Deal With Waste

We have become a throwaway society. However, most of what we call waste could be used again by someone else, or never used in the first place. Recycling and reuse waste brings many benefits, including helping to hold back climate change. This is because less energy is needed to reuse or recycle materials than is needed to mine or harvest raw materials; less energy means less greenhouse gases and less climate change

Problems with waste

Much of our waste is either dumped in landfill or burnt in incinerators. These both add to the problem of climate change and cause a number of other problems:

Landfill sites:

  • Release the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) that contribute to climate change.
  • Release toxins. Rotting rubbish emits explosive gases and polluting liquids.
  • Are smelly, unattractive, increase traffic, noise, litter and pests. No-one wants to live next to one, but it’s becoming harder to find new remote sites to put all our waste.

Incinerators:

  • Waste energy. Recycling saves far more energy than is generated by burning waste because it means making less new things from raw materials.
  • Cause pollution; smoke, gases and ash from incinerators can contain harmful dioxins which are a cause of cancer.
  • Can be used to generate energy, but inefficiently, with more greenhouse gases released than gas-fired power stations.
  • Encourage more waste; Incinerators need a minimum amount of rubbish to operate. 

 Solutions: The 6 R’s

Fortunately there are lots of other ways to deal with waste which are better for the environment.

Reduce

We don’t need many of the things we have:

  • Before you buy something consider if you need it at all. According to some research, only 1% of the materials in the things we buy are still in use six months later. Yet, many of these materials hang around in landfill long after we’ve finished with them.
  • Don’t buy food you won’t eat. WRAP estimates that we bin one third of the food we buy and that average person spends £200 per year on food they then waste. The good news is that, across the UK we’re saving £2.3billion a year on wasted food compared to back in 2007. This equates to 4.4 million tonnes of CO₂ saved - equivalent to taking 1.8 million cars off the road. Check out the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign to find out what you can do to reduce your food waste.
  • Unsubscribe from junk mail and sign up for the mail preference service.

Refuse

Refuse excess packaging. Buy items that are wrapped in less packaging and ask companies you buy from to use less packaging.

Reuse

  • Buy items that can be reused, for example reusable tupperware rather than throw away cling film, or washable nappies instead of disposables.
  • Borrow items rather than buying them or buy them second hand, especially if they won’t wear out before you’ll be done with them. Some communities have Toy Libraries or Tool Libraries.
  • If you no longer need an item but it still has life in it pass it along to someone else or donate it to a charity shop.
  • Find out if there is a Freecycle or Freegle group in your area and use it to pass on unwanted items.
  • Derbyshire is where the national food sharing app OLIO was launched. Use it to pass on unwanted food.
  • Sell unwanted items on Ebay and raise some money at the same time.

Recycle

Recycling material and turning them into something else typically uses less energy than making the same items from new materials. For example, making a newspaper out of recycled waste paper produces 60% less carbon dioxide than making it out of new paper.

All the local authorities in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire offer doorstep recycling. Check out your borough or district council’s website to see what you can recycle in your area and make sure you’re recycling everything you can.

Repair

In our throwaway society we often bin things as soon as they stop working. We’ve lost many of the skills and knowledge needed to repair items. Yet it can be done. Some community groups in and close to the area run regular Repair Cafes where you can get items repaired by volunteers and pick up the skills to repair them yourself. Transition Chesterfield runs a regular Repair Café and Transition Loughborough runs one ad-hoc. You can also pick up repair skills through courses run by your local Adult Education Service. In particular, Derbyshire Eco Centre runs courses with an eco-focus.

Rot

It has been estimated that 40% of the contents of an average dustbin could be composted. Composting involves letting food waste and other organic matter breakdown. It is a great way to ensure waste is reused in a never ending cycle. Our food waste can be turned into compost that is then used to grow more food. For a beginner’s guide to composting have a look at the Garden Organic website.

Cheap compost bins are available from both Derbyshire County Council and Nottinghamshire County Council offer discounted composting bins for sale. If you have the right kind of bin it is possible to compost not only vegetable scraps but also cooked food.

If you feel you can’t compost by yourself (maybe you don’t have a garden, or you wouldn’t be able to use the compost once it was made) then why not consider Community Composting with your neighbours and others in your area.