The truth about recycling in the U.K.
I just recently returned from a smashing trip to London where my Leicester City partner and I had some incredible meetings. One meeting stood out in particular because of the conversation regarding recycling in the U.K. Was there a need for Change Plastic for Good in a country where the government claims 64% of all packaging plastic waste is recycled? This was the question proposed to us by the head of sustainability of a very prominent (and cool, I might add!) cafe chain. Admittedly, I had not previously researched the waste issue in the U.K. but I will tell you what I do know…. England exports a million tonnes of waste each year. And even if the government claims are correct, there is still 36% of waste ending up in landfills.
I could go stats crazy right now but no one wants to read a bunch of stats so i’ll make a little ‘He said She said’ chart….
The government says: The stats say:
1. we want to recycle 50% of plastic waste by 2020. 1. Recycling rates dropped .6% from 2014 to 2015.
2. the U.K. recycles 64.1% of packaging waste 2. The U.K. recycles 33.3% of packaging waste
3. the 5 pence bag charge has drastically decreased bag consumption 3. t shirt or (grocery bag) sales have gone up in 2016
The point here is that yes, some initiatives actually do have a positive effect and can invoke change, but there are some realities we have to face. For one, the government never wants to look bad and they will do whatever and say whatever to downplay a failed mission. I’m sure this relates to much more than statistics on landfill waste. Look at movies today. How many movies do you watch where the government admits their scientists are wrong and the indie scientist in the olive coloured pants who just raced from his weather station on the mountain, is right….and the world IS actually going to have another ice age. (yes….its from Day After Tomorrow and yes…its awesome). What i am NOT saying is that recycling is a failed mission. Recycling is the right thing to do. It should have been installed in the 60’s when plastic first took off. But in true governmental form, they waited until it was at a tipping point and now they are scrambling to fix a mess. And this a big one.
After reading through all the stats, taking notes, googling all kinds of independent studies, the numbers just got to me. And i’m not a numbers guy to begin with. I like visuals so i decided to go that route instead and i walked around with my camera. I went from one trash bin to another. I wanted to see if people in general were recycling their plastic. If they were, i was expecting to see some plastic in maybe every 3rd or 4th bin. If they weren’t i figured every other bin would have some plastic. Boy i was wrong. Every single bin!
If you don’t believe that this was one, 10 minute walk without any editing, you just shoot me an email and i’ll be happy to send you the full video with no breaks, going from one bin to the next (the only reason i don’t have it uploaded here is because i just bought this new camera and have no idea how to edit out the sound). Or even better, take a walk down your street and take pics into each trash can you see. Send me the pics and i’ll upload them in next months blog.
Here is the disturbing thing about this ‘garbage bin journey’ i went on in the heart of London…..London is a self proclaimed clean city. And this is the kind of mess i saw inside the bins. And whats crazier is there are recycling bins right next to the trash bins and people shove perfectly recyclable PET bottles into the trash! This highlights yet another problem with recycling…..no one wants to sort their trash on the go. They just chuck it.
I live in Vancouver and i see it here all the time and i will be the first to admit that i have done it too. Knowing what i know, if i put plastic bags into the recycling bin i KNOW its getting thrown into the dump at the recycling depot. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and now you will too (See youtube link below of what actually happens to plastic film at a recycling plant. There are plastic bag recycling plants like Hilex Poly Plant in Indiana but how many garbage bags do you suspect go here? think about that….). Vancouver has an agenda to be the cleanest city in 2020 (funny enough, i’ve emailed and called city hall and their response to Change Plastic for Good products is ‘sorry but thats not in our agenda for ‘cleanest city 2020’….seriously guys??) yet plastic is everywhere. In our water, garbages and even our food.
As consumers, we need to be vigilant with recycling but we need to be realistic and understand the bigger problem here. Recyclable plastic is being thrown out. The reality it that recycling will always have a hard time keeping up with the mass of plastic production globally. Couple that with general laziness of the people and its going to be a struggle. We need to solve the problem right now or we will lose our oceans, our fish and our planet. And countries and governments like the U.K. need to stop posting false and misleading data to make themselves look good. We want to be a company that posts the truth. We are moving into a generation of truth seekers. This is why mainstream media is struggling while youtube is exploding. Look at some of the youtubers that are gaining hundreds of thousands of subscribers each month. People are tired of lies and dare i say ‘fake news’ and they are turning to platforms like youtube where people speak the truth. I’m not saying its ALL truth, but i’ll stake my claim in a youtuber over CNN or ABC any day of the week.
Here is the link to a video at a recycling plant. Have a look at what really happens when you think you are recycling that bag. Also, remember that no one is pulling trash bags from the dump and separating them. Trash bags go straight to landfills.