5 waste myths – BUSTED!

By OVO Energy Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rubbish is pretty uninteresting, we get that. But with the UK generating enough trash to fill Lake Windermere every 9 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?


1. You must 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 within an inch of their lives, or remove labels.

If you have ‘comingled’ recycling – where 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 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 in another. So easy, a child could do it!

It’s worth checking 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.


2. It’s pointless recycling food waste – it breaks down naturally

False! A single apple core left under a tree in a forest is fine, but 10m tonnes of food waste squashed into dwindling landfill sites is most certainly not – that’s how much the UK bins every year. This food could be reused or composted. Food waste needs oxygen to biodegrade naturally, but it’s starved of this when it’s packed into landfill, Instead, it produces highly potent greenhouse gas methane. Check out Love Food Hate Waste's tips for reducing food waste here.


3. 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. It’s still up to individuals to use the right bags for the job though. If your recycle bags aren’t delivered, ask your local authority where you can collect some. The current target is to recycle 50% of all household waste by 2020. You can see the latest figures, and details on exactly what goes where, here.

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


4. 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 less 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, 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 £89 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.

5. 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. A recent initiative called the Courtauld Commitment has seen scores of retailers pledge to reduce their packaging. Yes, food packaging is bad, and more needs to be done to reduce plastic waste, but investing in research to extend food shelf live is also vital in reducing our carbon footprint. A tonne of food packaging can create between 1 and 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions – but every tonne of wasted food emits more than 3 tonnes worth!

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