Sunday, 7 February 2010

Greenhouse effects: recycling

Tony Juniper

The UK is finally getting serious about recycling. Many local authorities are sending upwards of half our household waste to recycling facilities. All the stuff we put in the bin originated from a natural resource, from a forest or productive soil, ore-bearing rocks or an oil field. The waste we generate is also created using energy and water.
This is the main point of recycling: to reduce the need to take resources from nature, and to save the energy and water that would otherwise be needed to make new products from raw materials.
Much of our recycling comes back in the form of new products. Have a look at You’d be surprised how much of your junk could get a new lease of life. Our newspapers (including the one you are reading now) contain, on average, 80% recycled fibre. Green bottles have about 85% recycled content. Drinks cans have a turnaround time of as little as six weeks between being dropped in your recycling bin and arriving back in the shop as a new can.
Much of the plastic we increasingly recycle comes back in new forms.
It’s made into bin liners and carrier bags, bottles, flooring, window frames, insulation, fencing, garden furniture, water butts, composters, seed trays, fleeces, filling for sleeping bags, and office accessories, among other things. We have just bought a 1,000-litre water butt made of recycled plastic.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme is a government-backed initiative that provides a national guide to products made from recycled goods. Its website,, offers information on everything from electrical items to pet bedding, and lists all sorts of products, from chairs and tables to fencing and paving.
One product that caught my eye is the Buzzibag. It’s a beanbag-type thing that, on the inside, has 100% recycled polystyrene beans, while the outside is made using 100% recycled PET plastic bottles. They look great. Prices start at £156;
The greenest thing of all, of course, is to use less stuff in the first place. So try that too.
Tony Juniper is an environmental campaigner and former director of Friends of the Earth;