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Plastic Waste – The issues and what we can do

Now that climate change and its environmental impact is high on many governments’ agenda’s its again highlighted the importance tackling the increasing plastic waste pollution problem we have.

Over the years the use of plastic has been adopted in practically every industry due to its lower cost and durability, however the effect on the environment and our planet is a devastating one, as many forms of plastic take hundreds of years to break-down and then only into micro-plastics which are often mistake by land and sea creatures as food causing devastation.

If you have not had a chance to watch our reducing plastic waste video yet, then get yourself a drink and do this now! (It is over 1hour and 20 mins long, so you may want to watch in sections, that said it is well worth the time watching!)

The above video will give you and amazing insight into the plastic waste problem, what to look out for in plastics, what can and cannot be recycled as well as what else you can do! (these are then summarised on this page as below with other useful links as explained throughout the video)

On this page we will therefore cover a quick overview on plastic waste and its impact as simple ways in which you can get started to reduce plastic waste and start to make a difference which are broken down into the following sections:

Plastic Waste Statistics - An Overview

It is estimated that across the world, that we as a collective humanity produce and use its own weight in plastic every year! That’s approximately 300 million tons (or 330 million US tons) of plastic being used every year! Sadly, the statics show that 79% of the world’s plastic ends up in landfill or the ocean, 12% is burnt whilst only 9% of plastic gets recycled! This careless consumption and discarding of plastic as waste is already causing devastation amount marine creatures and most of the plastics have not even started to breakdown yet. It has been reported that:

  • Marine plastic pollution has already affected 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabirds of those examined.
  • Over 1 million seabirds are killed by ocean plastic every year.
  • Over 100,000 marine mammals are killed by ocean plastic every year.
  • 700 species of marine animals are in danger of extinction due to plastic
  • 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic.

For a more detailed statistic list see the details here

Whist governments and manufactures are often seen as the solution to this plastic waste, it will be no surprise that most of the change will only come about from us as humans making better choices and choosing to act and speak up on this issue.

But you may ask why should we bother, if most people are not interested why should I be! We do feel the frustration on this one as its such a big issue that unless the majority get behind this it is not going to solve this issue.

That said we have detailed a few points from the a Christian perspective and what pointers we can see in the bible on why we should keep this area as an area of concern and action.

Plastic waste

A Christian Perspective

  • God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31a)
  • The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15)

After the world was created, God looked on it and acknowledged it was very good. He then set man in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. From these two parts of scripture alone we can see Gods desire for the world to be cared for and looked after by humans.

God in all his wisdom already knew that when sin entered the human heart, this desire would get lost with sinful desires of self-centeredness and greed challenging the human mind. Which is probably why Gods desire had been recorded in scripture before the fall when placing man into the Garden of Eden. Again we see another glimpse of Gods original desire when God moved the Israelites into the Promised Land.

  • Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites. (Numbers 35:33-34)

Whilst this passage focuses on the pollution caused by bloodshed, it’s interesting that the word pollution is actually used and that Gods detest of bloodshed is not phrased another way. This points towards Gods dissatisfaction of pollution generally. As pollution and uncaring for the world causes environmental damage, If really investigated could be seen to cause unnecessary death and bloodshed.

Surely these references should urge us therefore to find ways of being more responsible when looking at the environment and impact of pollution (and in this case plastic waste pollution), with the desire to satisfy the desires of Gods heart and continue to look after the planet.

So where do we start? Well a good place is to first look at plastic itself…

Plastic Categories Overview

Surprisingly not all plastics can be recycled! Some plastic packaging consists of more than one polymer type making it more difficult and costly to recycle. Plastic products containing polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon fall into the category of plastics that are often hard and therefore costly to recycle.

The general rule of thumb is, the lower the resin code, the more likely the plastic type is to be easily recyclable. Many plastic types can be recycled, even if the process is not widespread, however many plastics aren’t recycled simply because they aren’t easily recyclable.

In short below are the 7 categories and probability of these being recycled.

