Set up by the Global Recycling Foundation, the day takes place every year on the 18th of March. With every passing year we are hit with stark reminders about the effects of global warming across the globe, and days like today are imperative to remind us of the importance of playing our part. The theme for this year is "Recycling Heroes”. From the individual recycling plastic bottles and cans to the corporate initiatives that some of the biggest and most well-known brands take part in, today is a reminder that we are all capable of being recycling heroes - we are all responsible for the care of our planet. To fully combat climate change, we need to see recycling as an essential industry. But why is it so important?
By now, everyone is aware of global warming but not everyone fully understands the role that recycling plays in preventing it. Leading scientific, political, and cultural voices all point to climate change being the biggest threat to life on earth and express the urgency to make the changes to stop it. It is easy to lose sight of the individual differences we can all make, and that’s where Global Recycling Day comes in.
From reducing waste to saving energy, recycling can drastically slow down the process of climate change.
The earth’s natural resources, which have steadily been depleted throughout history, are finite. But if we recycle items rather than use more raw materials than necessary, we will preserve these natural resources that are at risk of disappearing forever. This is one of the pillars of the circular economy. Reducing demand on raw material and repurposing/reusing material already in use.
Similarly, recycling uses less energy than extracting, processing, and transporting the raw materials used to make new products. The energy saved here can be used in incredible ways – recycling just ONE aluminium can save enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for around 4 hours. Now that is something we all can do! As a heavily consumer driven society, placing a greater focus on recycling would mean that instead of throwing away items we have bought, we put them back into circulation which makes sure that none of the materials, time, or energy used to create them in the first place is wasted.
Reducing waste through initiatives such as our ‘Zero to Landfill’ policy doesn’t just save energy and raw materials; it also helps stop the overuse of landfills. These release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are in turn one of the leading causes of global warming. If recycling can prevent, or at the least slow down, this overreliance on landfills then that will cut down the level of greenhouse gases, and in turn help to stop the impact of climate change.
Without the focus on the importance of recycling and days like today, there is a very real risk of irreversible damage being done across the world. Here in the UK, landfill space is, and has been for years now, running out. If we don’t recycle our waste or refuse to adapt to ideas such as a circular economy, then we will only continue to contribute to the level of pollution the ozone layer is facing – leading to natural disasters such as wildfires and flash floods. That level of damage and disaster can be prevented. But only if we reduce our waste.
The adoption of a circular economy is key in stopping the damage that is done to the earth through the gathering of its resources. If we were to continue to exploit these resources, not only will they run out (current predictions believe that we will run out of fossil fuel by 2050), but the damage done during the process of extracting the resources through mining, fracking and quarrying will cause further water and air pollution.
We work with industries such as construction, infrastructure, marine, energy and aquaculture to help us fully understand the environmental opportunities and challenges of these businesses. At least 10% of all plastics manufactured end up in the ocean. Because of this, the fishing and shipping industries have reportedly suffered losses of £262million and £200million respectively*. The cost to businesses without any intervention will be even greater.
*The Green Living Guy, 5 Terrible things that happen when you don’t recycle - (https://greenlivingguy.com/2019/06/5-terrible-things-that-happen-when-you-dont-recycle/, 4 June 2019).
If we can all, individually and collectively, reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean, the amount of waste that goes to landfills, and the amount of natural resources that are unnecessarily squandered through their current economic life cycle, then we can make a big step towards stopping the damage done by climate change. Big change starts with individual commitment. That is why World Recycling Day 2021 is focused on “heroes” and why the circular economy starts with each of us.