It certainly feels like we’re hitting a critical mass of people concerned about plastic waste and its impact.
This is a great thing and it’s amazing to see how quickly change can be brought about/steps can be taken in the right direction, particularly when people are shown the effect on sea life – for example – and where company customers threaten to vote with their wallets based on packaging concerns.
Recycling has its place. As part of a group of environmental champions, and after requesting a visit, I went along to a recycling facility, to see a first-hand example of how materials are recycled.
Three main things I took away from the experience:
- How difficult it seems to be to provide an economically viable recycling service.
- The complexity of recycling plastic due to the number of different types and blends out there – this needs changing!
- The sheer scale of single-use disposables in one site, on the outskirts of one city.
- The fact that materials are sorted.by.people.
Yes, people have the unenviable task of sorting through what we put into recycling bins. Our group were appalled at that state of what these people sorted through by hand.
In the few minutes that we spent watching the conveyor belt, meant for dry, unsoiled paper, cans, plastic containers… we saw what must have been dozens of burst packets of previously frozen, now rotten, chicken quarters – marinade oozing out, contaminating everything in its wake.
Unfortunately, this example of complete disregard for putting waste in the right stream came as no surprise to the people working this line.
We were given further perspective, hearing from them about the number of sharps (!) that make their way into recycling bins.
These pose significant risk of injury to people sorting materials, and lead to high levels of distress, given their potential for transmitting HIV, hepatitis and 20 other diseases.