Category 1 – Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

Recyclability: The 2nd most common recycled plastic! Most councils and jurisdictions will collect PET either from your doorstep or from recycling centres.
Commonly Found As: PET is generally identified as clear plastic, commonly found in drinks bottles, perishable food containers and alike.
Concerns: PET plastic can absorb odours and flavours from foods and liquids stored in them and can also be dangerous if exposed to heat, (i.e, if left in a hot car) as this can cause antimony (one of the chemicals in PET) to leach out of the plastic and into the liquid for food.

Category 2 – High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Recyclability: HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic. Recycled HDPE can be made back into rHDPE (recycled HDPE) which could be used in into items including non-food bottles, for example, anti-freeze, motor oil, laundry cleaners, cleaning products, conditioner, shampoo and other items such as pipes, tanks and cutting boards. HDPE and rHDPE can also be recycled back into products like flower pots, and gardening tools, bins, floor tiles, plastic creates, toys etc, however they then cannot normally be recycled again past this point.
Commonly Found As: Containers for household cleaning detergents, body wash bottles, shampoo’s, conditioners etc, and other and other items such as pens, milk jugs and some yogurt tubs. A lot of children’s toys are often made of HDPE as well as many outside products such as park benches, plastic fencing, picnic tables, planting pots, and pipes.
Concerns: Whilst some organisations state that HDPE can be recycled again and again, in reality this is not the case and most only get recycled once if at all and then normally into another higher category of plastic that is not then normally recycled and so adds to the increasing plastic waste problem. HDPE also uses a considerable amount of fossil fuels during manufacturing normally taking about 1.75kg of oil to manufacture just 1kg of HDPE.
Category 3 – Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Recyclability: PVC is rarely recycled due to its cost and toxic build-up, but has been known to be recycled into flooring, panelling and roadside gutters etc.
Commonly Found As: Credit & other cards, food wrap, plumbing pipes, tiles, window frames, medical equipment, PVC clothes and shoes or as insulation for electrical wiring.
Concerns: PVC plastics contain harmful chemicals linked to a variety of ailments, including bone and liver diseases and developmental issues in children and infants.

Category 4 – Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

Recyclability: LDPE can be recycled, although very little (only about 5%) gets recycled due to the lack of available facilities and higher cost to recycle. When recycled LDPE can be made into items such as bins, panelling, furniture, flooring and bubble wrap. Most supermarkets and councils will now accept carrier bags made of LDPE for recycling.
Commonly Found As: Plastic bags and household items like plastic wrap, frozen food containers and squeezable bottles
Concerns: LDPE is one of the biggest plastic polluters and also one of the most damaging to marine wildlife due to its often-stretchy form. Which can easily bold wildlife’s airways and can more easily entangle creatures!

Category 5 – Polypropylene (PP)

Recyclability: Less than 1% of Polypropylene (PP) gets recycled. When recycled, it’s turned into heavy-duty items like pallets, ice scrapers, rakes and battery cables.
Commonly Found As: Due to its ability to withstand high temperatures Polypropylene is commonly found in tupperware, car parts, yogurt containers, in thermal clothing vests and even disposable nappies
Concerns: Polypropylene is another massive polluter found a lot in oceans as this also floats like the HDPE, but is a lot more costly to recycle, so more ends up as plastic waste pollution.

Category 6 – Polystyrene (PS)

Recyclability: Polystyrene is extremely difficult to recycle, it can be shred it into tiny balls and used as cavity wall insulation and a few other applications, but Polystyrene often does not get recycled at all.
Commonly Found As: Single use beverage cups, product packing, building materials (insulation etc), egg cartons and disposable cutlery.
Concerns: Polystyrene is unsafe because its closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam (XPS) is notoriously known for leaching harmful chemicals, especially when heated.

