Global Recycling Day Part 2: Throw-Away Culture
By Tami Battle
It can be easy to think we are doing enough regarding our waste footprint by recycling, and truth be told, we rarely spend much time thinking about our waste once it has been collected. We are led to believe that putting more in our recycling bin and less in our general waste bin means we are diverting from landfill or incineration – and this is often the case, but it’s not always.
Recent exposés have uncovered shocking truths showing the waste we throw in our recycling bins does not always enter the loop to be made into something new. In 2017/18, it was revealed that Westminster council sent 82% of all waste – regardless of which bin it was placed in – to incineration.
The UK has also historically relied on sending excess “landfill” waste abroad to be dealt with in countries such as China, Vietnam and Malaysia. Images from the landfill sites in these countries is shocking, showing mountains of waste being hand-picked through by families to salvage plastic to be shredded into pellets. It’s filthy, low-paid and polluting work, and often carried out by children. Open fires release toxic gases as the waste is burnt and the health of locals is suffering badly. When the influx of waste gets too great, the excess is dumped into rivers, oceans or abandoned wherever there is space.
The statistics around waste entering the waterways is jaw-dropping. Every year, 8 million tons of plastics enter our ocean – on top of the 150 million tons that are already circulating in our marine environments. Over 35% of fish in the English Channel were found to have ingested microplastics a few years back, and the largest of the five ocean “waste” zones of floating debris (the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’) now covers an area three times the size of France.
This is all very doom-and-gloom, and it’s something we avoid thinking about because it’s uncomfortable. The truth is that burying our heads in the sand about the issue of waste does not make it go away. So what is the answer? What can we, as individuals, do to soften our impact and minimise our contribution to this problem?
The R’s around sustainability should be considered in order:
Rethink – Can I obtain this product without the packaging / in infinitely recyclable packaging?
Refuse – Do I really need it?
Reduce – Am I making sure I use my products to their very end of life? Can I use less of this product?
Reuse – Can I reuse any unavoidable packaging before I bin it?
Repurpose – Can I repurpose the packaging? Yoghurt pots make great plant pots for seedlings!
Recycle/Rot – If something really cannot be reused/repurposed, am I recycling it properly by separating materials and ensuring it is placed in the right bin after a rinse out? Can I place this material in a compost bin to rot it down? (If you’re interested in home composting, email our specialist team for a quote on installing compost bays).
The really good news is that we live in a time of options and choice. Ten years ago, if you wanted to buy shampoo, you were almost exclusively reliant on plastic-bottled products, whereas now there are a huge array of shampoo bars that are packaged in cardboard and last longer than their liquid equivalents. My favourite is the grüum Nourishing Coconut Shampoo bar – which I raved about so much at work that we now stock it in our shop!
Many other beauty products are now available in eco-friendly packaging, such as refillable glass bottles. We stock refillable luxury brand La Eva who have a wonderful range of body lotions and moisturisers, and one bottle will be all the packaging you ever need – refills incur a discount!
Nicholsons refill station – located in our shop
Brands like Ecover and Sesi are also encouraging refilling as a concept we have Sesi available in the shop for refills on products such as laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner and washing up liquid (just provide your own container* or buy a reusable bottle from our shop) and there are other options available online, such as Smol who offer a postal subscription for laundry pods and dishwasher tablets that fit through your letterbox and arrive entirely packaged in cardboard.
*If you bring your own containers, please make sure they are one of the following sizes: 200ml, 250ml, 300ml, 350ml, 450ml, 500ml, 750ml or 1 litre.
Other companies are exposing the fact that most of the volume of home cleaning products is water – which means the bottles are housing a small amount of cleaning product and a lot of something we can all access at home. The Ocean Saver range sells small, dissolvable sachets of cleaning products that you add to an empty plastic bottle with water and shake to mix. We stock Ocean Saver in the shop, but there are a range of similar products online, such as Ecovibe and Ecobravo.
The average person in the UK will get through 117 plastic bottles in one year – made up of drinks bottles, cleaning and beauty products. If every Nicholsons customer switched to refillable or sachets for just their cleaning products, we could have a huge collective impact.
Our Rosara Manager, Nadia, is always hunting for eco-friendly brands and products to add to our range, so please do get in touch if you have any suggestions. If you’ve bought any of the named products from our shop, please do tag us on social media – we love to hear the steps you’re taking to reduce your impact on the environment!