery etc,.
Ask your local authority what they are doing about specific types of products that you find hard to recycle. E.g. Batteries, tyres, paint, etc. Write to store managers or, better still, manufacturers asking why they don't provide products that are made of, or packaged in materials that can be reused or recycled.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Refuse plastic bags and take re-useable bags with you when you go shopping.
Choose bottles of wine that have natural cork stoppers. Cork biodegrades and 80% comes from sustainably managed woodland in Portugal and Spain. These woodlands support a huge population of wildlife. Plastic cork production is undermining this traditional economy.
4. Volunteer for the Community Recycling Network
Support and Volunteer for the Community Recycling Network, an umbrella body for about 300 community-based waste projects and business. The Network offers places to 3,000 volunteers and provides recycling services to 3 million people in the United Kingdom. A great way to meet new friends, to exercise and improve your local community.
Community Recycling Network - Trelawny House, Surrey Street, Bristol, BS7 9JR. Tel: 0117 9420142. www.crn.org.uk
5. Avoid fast food packaging
The energy used in the production and packaging of convenience food is high. Paper, aluminium and glass packaging can be recycled - most plastic and foam packaging is not, so avoid food that comes in non-recycled packaging. If you use a fast food outlet, check with the manager that they can recycle the packaging. If it is not, boycott the business until they do and tell the company why.
6. Reuse as many household goods as possible
Old cotton - sheets pillowcases and towels for instance - can be used as floor cloths, dusters, and so on. Local charity shops will take good quality clothes and goods, and many community groups, such as the Salvation Army, welcome furniture and equipment.
7. Dispose of wastes safely and say NO to incineration
Less than a quarter of energy produced by an incinerator (now cynically re-branded as ‘waste treatment' or ‘energy from waste' facilities) ends up as electricity and if you compare the energy that could be saved by recycling then the problems created by incineration can be avoided and the savings multiplied.
Friends of the Earth - 26 -28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ.
Tel: 020 7490 1555 www.foe.co.uk
Even very small amounts of dioxins, furans, acid gases and heavy metals can cause health problems when emitted into the air and dumped amongst the ash of an incinerator. Your local authority can advise you on the safe disposal of hazardous waste such as motor oil, paint chemicals, batteries and other toxic materials.
8. If you have a garden, start a compost heap and/or a wormery
All your organic refuse can be converted to valuable compost. Your local authority should have a scheme to provide a compost bin and/or a wormery and can offer advice on how to re-use vegetable 'waste' in a compost bin (avoid meat and cooked food in any compost bin unless advised otherwise). If you haven't a garden, why not consider sharing an allotment or offer your organic waste to a neighbour who has.
Community Composting Network, 67 Alexandra Road, Sheffield, S2 3EE.
Tel: 0114 258 0483. www.communitycompost.org
9. Use recycled paper products and return junk mail in prepaid envelopes
The United Kingdom was the world's fifth highest paper user in 2000, getting through 1.9 millions tonnes of paper - over half of which was imported and only 38% of which we recycled. Make a notepad from scraps of paper, reload your computer printer with paper that has been printed on one side, reuse envelopes with gummed address labels from charities. Old newspapers and corrugated cardboard can also be put on the compost heap as long as they are mixed in with vegetable matter. (Long-term experiments with this kind of ‘high-fibre' composting have been carried out by the Centre for Alternative Technology).
Always buy recycled toilet paper. Everyone in the UK uses about six trees worth of paper every year.
Junk mail wastes paper and destroys forests. Contact the Mailing Preference Service and request that your name be removed from all those mailing lists.
Mailing Preference Service - Freepost 22, London, W1E 7EZ.
- Waste Watch - 56-64 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4jX.
Tel: 020 75490300. www.wasteonline.org.uk
- DEFRA - Recycling and waste project - Tel: 0800 783 1592. www.defra.gov.uk
- Oxfam - Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY
Tel: 0870 333 2700 - www.oxfam.org.uk
Briefing funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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