Life Goggles has teamed up with a real life recycling officer to talk about the environment as well as recycling, reducing and reusing. We call him the Recycled Man.
In the first of a series of interviews we asked Recycled Man about rubbish (or “trash” in the USA).
Life Goggles: Thanks for joining us to do this, I’m sure our readers will find your insider knowledge valuable. Everyone seems to be talking about the environment at the moment. How large a part does recycling play in stopping climate change?
Recycled Man: Hi, thanks for inviting me in. Thinking about the way we deal with our rubbish in a wider sense, including reducing the waste we create in the first place as well making the effort to recycle what we do end up using, is definitely an important part of being environmentally responsible.
And while melting icecaps and rising sea levels are the issues currently attracting the environmental headlines, recycling and the way we manage our waste is important not just in relation to climate change but also to other environmental challenges.
So while you might try to ease your CO2 footprint through offsetting your next flight (perhaps planting some trees on the other side of the world) or buying a few energy-saving lightbulbs, this will not solve the problem of where all our rubbish will go if we don’t start doing more sensible things with it – namely recycling a greater proportion of it or better still not producing it in the first place.
This is because the current destination for much of our rubbish – landfill sites – are rapidly filling up and new sites will quite rightly not be made available. What we do when the landfill sites are full, if we have not managed to significantly cut the level of rubbish we create or recycle a lot more of what we do use, is an enormous and disturbing question.
Landfill has various unpleasant environmental consequences (such as the risk of contaminating water supplies) and if your council is still sending too much rubbish the way of landfill you’ll soon know about it from the hike on council tax bills as a result of the penalties that can be imposed through European legislation.
And coming back to the issue of climate change, landfill sites let off the greenhouse gas (and prime contributor to global warming) methane. In addition, simply throwing our rubbish into a hole or burning it does not do anything to ease the pressure on the earth’s over-exploited resources.
Recycling, on the other hand, reduces the need to make brand new products from raw materials. Materials like cans and glass bottles can be recycled back into the products they were using a fraction of the energy used when making them from new – for example, a can made from recycled aluminium uses just 5% of the energy of a can made from the raw material. Reprocessing materials also helps to avoid or minimise the problems that go along with extraction through quarrying, drilling for oil and commercial forestry.
We need to understand what affect our rubbish has on the environment and that recycling has a major role to play in reducing climate change.
We’ll be hearing more from the Recycled Man soon. If you have any questions, please let us know.