Recycling All Around Us

Recycling All Around Us

The events of twenty years ago, to some of us seem like yesterday, obviously, to some others it could be half a lifetime away, but 1995 doesn’t seem far off, whichever way you look at it. The increase in recycling between then and now has been impressive, whichever way you cut it.

This year saw the launch of eBay, Jarvis Cocker and Pulp chart topped with “Common people”, and Toy story stormed the cinemas. Not long ago, perhaps. The UK recycled around 7.5% of household rubbish, a fact that may be far more staggering than any of the others.

This time also saw the beginnings of a shower of EU directives, which local authorities took up in a variety of ways for a number of different reasons, some truly “green”, some environmentally cheerful, some because it was what they were told to do, and others because of the possible fines and taxes if they didn’t.

It was a rather piecemeal affair from local authority to local authority, but they all began to introduce, in one form or another, recycling schemes, which is when we all started to sort our household waste into this or that bag, box or bin.

It was this sorting of waste that focused the idea of recycling into the minds of almost everyone, and the figure of 7.5% of recycled household waste, is now around 44.9%, and looks likely to achieve the EU target of 50% by the year 2020.

Landfill, which in 1995 was the end of the line for 80% of household waste in 1995, has been subjected to increase after increase in landfill taxes, balancing the concepts of recycling with economic reality. By making landfill so expensive (it currently stands at around£100 per ton), it has made recycling economically viable.

In many cases, more than viable, in fact, some have become very profitable indeed. The changes have seen recycling grow into an industry that employs more than 30,000 people and generates more than £10bn in sales.

It has meant that waste products are now commodities, with a real value, a tonne of aluminium cans may be worth £800 when sold into the recycling market. A tonne of waste paper worth £100, the list is long.

The long term aim is to achieve a nil-waste economy which would be self-sustainable, resource efficient and only disposes of material that has nothing what-so-ever left to offer.

There will always be materials that can go nowhere else but landfill, and modern sites are pre-prepared within their foundations, that on site completion, methane can be harvested as an economically viable by-product.