Did you know that China processes the majority of the world’s recycling? Coz I didn’t – at least until they stopped processing it on the 1st January this year. In a move they announced last July, China has placed a ban on importing 24 categories of solid waste that they had previously receiving from countries like Australia, Ireland, Germany, the UK, and the US. The ban affects over 619,000 tonnes of material annually in Australia alone – material that now no longer has a home, or a way to be processed. Countries without a local circular economy established are currently seeing collected recycling pile up in depots with nowhere to go- some areas are already having to divert previously recyclable materials to the landfill, with Australia’s main company also threatening to cease taking recyclables in the near future.
What does this mean?
I don’t know about you, but recycling has always been a comforting middle ground for me. I dutifully clean all of my bottles and jars, removing the labels before putting them out with the recycling. Knowing that plastic basically never degrades, recycling correctly eased my guilty conscience when I slipped up on my low-waste path. After all, recycling isn’t really rubbish, is it?
With the implementation of the Chinese ban, the recycling placebo may no longer be an option, and the amount of waste being dumped into landfills across the globe could be about to skyrocket.
Cue our Wall-E future
So what can you do?
Quit the plastic bags
‘Scrunchable’ plastic has never been recyclable through your traditional curb-side collecting, so now (more than ever) it’s time to ditch the bag. Keep a reusable bag or two in the bottom of your bag for emergencies, and take produce bags along with your canvas bags to the supermarket to avoid those plastic ‘eco’ (blargh) alternatives. Seriously, there is no excuse to handle a plastic bag every again.
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse
“I’ll just carry them”
“Can you put them all together?”
“This one is good to use again”
It’s time to change how you think about waste. While some trash is unavoidable, the amount you create is always negotiable – practice refusing extra packaging, reducing the amount you purchase, and reusing what you already have. You’ll be surprised how quickly it can become a new way of life!
Unfortunately I don’t think we have the luxury of blissful ignorance anymore, which isn’t always fun. You’ve sworn of styrofoam, but a paper coffee cup is fine, right? Despite how ‘recyclable’ a cup claims to be, the chances are that it isn’t. You’d never take a plastic bag these days, but surely a paper one is fine? In a pinch, yes – but take a moment to consider the materials involved in producing that paper bag, the plastic used to wrap it for shipping, and the fossil fuels used to transport it. Take some time to dive down the rabbit-hole of environmentalism – you may not decide to act on everything you discover, but educating yourself is the first step to changing the world.
What else can I do?
I’ve written a few posts on the first steps I took to cut my personal waste (you can check them out here and here), but there are bloggers out there who have written way more than me on the subject- some great places to start would be Trash is for Tossers, Litterless, and Going Zero Waste. From there, it’s time to explore the big, wide, web, my little butterflies! Googling ‘zero waste…’ or ‘plastic free alternative to…’ is a great first start to anything you’re struggling to cut from your rubbish pile. Believe me, if you’re struggling with it, someone else has too (and they’ve probably written a blog post on it). Being aware of the problem is the first step, and being open to change is the second. Where you take it from there is up to you.