Think twice

It certainly feels like we’re hitting a critical mass of people concerned about plastic waste and its impact.

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This is a great thing and it’s amazing to see how quickly change can be brought about and steps can be taken, particularly when people are shown the effect on sea life or a company’s customers threaten to vote with their wallets, based on packaging concerns, for example.

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Recycling has its place. As part of a group of environmental champions, and after requesting it, I went along to a recycling facility, to see a first-hand example of how materials are recycled.

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I took three main things away from the experience:

  • How seemingly difficult it is to provide an economically viable recycling service.
  • The complexity of recycling plastic due to all the different types and blends there are – this needs changing!
  • The scale of single-use disposables in just 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 what these people had to sort through by hand.

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In the few minutes that we spent watching the conveyor belt, meant for dry, unsoiled paper, cans and plastic containers, etc. we saw dozens of burst packets of previously frozen, now rotten, chicken quarters – with marinade oozing out of them, contaminating everything else.

Unfortunately, this example of disregard for putting waste in the correct stream came as no surprise to the people working on this line.

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We were given further perspective, hearing from them about the number of sharps that make their way into recycling bins.

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These pose risk of injury to people sorting materials, not to mention levels of distress, given their potential for transmitting diseases, including HIV.

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