Category 7 – Other (Everything Else)

Recyclability: Plastics in the “Other” category are not often recycled. Most types of mixed plastics and can be turned into ‘plastic lumber’ which can be used in the construction industry however these types of plastics are also extremely hard and costly to recycle as they do not break down easily.
Commonly Found As: Harder to identify as a lot are not actually categorised as they are often mixed with other materials, but is commonly found in Polylactide (PLA) which is used in 3D printing and in polycarbonate (PC) which is used in roofing
Concerns: The plastics often found in the “Other” Category often contain the toxic chemical Bisphenol A or BPA

So now you have more of an understanding of the different types of plastic its now time to start looking at what we can do with this knowledge. And the first thing is to apply it to our thinking.

The ERR Thought Process

As explained fully in our video the ERR process is a thought process which we encourage you all to adopt. Before throwing away plastic (or even buying it) think ERR!
Can I ….

E – Eliminate this plastic in future and use alternatives without plastic (please see our reduce plastic in the home section of our site or sign up to our monthly step-by step emailed suggestions)

R – Reuse this plastic again, perhaps using plastic pots etc for other storage uses etc.

R – Recycle this plastic (please see recycling options below)

Once you start to adapt your thinking by adopting the ERR thought process, your be surprised how much of a difference this actually makes. The area we need to dig into a little deeper however is the recycling element. Let’s start by looking at what we can recycle through council and government recycling options.

Council recycling

Different councils and government will recycle different products because of the actual types of recycling plant they have in their area or ones that they are linked to outside their area. It is also affected by and the resources that each council will have and the money that they have allocated to recycling for dealing with this plastic waste.

Generally speaking, however, the two plastic categories that all councils and governments do collect is PET – Category 1 and HDPE – Category 2 as these are the easiest and most cost effective to recycle. From that point it gets messy and changes across different areas.

What we recommend is for you to check your local councils website to identify what they do collect and recycle.

Another resource which can help is the “Recycle Now” website https://www.recyclenow.com/, which will also identify items that can be collected in your clean recycling sack or bin. They will list out specific items, such as yogurt pots, drink bottles etc, but will not necessarily detail the plastic categories. Simply put in your postcode and it will advise you what you can put in your sacks. The information on this site is gathered yearly from each council so if the council changes something midyear, then this may not always be accurate, but more often than not items do not get changed midyear.

So now let’s look at other plastic recycling options…

Other recycling options

Apart from carrier bag and bread bag recycling which most supermarkets do, there was not much other options until the ongoing pressures on manufactures and brands have caused a lot of them to put in place plastic waste recycling schemes for their branded plastic products and packaging, whist these schemes are still not widely advertised we detail below how you can find these and send them off for recycling!

To find out brands and plastic items you can recycle and where you can recycle them locally, check out the TerraCycle (which works with manufactures and local business to recycling the harder to recycle plastic) website https://www.terracycle.com/in generally your will find popular brand recycling options for toothpaste tubes, crisp packets, food packaging, cosmetic bottles, laundry and cleaning packaging, medicine blister packs and much more. The only downside is you can only search per brand for drop-off points and cannot simply find a drop-off point and see what they collect. But once you have spent the time working out what can be dropped off at certain points (or ask at the drop-off point) then you are sorted! The plastic waste collected through teracycle is then typically shredded, washed, melted and transformed into plastic flakes or pellets which are then turned into recycled products such as outdoor furniture.

For those that do not have drop off points near you, there is another option, but this will cost you a bit of money, the option is the Zero Waste Box scheme https://zerowasteboxes.terracycle.co.uk/ , this scheme was set up by teracycle to deal with the issue of not having enough drop-off points to cover everyone’s needs. In this scheme you will purchase a box for your home to chuck in all your harder to recycle plastic waste (a slightly more expensive option based on volume) or purchase separate box options for different products and packaging types. Once you have filled your box, simply arrange for collection and it gets taken away and recycled. The prices differ based on box size and products collected, however as a rule of thumb they are as follows:

small box – 25x25x46cm (typically between £100 to £150)
medium – 30.5 x 30.5 x 84 cm (typically between £150 to £250)
large – 38 x 38 x 100cm (typically between £250 to £400)

So other recycling summary: –

Most Supermarkets – For carrier bag and bread bag recycling

TerraCycle – Where you drop off to a collection point and the manufactures and brands pay for the recycling https://www.terracycle.com/

Zero Waste Box – This is where you can purchase a box for your hard to recycle plastic consumables, which will get collected from your home when its full and you’ve arranged collection. https://zerowasteboxes.terracycle.co.uk/

And that’s about all for now on recycling so onto the next important thing, speaking up and using your voice!

