What About Trash?: Part 1: The Broken System

What About Trash?: Part 1: The Broken System

Out of the 3 Rs, which one should take priority? Is there a preference to this? Does it matter?

Images from doing a web search

Recently I spoke at the British Embassy (government agency), Syntech Chemicals (private company), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (higher education establishment) & St Joseph International (13 year olds) on changing their organisation. I asked them the same question and got different responses which is perfectly fine as there is confusion on the web and images we see.

It is interesting to hear from people at the many marathons I’ve spoken at that they practice the 3Rs because they recycle. When I tell them that process is broken, many do not believe this (or perhaps do not want to hear this).  Obviously Recycle is like being able to feel “guilt-free” for generating trash and throwing it away.  Reduce and Reuse is more effort.

Here’s a teaching aid I found whilst conducting my web search. What is odd is where Recycle is placed and how it is treated in the text. Can you see what I see?

Teacher 3Rs

The Broken System

Plastic is the baddie but is the issue single use plastic or is it just our poor handling of trash that is the issue?

In 2017, National Geographic reported that 91% of the world’s plastic has not been recycled. Here is an extraction about plastic from that article:

Of the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. Of that, only nine percent has been recycled. The vast majority—79 percent—is accumulating in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter. Meaning: at some point, much of it ends up in the oceans, the final sink.

You just have to look at the Municipal Solid Waste stats around the world to know it is pretty clear that Nat Geo’s headlines “A Whopping 91% of Plastic Isn’t Recycled” is real.  No society recycles plastic well. Around the world plastic recycling averages to pretty low in comparison to glass, paper and cans. Plastic recycling in Europe @30%, USA & Asia @8%, and even then Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand and some Asian countries send a size-able chunk of their “recyclables” to mainly 5 developing nations to process. In 2015, these same countries were reported to being the top 5 nations to dump plastic into the ocean: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ref: 2015 EcoWatch and recently 2018 Forbes

Worldwide has been made aware of the plastic issue and at the end of 2017, a UN agreement was signed by nearly 200 nations to reduce the amount of plastic that enters the ocean (currently standing at an estimated 8 million tonnes)

Recycling and passing the buck onto other countries certainly is not going to reduce plastic entering the ocean and is probably why bioplastics is set to become popular in our need to have convenience.

Have a look at the “recyclables” over a month and identify which one is the most common between plastic, glass, cans and paper/cardboard.

So are you still sticking with the R(s) you chose?

Next post: Changing Behaviour


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