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11 Jun 2019

Recycling: why you can't just throw anything in the collection bin

For many years the recycling collected from households in the UK and other Western countries has been exported. This strategy has enabled these countries to carry on without much thought about how consumers purchase goods and dispose of all the unwanted packaging and containers.

As long as there are regular collections for recycling paper, metals and plastics, little consideration is given to where this waste goes and what happens to it.

But this now has to change.

Several years ago, China woke up to the environmental consequences of having the world’s recycling dumped on it to sort, process and use in manufacturing new goods. Tougher Chinese regulations came into place in 2018, aimed at improving the quality of the recycling it imported.

This should have been a wake-up call to the Western world to change the way that recycling was collected and processed in order to improve the quality. But nothing changed, apart from the destination of the low-quality recycling – instead of exporting to China, the recycling was exported to several Eastern European countries and an assortment of other Asian countries, including Malaysia and the Philippines.

A dispute lasting several years over low-quality recycling that was exported by Canada to the Philippines recently saw the waste repatriated, and other countries are also set to follow this example. This solves nothing, though – this recycling has to go somewhere...

Dr Christine Cole, of the School of Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering, discusses why we should change our focus towards collecting clean, high-quality recyclable materials, segregated by type in The Conversation.

Read the full article here.