The downsides of recycling (yes, really – it’s not all good)

Last week we wrote about the many advantages of recycling.

This week looks at some of the disadvantages.

Recycling can lead some people to a false sense of doing the right thing. This can make them less careful about what is purchased, leading to the generation of more unnecessary waste.

There are also drawbacks to recycling that should encourage us to reuse recyclables as often as possible before binning them, and to think twice before purchasing something wasteful, even if it is labelled as ‘recyclable’.

Recycling creates low-quality jobs which involves workers, gowned and gloved with face masks, sifting through rubbish and possibly coming across toxins.

Operating and maintaining recycling equipment is costly. Profits depend on the recycling company being able to find a suitable market for the separated out materials.

In some cases, our ‘recycling’ is exported to a country which does not have a good health and safety system for its workers. It takes fuel (energy) to get the recycling there too and that is very wasteful.

Manufacturers need to play their part by providing goods with less packaging.

What packaging is used should be not only the minimum required to protect the product, but made of materials that can be easily recycled.

Oxfordshire is currently ranked as the 4th best recycling county in England. Well done us.

England as a whole, however, currently only recycles approximately 45 per cent of its waste. What is needed is a consistent, national recycling scheme, adopted by all councils.

We also need innovative approaches to dealing with our waste. Perhaps we should start thinking of waste as untapped resources. Then we might be more careful before disposing of it.

We need to change our thinking about purchases, being sure it is necessary, rather than just because it is fashionable. This applies to clothing, furniture and furnishings, ornaments etc. There are many good-quality items available in places like Oxfam, Bernardos and Sue Ryder. Older furniture is often made of good-quality wood, unlike much of our modern furniture which consists of chipboard with a veneer of good wood to make it look like the real thing.

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