Environment Week: Waste and Recycling

Our current rate of filling land fill sites in the UK is not sustainable, not only does much landfill take years to rot but many greenhouse gases are released in the process of decomposition further antagonising our ever increasing problem of global warming. As Environment Week draws to a close it’s now time to consider what we can do about this massive problem staring us in the face. This is an issue not only brought to our attention by Environment Week, with the city currently being lit up by the lights of Lumiere we have seen event displays such as the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ as well as the ‘Consumerist Christmas Tree’. For the ‘Consumerist Christmas Tree’ an artwork portraying the negative impacts of the consumerist society we live in, people were invited to bring in plastic bags to create the art work and help make it, an example of how recycling need not be some abhorrent task that we should all dread.

I don’t think any of us need telling exactly how much as a society we waste and how much ultimately ends up in landfill. I could reel off all the figures to tell you about this problem and will indeed give you a couple; on average each person in the UK throws away seven times their body weight of rubbish each year, and the amount of rubbish the UK produces in a day could fill Trafalgar Square up to the top of Nelson’s column. The facts such as these are limitless, but the truth is I don’t think we need them, all we need to do is think how much waste we produce alone, then multiply it by the 7 billion people on the planet, and that’s a pretty scary thought. Of course this profound amount of rubbish is not the fault of us as individuals alone. Some shops and supermarkets may appear to do their bit by encouraging bags for life and charging for plastic bags but ultimately so many supermarkets are responsible for chucking out huge amounts of waste at the end of the day. Most refuse to even sell this cheaply, give to their employees or give to charitable foundations. Not only do they chuck out plenty of perfectly good food that could go to better uses, they continue to stock products that often have excess packaging. 16% of the money we spend on a product goes towards the packaging. Clearly this is not just an environmental problem, it is an economical one as well, this much waste is not necessary and money can surely be saved.

So what can we do? Here are some tips for recycling easily:

· With Christmas coming up not so far away save wrapping paper from presents and use it next year. This will save you having to buy any next year as well!

· Be inspired by the Consumerist Christmas Tree and create artwork or at least decoration for your bedroom. Cut off the bottom of bottles and you get a piece of plastic that looks a bit like a flower, you can do anything from making a lamp with these to making a floating hanging decorative pieces of flowers of lots of different colours. See http://www.designrulz.com/product-design/2012/11/45-ideas-of-how-to-recycle-plastic-bottles/ for more information.

· Environment week may be finishing but there are still events to get involved in, for example St Mary’s college has an EcoArts and Crafts competition going on today!

· Make it easy for yourself, keep your recycling container next to your bin then its as easy as picking which one to throw it in.

· Don’t forget to recycle from your bathroom as well; lots of shampoo bottles can be recycled too.

· Don’t forget to recycle magazines with paper.

· Donate used printer cartridges; lots of charities collect empty printer cartridges to raise money by refilling them and then reselling them. Alternatively reuse them by refilling ink cartridges yourself, many companies sell ink and refilling equipment.

I think most of us can all admit to throwing away too much, from the simplest things of putting too much food on your plate and wasting the left over’s to forgetting to recycle our cans. But this problem of landfill is not a problem we can ignore anymore, our resources our not limitless and we need to find solutions. With small changes to our everyday lives we can all make a difference!

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