By Isabella @TheWandCarver
Lately it seems I can’t go more than four hours without checking my Google News feed… kind of like a teenager checking their Facebook page… still, in my quest for finding as much truth out there as I can regarding climate change/climate emergency [or climate crisis/breakdown, as The Guardian news has recently deems it should be changed to, and I agree] and to pare it down into easier to swallow bites for my readers whom are interested but do not have the time to pore through lengthy news feeds. Therefore, every breakfast, lunch, and after supper reading is essential to meet my intentions. The Climate Emergency Digest might be a plausibly good name for it 😊
Today I am still pecking everyone’s heads about plastic. Plastics aren’t getting enough good hashtags on Twitter yet as #ClimateEmergency and #ClimateCrisis get more trending spots in our feeds, however, plastics are very much a part of the climate problem and the environment problem. When I say “environment problem” I mainly allude to the ocean being choked to death with plastic throwaways that end up in whale bellies, wrapped around fish of various sizes, as well as holding hostage the occasional sea bird beak making it impossible for the poor creature to eat.
So, here we go with my old mantra again – recycle, repurpose, and reuse. Repurposing and reusing may be easier for some people these days because the recycling of plastics has nearly gone out of fashion. And, just as climate crisis is a man-made problem, so is plastics recycling. Why? Because we tend to believe everything plastic can be recycled. It can’t. Not by your friendly Council recyclers or city recyclers, or county recyclers wherever you happen to live. It’s not only a UK problem but very much a US problem as well as in many other countries. An article I have recently read by The Telegraph says ‘Council seizes and impounds 1,300 bins as punishment for residents failing to recycle’ by Jessica Carpani. That headline would first make one think that this lot are failing to recycle, full stop. Not even bothering. No, it is worse… they are putting everything inside these bins! Dirty nappies [diapers], food scraps, not to mention the wrong plastics… what will happen then? Does it all go to recycling facility to have latex-gloved workers pick out what can be recycled? Not anymore… it gets taken to a landfill or incinerated, same as the regular household rubbish. So, any fitting pieces of recyclable plastics go with all else to be – bet you don’t know this one – burned! So, the Council decides that if people aren’t going to place the correct recyclables into their recycling bin, they will forfeit the use of the bins for six months. Oh, that’s teaching them! Perhaps it would get the point across better to allow them to keep the bins to recycle with but each time they are opened, and the recycling chap sees a bin liner full of waste and other things which can’t be recycled inside, places a fine on the person responsible. And, to prove a point even further, don’t empty his bin! When he pays his fine and cleans out the bin himself then the recyclers will come back. He should not have to be fined twice…I certainly wouldn’t want to be!
I believe it is up to the recycling centres to make certain all its residences have a defined list of things which can be recycled. Some people really do not know what can or can’t be recycled. But if the recycling management where you live does not put forth that information themselves, surely, they have a list in their office which you can request or one listed on their website, if they have one. In these times, it is imperative that we get this right. If not, you can end up as many Americans have done. Because of wrongheaded recycling [and I say that because I’m doubting that they were given a list of items acceptable to their recycling programme to start with, and if not, just assumed everything goes] they can no longer sell plastic waste to China to be recycled into new things like carpet backing and clothing. As a result, only about 9 per cent of plastic waste in the US is recycled. So, where do all those plastic milk bottles, pop bottles, and such, going to, then? To their landfills. And burned. So, what? you might ask. I’ll tell you.
Burning plastics in incinerators or landfills contributes to the C02 gas being sent to the ozone because the incinerators belch out as much C02 as does a coal burning plant used for electricity and not only that, they send loads of toxins into the air, such as dioxins, furans, and heavy metals which we shall end up breathing. Plastics are being found everywhere now as is plastic waste from incineration – in the air, in our clothing, in oceans, on beaches, ponds, rivers…. It is literally everywhere. Oh, yes, and it is found in the bellies of whales and others sea life. That was not me being clever earlier. It is the truth.
Landfills, as a solution for dropping off any household waste which you don’t want to or can’t reuse or recycle, creates more methane, I read recently, and the latest methane atmospheric numbers NOAA scientists have put out is 1,850 parts per billion. Pre-industrial era methane in atmosphere was at 700 ppb. Ideally, we should stop using landfills and incinerators to handle our household waste. Easier said than done, I know. So, let us take this in easily digested chunks.
