If you follow us on social media you may be aware that Studio Bark has committed to a year of zero waste to landfill and incineration for 2018. This first month has revealed a lot about how waste is managed and the uphill challenges facing the UK. We were fascinated by a visit to Bywaters, our local recycling centre and a forward-thinking waste management organisation, where we learned a great deal, changing how we recycle and how we understand the management of waste.
Since our initial ‘zero waste to landfill’ pledge at the end of 2017, we’ve realised that the subject of recycling is far from black and white. This month we’ve really got to grips with what our initial pledge means in practice:
Having found out that much of our non-recyclable waste goes to ‘energy from waste’ incinerators we altered our pledge to ‘zero waste to landfill and incineration’.
The waste recycling industry is global and political. Waste management centres are important stepping stones, collecting and sorting our waste before selling it on to material specific facilities. Centres like Bywaters, operating best practice waste management, hold agreements with reprocessors and recyclers abroad to ensure that any recyclable materials that they sell are treated as a valuable commodity. However, not all recycling plants do the same, making it difficult to find out where our recyclable waste actually ends up. Worryingly, this report suggests that once recycling is shipped from our shores it effectively goes off-radar and can end up in landfill abroad.
Whether certain materials are recycled is a question of economics, so what’s recycled one day, and in one location, may not be the next. If the price of crude oil – used in the manufacture of plastic – is high, it incentivises recycling of waste plastic. Conversely, when the price of crude oil drops the financial incentive to recycle become less compelling.
It would seem the only way we can actually guarantee zero waste to landfill is to generate zero waste. Despite these complexities, there are some general rules of thumb and Bywaters have been helping us find out find out what can and cannot be recycled.