Friday, September 21, 2007

Separated waste statistics

Waste Disposal Depot, England, United Kingdom by Charles Bowman
Waste Disposal Depot, England, United Kingdom

The county I live in has produced a leaflet detailing the percentages of household waste that are recycled and what it actually does with it.

On the surface it looks encouraging and when you look closer at it, there are things that could be improved.
17% of the average bin contents are paper which are sent to the other side of the country to be made into newspapers and magazines. You can reduce paper waste by using the mail preference service as described in earlier posts, reading your newspaper online etc etc. Most of my post gets separated and recycled in one way or another.

5% of the average bin is card
This gets sent to a local paper mill and turned into envelopes and cardboard. If you start buying your goods secondhand or freecycling for them, you will not receive a giant packaging box to dispose of. Better still, stop buying.

8% of the average bin is glass

The glass gets collected and travels to the other side of Britain to make new glass bottles and jars, aggregate road construction, glass fibre and water filtration. Guess glass is preferable to plastic.

2% of the average bin is plastic
That surprised me, such a low figure. They are turned into pellets and then reformed into fleece jackets, park benches, compost bins and recycling boxes. Still this could be reduced by having milk delivered in glass bottles and by drinking more water instead of lemonade. If you buy goods in plastic bottles, look for the glass alternative.

28% of waste is kitchen waste

A whopper of a figure. That gets composted about 50 miles away in a giant composter and then resold to people as garden compost. This could be avoided by reducing kitchen waste ( portion control), buying what you need, using wormeries and bokashi to process the rest. That seems to be making a giant contribution to reducing waste in the county.

8% of bin contents is garden waste

garden waste is shredded and composted and then sold as a soil conditioner. OK, again, I could hire a shredder via the LETs scheme and do this myself, creating a giant compost heap and letting worms do the work without it having to leave the premises.

3% of waste is metal cans and tins

That gets transported to Wales where it is crushed and made into bricks that are turned into car parts and new cans. Comparing this with glass the amount of glass is definitely higher than the cans which again surprises me with the amount of cats and dogs around! However, I guess it means that people buy more items in jars than cans.

4% of household waste is textiles

Clothes and shoes are sent to Wiltshire and separated into usable and non usable items. Wearable items are then sent to developing countries ( fabric miles) to be reused. Cotton and silk make wiping cloths and woollen fabrics are shredded and used as filling material of furniture and car seats.
Now what would happen if we bought less clothes and bought them in charity shops......begging the question that your shirt travels all around the world and back again.

The three recommendations on the leaflet are :
  • reduce junk mail
  • do home composting
  • try cloth nappies instead of disposable ones.

Now that I have read and digested the leaflet, it will go in the box, taken to the local depot, driven across the country and end up making another leaflet or magazine.

Its a startling statistic, that by changing my consumer habits I have reduced my waste bucket by 47%. ( 28% kitchen waste, 8% garden waste, 2% plastics, 5% cardboard and 4% in textiles).

The next step is to think before we buy anything and look at the packaging that is required and the miles it travels. If everyone in the county reduced their garden and kitchen waste then we would be reducing the overall waste in our county by 36%, which is just over one third, that is a mega impact).

So what are you waiting for ?
  1. Reduce the amount of food that goes to waste.
  2. Put the worms and bokashi ems to work
  3. add compost to your garden and increase fertility, next years harvest etc.

Not only do you save 36% of waste produced but you will save buying compost in bags and soil enhancer which you could have produced yourself.

1 comment:

andyswarbs said...

Talking in terms of volume, in our bin I would guess the proportions are
30% glass
25% plastic
20% paper & card
20% tetrapacks (ie drinks cartons)
5% metals (eg tin cans)

Given the volumes, in terms of weight & glass I would say:
glass is the heaviest
metal is next
then tetrapack
then paper & plastic