Kia ora, welcome back once more for another Littlefoot enviropost. Last week I talked about Refuse and reuse, the oft ignored R’s in our mantra of three, but today I thought I’d talk a little about recycling and why it should be the last resort in our paradigm of three.
Recycling sounds like an easy enough task right? Plastic, cardboard and aluminium, all go in your council provided bins, with a separate one for glass. These get picked up emptied and sorted at your local recycling center. Straight forward, easy. But how is it sorted? Is everything you’ve put in your bin actually able to be recycled? And what happens when people don’t follow the rules for recycling? Let’s have a look.
The most straight forward things to recycle in your bins are cardboard and tins. Assuming they aren’t contaminated by food or contain a plastic lining or some kind its easy. By far the most difficult and time consuming is your plastic. Recycling plastic is a minefield of mistakes, misinformation and completely unrecyclable materials. Let’s start with the numbers on the bottom of most containers, these numbers denote the type of plastic, what it’s made of and whether it can or can’t be recycled.
Numbers 1,2 and 5 are the easiest to recycle while 3,4,6 and 7 are essentially unrecyclable. On top of this there is no facility in the country to actually recycle our plastic waste here in New Zealand, it mostly gets bailed up and sits in big cubes waiting to be sent overseas to become someone elses problem. Not great.
Things like plant based plastics complicate this further. When being recycled if plant based plastics end up in a batch of regular plastic it can ruin the whole thing and render it totally unusable. How crazy is that?
This is why it’s important as consumers to send messages to big business that sustainable packaging is important. Show them you mean business by doing things a better way.
It’s not all doom and gloom however, some businesses have been finding ways to turn unusable plastic into useful objects like future post, a company here in NZ that turns waste plastic into sturdy generation spanning fence posts. Or us, who focus on a reusable model with 100% recyclable packaging!
So let’s all take a look at how we are living and see where we can start making small changes because a greener future starts with that first small step.