How we deal with our waste will be the hot topic in the coming years as we approach 2030 and the UN Sustainability targets. The UK is behind many EU partners when it comes to recycling and reduction in landfill, which may (or may not) surprise you.

How do we deal with waste? Where does it go? Do we care?

In most cases the answers are probably 1) don’t know 2) don’t know 3) not really.

Did you know that we ship waste to Sweden, for incineration in their plants, as their recycling programme is so advanced they have a shortfall in waste for energy?

Are we helping them out, or just sweeping our dirt under the rug?

Energy from Waste plants may be seen by the government as the future, and there are around 40 such plants in the UK, but does anyone know anything about them? Do we know what the process is, from the point at which we throw something away? How about before that, from before we buy?

Again probably a no and shame on all of us. We need to properly engage in this (very boring) subject, to immerse ourselves in it so it is second nature if we are to tackle what is a mounting pile of crap.

The UK has missed its targets and is too reliant on exporting waste. China, for example, issued an import ban on certain waste materials and the UK has been left to find another dumping ground.

As recently as February 2020 there was a UK House of Commons debate on the environmental impact of Energy from Waste, in particular from incineration. 

Environmental groups point out that there is no incentive here to reduce waste, there is not enough done to reuse/recycle as much as we can before incineration and it is a barrier to a circular economy.

What is put in a black bin bag is not being sifted through to determine what can be salvaged and what cannot, therefore landfill or incinerated. There appears to be no appetite to repurpose and save materials before they become waste.

Maybe it’s time we dealt with our own mess for a change and, to do that, we need a dramatic change in attitude from everyone from Government, local council, business and also you & me.

What we put in bags isn’t being dealt with – we need to accept responsibility for what we throw out and how we do it.

The council’s collection policy needs to be forensically reviewed, along with partnerships with private waste firms, to determine if we can ‘do it better’.

The government needs to accept there hasn’t been the appetite to take on this challenge and resolve to do better. 

It is estimated that up to six times more waste plastic, food and textiles gets incinerated than recycled. That is a disgrace.

Sweden has spent four decades putting in place a recycling scheme that is second nature to its citizens, put they engage with it.

We have ten years to meet the targets of 2030. Unless our citizens accept their part we have already missed that date.

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