Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Recycling and MRF

 How many of us actually recycle? We go out shopping, buy a bottle of coke/water/whatever takes you fancy then once finished dump it into the nearest bin without a second thought. I work in a big chain coffee shop and we use paper napkins and plastic cups like there’s no tomorrow. People don’t hesitate to take a wad of napkins, barely use one before screwing the rest up making them unusable. They don’t seem to process that these seemingly disposable objects came from somewhere, maybe the Amazonian rainforest where trees are disappearing at a phenomenal rate, or from some recycling plant where they were once a much loved book. They just take take take. 

I finally had enough, and yesterday went to work and told my colleagues to put all plastic and paper that didn’t have food on into my magical recycling bag. At first they laughed, jokingly called me a hippy but some actually did it. However I soon realised this wasn’t going to be a daily occurrence. I couldn’t come in and dispose of the recycling unless I was working. My plan failed before it really began.

So I went and spoke to the Manager of the shopping centre about the possibility of getting plastic & paper recycling bins but he told me about something amazing. MRF (pronounced murf) or should I say Materials Recovering Facility. He kindly informed me that all waste from the centre went to one of these MRF’s whereby they are processed and the waste is separated from the recyclable products. The waste is then sent to a incinerator and burnt to produce power, however this burning creates a small amount of ash. So from the total rubbish in the bins only 1% is actual waste. This is great news. However this is not the case in our own homes. Only green bins waste is sent to MRF. All the rubbish you put into your black bins is sent to landfills sites.

All of it. 

Here is a list of what can and cannot be recycled-

Yes please

Cannot be recyled:
  • Cold ashes
  • Pet waste
  • Disposable nappies
  • Broken glass
  • Plastic film
  • Polystyrene 

No thank you

  • Anything that can be recycled
  • Food waste
  • Garden waste
  • Stones, rubble, soil or building materials
  • Car parts or batteries
  • Oil, paint or chemical
  • Textiles/clothing
  • Tree branches
  • Asbestos-based materials
  • Hot ashes
  • Anything too large to fit comfortably into the bin
  • Clinical waste or hypodermic needles
  • Large glass objects
  • Anything hazardous
Landfill sites are the most common form of waste disposal in the world. We alone in England create 170 million tonnes of waste annually. Some is recycled but the majority isn’t.  When I lived in Egypt it was crucial to drink 3-4 litres a day to not become dehydrated. I alone was using 2-3 plastic bottles daily. There was no recycling in Sharm. Rumours said that every once in a while a yellow truck would take some plastic away. But I never heard anyone mention recycling, never saw a bin…what I did see was huge piles of plastic bottles in the desert. For a country that relies on plastic bottles for tourists to consume (the tap water isn’t suitable for the delicate stomachs of Europeans and Americans alike) they simply don’t do anything to monitor and control the waste.

Some interesting facts from Recycling Guide:
Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy and conserving the environment. Did you know that:
  • 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
  • 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.
  • 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.
  • Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled.
  • The unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours.
  • The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with rubbish from the UK in 8 months.
  • On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish.
  • As much as 50% of waste in the average dustbin could be composted.
  • Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.
  • 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made easier.
I want to focus on the last one. How is recycling not easy? Rather than putting an object into bin A put it into bin B. If you have to take 5 seconds out of your day to wash the inside of the tin so be it. Just spend a few minutes less watching television, or playing on the internet.

Finally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard- Why can't we launch garbage into space?

We all have the power to recycle. There is no excuse.

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