Using Your Voice!

This is perhaps one that we would rather not all get involved in, because it can at times be a lot of extra effort, if you get involved in campaigning and being part of a movement, that said these are a great use of your voice. That said however you do not have to get that involved to make a difference and so we will cover now some simple small steps that we all should do which does not take long and does make a difference:

  1. Rename Your Bins
    As well as using the ERR thought process we encourage another simple change when dealing with your home waste and this is to do with what you call your general waste and recycling waste, we encourage a vocabulary change to help realign your mind.

    • Rename your general waste bin or rubbish to landfill waste or landfill bag!
      By calling the general waste landfill waste it really does make you realise that your rubbish does not miraculously disappear when it leaves your home and help you remember where its likely to end up and continues to help change your actions!
    • Rename your Recyling bin as clean recycling
      This is a small change but does help you remember to ensure the recycling items are clean when you put them into the recycling bin or bag.
  2. Petition
    This may seem like a lot of hassle; however this is a really simple step which will only take a few minutes online! Click on this link to be taken to the UK government petition page and look for petitions which call to scrap or reduce non-recyclable plastic packaging or to use more eco friendlier options, to raise concerns over certain plastic products and the impact of plastic waste and recycling schemes (Especially more accountability and tracking when recycling is sent overseas).If a petition gets 10,000 signatures, the government will have to respond, which means the concern will have been read and reviewed by someone in government.

  3. Provide feedback to supermarkets
    The BBC launched the #ourplasticfeedback campaign, which is basically a commitment form you for seven days (or whenever you next go) to give your feedback on any plastic items back to supermarkets. This is normally done by writing or sticking a note on the plastic item such as single use packaging and handing it back into the staff in the supermarket asking for it to be given to management. Again this just keeps the awareness and concerns going.Find out more about the #ourplasticfeedback campaign here

  4. Share plastic waste information with others
    We would encourage you to share wither this webpage or other sites that speak up about the concerns over plastic waste with your friends and family. Why not copy the URL now and post it on social media if you are enjoying this or learning something
    new!

  5. Join a movement
    As a further step to the above small steps you can of course join a movement or take part in campaigns against the use, recyclability and plastic waste pollution. A couple of popular options are as detailed below, both of these movements and many others help call corporations to account on their use of plastic and plastic waste issues as well as encourage us as individuals to also get behind reducing and clearing up plastic waste.

    • Greenpeace – https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/
      Greenpeace is a movement of people who are passionate about defending the natural world from destruction. So not just plastic waste. Their vision is a greener, healthier and more peaceful planet, one that can sustain life for generations to come.

    • Break Free From Plastic – https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/
      Break Free from plastic’s goal is to tackle plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure, and providing effective solutions.

Using Your Voice!

This is perhaps one that we would rather not all get involved in, because it can at times be a lot of extra effort, if you get involved in campaigning and being part of a movement, that said these are a great use of your voice. That said however you do not have to get that involved to make a difference and so we will cover now some simple small steps that we all should do which does not take long and does make a difference:

  1. Rename Your Bins As well as using the ERR thought process we encourage another simple change when dealing with your home waste and this is to do with what you call your general waste and recycling waste, we encourage a vocabulary change to help realign your mind.

    • Rename your general waste bin or rubbish to landfill waste or landfill bag!By calling the general waste landfill waste it really does make you realise that your rubbish does not miraculously disappear when it leaves your home and help you remember where its likely to end up and continues to help change your actions!

    • Rename your Recyling bin as clean recyclingThis is a small change but does help you remember to ensure the recycling items are clean when you put them into the recycling bin or bag.