What we are doing in my family is picking a new thing to do without , or a habit to be changed, each week. Sometimes that item is more like items and must be reduced over time. First week was turning down the thermostat or turning it off to use less heat. As a matter of fact, we hardly ever use the heating simply because of finances so that one wasn’t too difficult, apart from very cold days and nights. Next, we decided to stop drinking bottled water. Our recycling bin would nearly overflow with plastic bottles some weeks! Each of us saved about 5 plastic bottles [for reusing] to use for tap water and we do clean them. The 5 bottles should last each person about a year as I have found that a plastic bottle can survive me about 2 to 3 months. I may just purchase a second-hand water bottle at a charity shop after these are no longer usable. This will save money at the supermarket and help us to not keep sending single-use plastics to recycling centres which may, if unable to send on to a company which uses the bottles in recycling, possibly be sent to be incinerated thus sending out more harmful, if not deadly, fumes. I did purchase a reputable filter for our tap water at a nominal price. Our next change was to discontinue using the single-use plastic carrier bags from the supermarket and other shops. There are times when we forget but when we do, we take them back the next trip to drop them into the recycling bins for just shopping bags at the supermarket. The next endeavour will be to begin composting our food waste. So, as you can see, you don’t have to jump in and do it all at once, unless of course, you’re able to. The sooner, the better to be sure, however, if you have family members who balk at having to change the way they have always done them, you may need to take it slowly to get them onboard.
Our carbon footprint is not a perfect zero yet, but I would say we have drastically cut it down. My biggest worry now is keeping from sending more food to the landfills where it will sit and rot and cause more C02. To recycle food waste, you should do as I am now and researching the best ways to go about it as well as knowing what can and can’t be tossed into your composter. And, as far as having a composter goes you need not go to the store and buy one. You can easily build your own. Mine is built from flat pallets and chicken wire. I left one corner open so I can get inside and give everything a good stirring. I have it far enough away from the house so that rodents won’t decide coming into my house would be a good idea. Once I have this going properly, I would say we have fully reduced our carbon footprint by at least 50%**. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say! But so much more is needed….little chunks at a time. At least, we have our single use plastic mayhem under control now. Sigh of relief. **since writing, I have found a website where you can calculate your carbon footprint at resurgence.org [because the link from the image above has been archived and unusable] and I am happy to report that my personal one is 2.1 tonnes. That is remarkable considering the average per person per year is 12.5 tonnes! I must be doing more right than I thought!
So, I call upon every individual, family, business, and government to please begin to rein in your single-use plastics usage. Find out exactly what kind of plastics are permissible to be collected by your council’s or town’s recycling scheme. Look into recycling plans for odd plastics through TerracycleUK, TerracycleFrance, and TerracycleUS. And perhaps, someone with the money to set up a business which can recycle odd bits rather than incinerate, will do so in as many places as possible. And, a big help will be the deposit fee scheme many places are putting on to plastic drinks bottles. This scheme has proven to get returns of bottles in the US and now, the Scottish government has announced this month that it plans to create the UK’s first deposit return scheme for plastic drinks containers and are aiming to recapture 90 per cent of drinks containers for recycling within the next three years. I am hoping this scheme spreads throughout the UK and everywhere.
Here is hoping you will, if you haven’t already, begin a new chapter in your lives devoid of as much single-use plastics as possible. If you don’t want to do it for climate crisis, please at least do it for the poor animals and sea creatures whom have no say in the case for recycling plastics. Until they are dead, that is.
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Many thanks for reading my blog. I hope, as always, that you have found something useful in it for yourself or others. If so, my deepest appreciation to you for sharing via the social media buttons below. Please also give a like and please comment as I always find so much good information from my readers and will answer quickly as possible. Warmest blessing to all whom this way wander x
Huffpost, Plastics aren’t just polluting – they’re making climate change worse, by Catherine Smith
Orange County Register, Your recyclables are going to the dump and here’s why, by Martin Wisckol
The Guardian, Mismanaged waste ‘kills up to a million people a year globally’, Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
The Guardian, Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment, by Damian Carrington, Environment editor
The Telegraph, ‘Council seizes and impounds 1,300 bins as punishment for residents failing to recycle’ by Jessica Carpani
ThinkProgress, Plastics are sealing the planet’s fate by Sarah Sax