UK and Ireland show the greatest increase in recycling out of all EU member states

March 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

The UK and Ireland showed a dramatic rise in recycling rates during the first 10 years of the new millennium, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Despite getting off to a bad start with only 13% of household waste recycled in 2001, the UK now resides nearer the top of the European charts at 43% in 2013.

Experts say that this puts us on form to reach the EEA directive of 50% of recycling all waste by 2017 three years ahead of schedule. Wales is even further ahead, recycling 54% of household waste and already exceeding the European directive by 4%.

In 2010, out of all EU member states Austria continued to hold the top place at 62.8% while Germany (61.8%) stole second from Belgium (57.6%). Meanwhile Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria continued to languish around the 1% mark, with the latter recording 0% recycling of waste.

Executive director of the EEA Jacqueline McGlade said that the current demand for recycled products should make a clear economic case for recycling, especially in those countries where such resources are going to waste.

Recycling conserves valuable resources and can significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from municipal waste. Between 2001 and 2010, changes in the way waste is managed has prevented 38 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere in Norway, the UK and Switzerland alone.

According to the report, the widespread improvement in recycling rates is due to improvements in infrastructure and process, as well as emerging trends in using recycled materials. There has been much less progress in recycling organic waste however and the UK is still sending vast amounts of valuable resources to landfill – a clear case for home composting if you ever heard of it.

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Handy tips on recycling electrical items

March 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Anything requiring either batteries or mains power to operate is classified as an electrical or electronic item. When it becomes waste it is known as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment). In the UK alone we discard over a million tonnes of WEEE every year and the amount is growing.

If put into landfill, precious metals and plastic are wasted, doubly bad if you think about the impact mining for more metals has on the environment. More than ever, it’s important that we recycle correctly. Here’s how:

  • If you live in North London DHL and NWLA operate a scheme through which they collect and recycle your WEEE for free. You can’t get fairer than that! Find more info at 123 recycle for free.
  • Look out for manufacturer recycling schemes. Some will collect for free or a predefined charge, others require the equipment to be brought to a store.
  • Ask your council to collect it. They are legally bound to do so, but may charge a fee.
  • Take it to a recycling centre. The website Recycle Now allows you to enter your postcode, find your nearest centre and discover which items you can recycle both there and at your kerbside.
  • If it’s still working, donate your equipment to a charity shop or to another lucky citizen via the fantastic Freecycle network.
  • If you’re worried about not having a digital TV, there’s no need to throw your old set out. Any analogue TV can receive digital signals via a digital box.
  • You can even make money with unwanted electrical goods on sites such as eBay and Gumtree. Once you get it all together you may be surprised how much extra cash it adds up to.

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Ecover to recycle plastic waste from sea

March 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Ecover, the Belgian company known for its eco-cleaning products, recently announced that it will be creating new bottles for its products that will be made from plastic waste collected from the sea.

The company will use the plastic waste collected by fishermen trawling the sea, and then it will combine the recycled plastic with another type of plastic that is made using sugar cane. It is expecting to start selling products in the new plastic containers next year.

The company said that it would be working with Closed Loop Recycling, a plastic recycling company in the UK, as well as Waste Free Oceans. Fishing boats will be provided with special equipment to enable them to collect up to eight tonnes of plastic during each trawl. The waste will then be deposited at collection points and delivered to the Closed Loop Recycling plant in Dagenham for processing.

Philip Malmberg, the chief executive of Ecover, said that the company does not yet have a “definitive figure” on the amount of sea plastic that will be used in its new products, but confirmed that they would simply try to use “as much as is possible” depending on how much the fishermen collect.

Malmberg said that the company is “always pushing boundaries” when it comes to sustainability, and its focus on innovation means that it is now creating products that “deliver more than a nod to sustainability”. The company also claims that the new plastic will be the first fully recyclable and sustainable plastic, and confirmed that the costs of the process will not be passed onto consumers.

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Could landfill mining soon begin in Scotland?

March 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

As recycling becomes increasingly important across the UK, new ways of finding and recycling materials are emerging. One of the latest is the idea by the Scottish government to ‘mine’ old landfill sites for useful materials that can be recycled.

It has commissioned Zero Waste Scotland to carry out a study into how feasible the process of landfill mining will be. If it turns out to be a real possibility, Scotland could see landfill mining become a reality in the near future.

On the face of it, landfill mining makes perfect sense. It involves extracting recyclable materials such as metal and plastic from landfill sites to make use of them rather than leaving them as waste. At the same time, other items that are recovered during the process can be burned in incinerators to produce energy for homes. Other things that could be mined include mobile phones and computers, which often contain rare earth materials. A spokesman from Zero Waste Scotland said that landfill sites “could contain valuable recyclable materials”.

However, the idea is not without its critics. Some have said that it is much better to focus on recycling materials rather than digging them up, cleaning them and then recycling them, and that government money would be better spent educating the public about proper ways of recycling in the first place.

If it does go ahead, it is likely that the first landfill sites to be mined will be those dating back to the 1970s. Older landfill sites are a lot less likely to be suitable because the materials will probably be too degraded.

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Sweeping changes to household recycling laws rejected by Cardiff Judge

March 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

A Cardiff judge has rejected a legal motion to overhaul radically the way councils collect household waste in Britain. The move, lodged by seven different recycling firms and backed by green lobbyists such as Friends of the Earth, would have demanded that waste be collected in a minimum of five different bins. Metal, glass and plastic would have needed to be separated individually along with non-recyclable waste, garden refuse and organic matter.

The Campaigners for Real Recycling maintain that the complex rules are needed to meet the new EU Waste Framework Directive which came into operation in 2010. However Mr Justice Hickinbottom ruled at Cardiff’s High Court that UK councils are free to decide how to organise their own recycling schemes.

After the judgement was made public, DEFRA went on record to say, “This ruling shows our interpretation of the Waste Framework Directive is right.” However they recently conceded that a high proportion of household waste goes into landfill as it is too contaminated to be processed by recycling plants.

Currently, four out of ten UK households are required to separate waste into four different bins separating metal, plastic, paper and glass. The Brussels directive states that “waste shall be collected separately if technically, environmentally and economically practicable, and shall not be mixed with other waste or other material with different properties”. The subsequent ruling means that the decision on how to collect waste remains at a local level and conforms to EU rules as long as waste can be collected in a usable state. Mr Justice Hickinbottom maintained that his decision was made in order to reflect the differing circumstances present in communities across the nation.

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