First of all, I would like to address a crucial question that will help us understand the importance of recycling. Where does all our waste go? If it has been properly separated in the recycling process, glass, paper, metal and every material that can be reused find their way to a recycling plant or a materials recovery facility. But if this service is not available, all of our waste ends up in the same place – a huge hole in the ground where everything is dumped, where toxic chemicals are filtered through the soil. So what might seem like a harmless battery or an unimportant plastic bottle, can lead to disastrous effects on our ecosystem and our health.
Because of the rain and wind, the waste that is dumped here finds its way to the nearest river, lake or sea. According to the Plastic Oceans Foundation, every year there is around 8 million tons of plastic dumped into our oceans. This, of course, has devastating consequences for our environment and our well-being. Waste found in polluted water can contaminate it leading to several health problems, like kidney damage and rashes. It can also cause the death of marine life, altering the ecosystem.
The Oxford dictionary defines recycling as the act of converting waste into reusable materials. Countries like Germany are the ones setting an example in recycling policies. Here, citizens can recycle their plastic bottles in return for money, so they are not only helping the environment but they are also helping their pockets. Sweden is another leading country when it comes to environmental issues; they are currently recycling around 99% of all their household waste. The waste here can be composted, given a second life or turned into biogas.
Taking into account the amount of plastic waste that is polluting our oceans, why are there still countries that do not have implemented a recycling policy? What can citizens do if they live in a country where waste management is not a priority issue?
Having a recycling policy is extremely important to protect the environment, but if you live in a country that does not have one, do not worry. You can still make sure your plastic waste is not finding its way to the ocean.
You can cut back on your plastic consumption and embrace a zero waste lifestyle. This, of course, does not have to be an expensive change as your local supermarket probably offers the option of buying groceries without the need for a plastic container.
But if you do not want to go all the way through it, you can make a few changes that would not take that much effort, like using your own tote bag when shopping, using reusable straws instead of plastic straws, etc.
You can also take your plastic waste directly to private recycling companies, or give it a second life. In Mexico, after the devastating earthquake, students from the Ibero University came up with a plan to build houses using plastic bottles. This not only reduced the production costs, but it also avoided having tons of plastic bottles polluting the environment.
Even though this might seem like a huge challenge, embracing little changes in our daily routine can really make a difference in the environment. You just have to think twice before using that disposable plastic spoon.