  2. Petition This may seem like a lot of hassle; however this is a really simple step which will only take a few minutes online! Click on this link to be taken to the UK government petition page and look for petitions which call to scrap or reduce non-recyclable plastic packaging or to use more eco friendlier options, to raise concerns over certain plastic products and the impact of plastic waste and recycling schemes (Especially more accountability and tracking when recycling is sent overseas).If a petition gets 10,000 signatures, the government will have to respond, which means the concern will have been read and reviewed by someone in government.

  3. Provide feedback to supermarkets The BBC launched the #ourplasticfeedback campaign, which is basically a commitment form you for seven days (or whenever you next go) to give your feedback on any plastic items back to supermarkets. This is normally done by writing or sticking a note on the plastic item such as single use packaging and handing it back into the staff in the supermarket asking for it to be given to management. Again this just keeps the awareness and concerns going.Find out more about the #ourplasticfeedback campaign here

  4. Share plastic waste information with others We would encourage you to share wither this webpage or other sites that speak up about the concerns over plastic waste with your friends and family. Why not copy the URL now and post it on social media if you are enjoying this or learning something new!

  5. Join a movement As a further step to the above small steps you can of course join a movement or take part in campaigns against the use, recyclability and plastic waste pollution. A couple of popular options are as detailed below, both of these movements and many others help call corporations to account on their use of plastic and plastic waste issues as well as encourage us as individuals to also get behind reducing and clearing up plastic waste.

    • Greenpeace – https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/ Greenpeace is a movement of people who are passionate about defending the natural world from destruction. So not just plastic waste. Their vision is a greener, healthier and more peaceful planet, one that can sustain life for generations to come.

    • Break Free From Plastic – https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/ Break Free from plastic’s goal is to tackle plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure, and providing effective solutions.

Using Your Voice!

This is perhaps one that we would rather not all get involved in, because it can at times be a lot of extra effort, if you get involved in campaigning and being part of a movement, that said these are a great use of your voice. That said however you do not have to get that involved to make a difference and so we will cover now some simple small steps that we all should do which does not take long and does make a difference:

  1. Rename Your Bins
    As well as using the ERR thought process we encourage another simple change when dealing with your home waste and this is to do with what you call your general waste and recycling waste, we encourage a vocabulary change to help realign your
    mind.

    • Rename your general waste bin or rubbish to landfill waste or landfill bag!By calling the general waste landfill waste it really does make you realise that your rubbish does not miraculously disappear when it leaves your home and help you remember where its likely to end up and continues to help change your actions!
    • Rename your Recyling bin as clean recyclingThis is a small change but does help you remember to ensure the recycling items are clean when you put them into the recycling bin or bag.

  2. Petition
    This may seem like a lot of hassle; however this is a really simple step which will only take a few minutes online! Click on this link to be taken to the UK government petition page and look for petitions which call to scrap or reduce non-recyclable plastic packaging or to use more eco friendlier options, to raise concerns over certain plastic products and the impact of plastic waste and recycling schemes (Especially more accountability and tracking when recycling is sent overseas).If a petition gets 10,000 signatures, the government will have to respond, which means the concern will have been read and reviewed by someone in government.

  3. Provide feedback to supermarkets
    The BBC launched the #ourplasticfeedback campaign, which is basically a commitment form you for seven days (or whenever you next go) to give your feedback on any plastic items back to supermarkets. This is normally done by writing or sticking a note on the plastic item such as single use packaging and handing it back into the staff in the supermarket asking for it to be given to management. Again this just keeps the awareness and concerns going.Find out more about the #ourplasticfeedback campaign here

  4. Share plastic waste information with others
    We would encourage you to share wither this webpage or other sites that speak up about the concerns over plastic waste with your friends and family. Why not copy the URL now and post it on social media if you are enjoying this or learning something
    new!

  5. Join a movement
    As a further step to the above small steps you can of course join a movement or take part in campaigns against the use, recyclability and plastic waste pollution. A couple of popular options are as detailed below, both of these movements and many others help call corporations to account on their use of plastic and plastic waste issues as well as encourage us as individuals to also get behind reducing and clearing up plastic waste.

