A very interesting recycling problem

So, there’s this EU target for recycling. And we’re not going to hit it. Boo hoo. But here’s where it gets interesting.

SITA also argues that hitting the targets is becoming ever trickier as households are generally using – and therefore throwing away – less glass and paper, two of the most commonly recycled kinds of rubbish.

SITA said this was especially problematic because local authorities measured recycling volumes by weight.

“Two of the biggest and heaviest components, paper and glass, are in structural decline, driven by a chronic decline in newspaper readership as we consume our news by screen rather by papers. Glass is being substituted increasingly by plastic bottles,” it said.

Obviously, any recycling system will be set up to deal with the most common items first. Those used to be paper and glass. But we now have a structural shift away from using those two materials. Meaning that the total weight of waste is falling. Which is, you would think, a good thing by the standards used to measure these things.

But no! Waste is declining but the proportion of waste that is recycled is also falling. And that’s a bad thing.

The fall will make it almost certain that Britain will miss tough EU targets of recycling half of all household waste by 2020.

…… the fall, which risks the UK having to pay millions of pounds in fines.

Yep. The amount of waste falls and the EU then fines us because we’re creating less waste.

We’ve just done the voting, probably time to start shooting.

10 comments on “A very interesting recycling problem

  1. I’m not sure glass is being increasingly substituted by plastic bottles. I’ve yet to buy wine in a plastic bottle, or whisky, or gin. Our milk comes in a plastic bottle, that’s about it. The HP bottle we buy is still glass. Pickled onions, beetroot, etc., all still glass. Our recycling is mainly glass alcohol bottles, soft drink cans, boxes that the wine came in and some magazines and junk mail. The glass food containers mainly go in the normal waste because I’m not prepared to rinse them.

  2. You should be buying your wine in cartons 😉 The Wilcannia Handbag (Australian joke).

  3. DocBud, our HP (equivalent) is in plastic. Our mayo is in plastic. The only glass we use is cooking sauces. Its a major problem as we don’t have many for using for jams. Most of the rest of our recycling bin is full of tin cans. If it wasn’t for the food waste, we wouldn’t have a problem with a bi-weekly collection as we don’t generate that much waste (2 person household).

  4. This post filed under two categories? Bit of a departure from tradition there Tim.

  5. SBML,

    There is no equivalent to HP, HP is sold in plastic but we prefer the old glass bottles. Helmans mayonnaise still comes in glass jars.

    Here in tropical Queensland, a bi-weekly collection of food would definitely result in an infestation of maggots. Our recycling bin is always chockers when two weeks comes around so we inevitably end up putting some recycling stuff in the normal waste bin which we never fill from one week to the next (3 person household).

  6. It just goes to show that the European Union is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.

    (with apologies to Claire Wolfe)

  7. It’s a matter of getting your measurement wrong. They’re measuring the amount of recycled waste, when what we actually care about is the amount which isn’t recycled. And we really care about absolute amounts rather than proportions.

    Back when recycling was unusual, it made sense to give prominence to the unusual item. Now that it’s mainstream, it needs a rethink.

  8. You keep talking about shooting, but how are you actually going to do it, if you aren’t allowed to have guns?

  9. You keep talking about shooting, but how are you actually going to do it, if you aren’t allowed to have guns?”

    3D copiers, we’ll have guns, tanks, molotov cocktails, even stealth bombers.

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