Bad News: Your recycling only gets recycled 9% of the time

the bare minimum sustainability magazine london

Bad News: Your recycling only gets recycled 9% of the time

We may spend a few minutes per day deciding which bins to pop our recycling in to – blue or brown bin? Is this actually recyclable? Should I *gasp shock horror* black bin relegate this item?


Well, it just so happens that this only matters 9% of the time. Research from the journal Science Advances states that “approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.”


Yikes. This means that if you’ve ever been fined for incorrectly recycling, then you’ve been entirely ripped off.

recycling 9% of the time sustainability magazine the bare minimum mag

The presence of plastic in our homes has gradually risen and risen since large scale plastic production came into place in the 1950’s. It’s hard to imagine a world now where single use plastic does not exist, yet we’ve only been relying on it for the past 70 years or so, which does give a positive outlook on our option to regress back to using storage products we used pre-50’s — or ideally, a more progressive and environmentally friendly alternative.


For people concerned about environmental issues, this 9% recycle rate should both shock and anger you. Yet, it could also leave you with feelings of dismay and helplessness. For once the plastic is out of our hands, and our bins, we don’t have any insight into how it gets handled.


The vast majority of the plastic we use is in packaging. We’ve moved away from a world of reuseable Tupperware users, to lovers of disposable containers and single use plastic. Because the plastic we use is mostly not biodegradable, the plastic accumulates, rather than decomposes.


So what’s the solution?


As recent as this year brands are wisening up to the fact that consumers no longer want to use single-use plastic– McDonalds promise to phase out their plastic straws is a great example. But simply attacking plastic straws is the bare minimum (lol!) we can do.


Read: The Girl Who Lives With 100 Things


Continuous pressure on our government to phase out the production and use of single-use plastic is necessary. You can make a start by signing Friends of the Earth petition to the UK government here. Whilst we can put pressure on government and companies to halt their use of single-use plastic, as with everything in life, if you want something done do it yourself. Start by phasing out unnessary plastic in your life– then, regardless of whether the recycling rate is at 9% or not, if you don’t buy plastic, then you won’t be contributing to the problem end of. Consider single-use plastic in more areas of your life; from a supermarket shop, to menstruation. Single-use plastic is insidious.

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