Categories
environment recycle reduce reuse

5 reasons why recycling isn’t the answer…

I bought a take out coffee at the weekend. I was manning a nappy info stall at a local nearly new sale, and had had the foresight to take my reusable coffee cup with me. I popped across the road to the well-known coffee outlet and ordered my coffee and handed over my cup. Unfortunately, my cup didn’t fit underneath their machine, so I watched in astonishment as the barista picked up a disposable cup to dispense my coffee and pour it into my reusable cup. I expressed my displeasure – why could she not have used one of their pot cups and put it in the washer? “Oh!” she said, “it’s OK, we recycle the paper cups!”

This attitude seems all pervasive. It seems that we don’t have to worry about what waste we produce because “oh well, it will be recycled.” People are even looking at ways to recycle disposable nappies as a way to remove the impetus to use cloth.

No. Recycling is at best third on the waste reduction pyramid. It comes after REDUCE and REUSE (but others would argue REPAIR and REPURPOSE need to go in there too). Here’s why:

  1. Recycling still uses huge amounts of energy and water. Admittedly, depending on what you are recycling, between 45% and 75% less energy then creating the product new, but still huge amounts of energy;
  2. Recycling doesn’t produce like for like quality. Whilst aluminium can be melted down and just made into more pop cans, most raw materials are acutally down cycled rather than recycled. Recycled glass tends to be slightly coloured and recycled plastic is at best discoloured and at worst is downcycled into something else such as infill for roads or “eco bricks”
  3. Recycling is cost inefficient and largely subsidised by local government (source Popular Mechanics );
  4. We do not have the capacity to deal with the amount of recycling we generate in this country and much is shipped overseas to countries such as Turkey, Malaysia and Poland which is a climate change problem (source The Guardian )
  5. Much of the waste we think we are recycling, may actually ending up in landfill either here or overseas. Recyclable waste that is dirty (or “contaminated”) cannot be recycled, so is diverted to land fill.

Now, obviously, I’m not telling you not to recycle. But don’t think of it as your first port of call when choosing whether something is good for the environment. Think first REDUCE (do I need it, do I already have something else that will do the job, can I borrow it?) then think REUSE (take a refillable bottle or coffee cup, reuse a carrier, use a cloth nappy, cloth san-pro) then, and only then, think can I recycle it.

Categories
Nappies recycle reduce reuse

Are cloth nappies really greener?

 

Grow Up Green (24 of 43)

 

I am frequently asked “are cloth nappies really better for the environment when you take into consideration all the energy you waste washing them?”

The short answer is “Yes, they are.”

A 2008 report by the Environment Agency found that if sensible approaches were taken to washing nappies, using reusable over disposable would reduce your carbon footprint by between 16 and 40%. You can read that report here

To obtain the 40% figure you need to wash at no higher than 60 degrees C, wash a full load (not necessarily of nappies, other items can be washed too) and pass nappies down to subsequent children or sell them on.

This figure only takes into consideration the manufacture and transportation of the nappies, it does not address the landfill issue. It is estimated that 400,000 tonnes of disposable nappies head to landfill each year (source: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/science-technology/st1nappyalliance.pdf). This obviously causes carbon emmission issues as the nappies breakdown, uses up valuable land to fill with rubbish, causes transportation issues of carrying that amount of nappies to landfill and finally the problem of human excreta ending up in landfill where it might pollute aquifers (I address this final issue here). Most cloth nappy users will use their nappies for multiple children and/or pass or sell them on to others when they no longer need them, meaning one set of 24 cloth nappies may have diapered 3 or more children before ending up in landfill (or textile recycling!)

Finally, it does not take into consideration all the chemicals and raw materials used in the manufacture of disposable nappies. For example, one cup of crude oil goes into each disposable nappy, and at a time when we are rapidly approaching (or some might say have passed) the point of Peak Oil, where we are running out of this resource that has many other more useful purposes than to be peed and pooed on, it is a serious consideration.

So in summary, yes cloth nappies really are greener than most disposables – they have a smaller carbon footprint, less waste ending up in landfill and uses fewer of the earth precious resources. So go on, give them a try!

Categories
recycle

The art of refilling…

I used to hate it when a bottle of hand soap or multipurpose cleaner ran out. Although the bottles are easy to recycle, the tops, the bits that pump the soap are not. I used to feel guilty everytime I put one in the bin, as I hate waste! I particularly hate plastic waste as it doesn’t biodegrade.

Then one day I had an epiphany. Refill the bottles! It wasn’t rocket science, quite obvious when you think about it, but there you have it.

My first foray was not overly successful. I ordered a refill bottle of my favourite multipurpose cleaner from my wholesaler. Only, I hadn’t read the description properly. Thinking I was ordering 5 litres of Ecover multi-surface cleaner, imagine my surprise when 15 litres turned up! Now imagine trying to tip a bottle big enough to hold 15 litres to pour one litre into my existing bottle. AND I had to order a special tap to do it.

I made a mess, and I have enough multipurpose cleaner to last a couple of years I think!

Imagine my relief then when I found these little bottles of cleaning product, add to an existing bottle and top up with water and you’re good to go. Eco2life are a greener choice in cleaning products for your home and available in multipurpose cleaner, floor cleaner, glass cleaner and bath and shower, you need never throw a cleaner bottle away again.bathroomrefilldisp_1(1)

My favourite find though is this Lavender and Geranium Handwash. Vegan, BUAV approved and paraben free, it is green and gorgeous smelling. You can buy a pump action bottle of it, but I just bought the refill. It came in a little pouch, with a sticker for you to put on the bottle you are using so you know what’s in it. It’s also available in Aloe and Tea Tree.lavenderhwbotdisp_1

 

So what about you? Do you refill, or just throw out?