    • Greenpeace – https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/
      Greenpeace is a movement of people who are passionate about defending the natural world from destruction. So not just plastic waste. Their vision is a greener, healthier and more peaceful planet, one that can sustain life for generations to come.
    • Break Free From Plastic – https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/
      Break Free from plastic’s goal is to tackle plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure, and providing effective solutions.

Using Your Voice!

This is perhaps one that we would rather not all get involved in, because it can at times be a lot of extra effort, if you get involved in campaigning and being part of a movement, that said these are a great use of your voice. That said however you do not have to get that involved to make a difference and so we will cover now some simple small steps that we all should do which does not take long and does make a difference:
  1. Rename Your Bins As well as using the ERR thought process we encourage another simple change when dealing with your home waste and this is to do with what you call your general waste and recycling waste, we encourage a vocabulary change to help realign your mind.
    Rename your general waste bin or rubbish to landfill waste or landfill bag!By calling the general waste landfill waste it really does make you realise that your rubbish does not miraculously disappear when it leaves your home and help you remember where its likely to end up and continues to help change your actions!
    Rename your Recyling bin as clean recyclingThis is a small change but does help you remember to ensure the recycling items are clean when you put them into the recycling bin or bag.

  2. Petition This may seem like a lot of hassle; however this is a really simple step which will only take a few minutes online! Click on this link to be taken to the UK government petition page and look for petitions which call to scrap or reduce non-recyclable plastic packaging or to use more eco friendlier options, to raise concerns over certain plastic products and the impact of plastic waste and recycling schemes (Especially more accountability and tracking when recycling is sent overseas).If a petition gets 10,000 signatures, the government will have to respond, which means the concern will have been read and reviewed by someone in government.
  3.  
  4. Provide feedback to supermarkets The BBC launched the #ourplasticfeedback campaign, which is basically a commitment form you for seven days (or whenever you next go) to give your feedback on any plastic items back to supermarkets. This is normally done by writing or sticking a note on the plastic item such as single use packaging and handing it back into the staff in the supermarket asking for it to be given to management. Again this just keeps the awareness and concerns going.Find out more about the #ourplasticfeedback campaign here
  5.  
  6. Share plastic waste information with others We would encourage you to share wither this webpage or other sites that speak up about the concerns over plastic waste with your friends and family. Why not copy the URL now and post it on social media if you are enjoying this or learning something new!
  7.  
  8. Join a movement As a further step to the above small steps you can of course join a movement or take part in campaigns against the use, recyclability and plastic waste pollution. A couple of popular options are as detailed below, both of these movements and many others help call corporations to account on their use of plastic and plastic waste issues as well as encourage us as individuals to also get behind reducing and clearing up plastic waste.
    Greenpeace –
    https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/ Greenpeace is a movement of people who are passionate about defending the natural world from destruction. So not just plastic waste. Their vision is a greener, healthier and more peaceful planet, one that can sustain life for generations to come.
    Break Free From Plastic – https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/ Break Free from plastic’s goal is to tackle plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure, and providing effective solutions.

Summary

So as a final recap, we have explained that many forms of plastic take hundreds of years to break down and then only into micro-plastics which are often mistake by land and sea creatures as food causing devastation and death. We have detailed why we feel form a Christian perspective that God would like us to not to pollute the world but continue to care for it.

All the plastic categories have been explained with their common uses and recyclability. The ERR thought process was looked at to help remind you of where your own plastic waste will end up and help you consider more eco-friendly options. We have also detailed and explained both council recycling and other recycling scheme options and given you some simple steps of how you can use your voice to speak up against plastic waste.

As we have said before we understand this is not something which can all be changed overnight, but with each of our commitment to doing something we will make an impact.

For our suggested next step why not stat to reduce your own plastic waste? We have an email system, where we will email you each month with three ideas for the month for you to choose and implement one that month, these emails recommend a simple swap outs for each for the bathroom, kitchen or other categories for those with pets, children or other!

Click here to sign up to our reducing plastic waste emails

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