Five waste myths – BUSTED!

By Rachel England Wednesday 25 September 2013

Waste myths

Rubbish is pretty uninteresting, we get that. But with the UK generating enough trash to fill London’s Albert Hall every two hours (more shocking facts here), it’s also a pretty big problem, so it helps to know the score. Below are five of the biggest waste myths around rubbish and recycling. How many have you fallen for?

You have to laboriously clean and sort all your recycling for it to be of any use

False! Of course you should give cans and jars a good rinse before popping them in your recycling bag or box, but you needn’t scrub them to within an inch of their lives, nor do you need to remove labels.

If you have a commingled recycling collection – that is, all your stuff goes into one single bag – then you needn’t sort anything at all. Just make sure you only include items as detailed on the bag itself (different local authorities will accept different things). If you have ‘kerbside sort’ – i.e. you put your recyclables into a box or number of boxes – then it’s simply a question of putting card and paper together in one pile, and glass, cans and if applicable plastic into another. It’s so easy a child could do it!

It’s worth taking the time to see exactly what your council does accept. Another long-held myth is that Tetra Pak juice cartons and black ready-meal tubs can’t be recycled, but this isn’t true at all. Many councils do accept them, but check with yours first.

It’s pointless recycling food waste since it breaks down naturally

False! A single apple core left under a tree in a forest is fine, but 6.7 million tonnes of food waste squashed into dwindling landfill sites is most certainly not – that’s how much the UK produces every year. Food waste needs oxygen to biodegrade naturally, but it’s starved of this when it’s packed into landfill, so instead produces highly potent greenhouse gas methane. Check out Love Food Hate Waste's tips for reducing food waste here.

Recycling ends up in the same place as rubbish anyway

False! Stuff in black bin bags goes to landfill, while items in your recycling bag or box are taken to MRFs (materials recovery facilities), where it’s sorted and then processed accordingly. In London alone last year, 97% of items sent for recycling actually got recycled. The remaining 3% was only rejected because it couldn’t actually be recycled, or was in too poor condition to do so.

Want to know more about the recycling process? Check out our helpful tips on recycling!

Recycling costs more money than sending rubbish to landfill

False! While the process of recycling an item is more expensive than simply chucking it in landfill, it actually works out a lot cheaper to go to the effort of giving it a new lease of life. A single tonne of recyclable material costs a local council around £100 to collect and process, and results in lots of new paper, glass and plastic being created. This is put back into the manufacturing supply chain, thus preventing the need for new virgin materials to be purchased and processed, which costs money. If that single tonne is bin-bound, though, it’ll cost around £130 in fees and taxes to put it in landfill, and all of that perfectly useful material will have gone to waste. Every penny spent on landfilling is a waste of public money.

Food packaging is enemy #1

Partially false! For a long time, excess packaging on food in supermarkets created a major waste headache. Little glass pots of jam, wrapped in cellophane, then displayed in a cardboard box wrapped in even more cellophane – that sort of thing. But in recent years packaging has become more refined and stores are finding ways to do more with less. Plus, an initiative called the Courtauld Commitment has seen scores of retailers sign up to a pledge to reduce the amount of packaging they produce.

What’s causing waves right now, though, are findings that suggest that food packaging is actually playing an important role in preventing waste. A new campaign called The Good, The Bad and The Spudly indicates that by keeping produce in its original packaging, it’ll stay fresher for longer, so you’re more likely to eat it, not waste it. According to researchers, more than 10 times more resources are invested in making the food than in the packaging that’s used to protect it, so now attention it turning to reducing the waste of food, rather than the packaging around it. Find out more here!

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