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Zero Waste Week – Towards a more sustainable future

Did you know that the UK could fill Lake Windermere with rubbish in only 8 months? Shocking, isn’t it? Or that nappies can take 500 years to decompose? Or that we throw away 7 million tonnes of consumable food and drink every year? It’s crazy to think that we produce that amount of rubbish. The UK as a country is striving to produce less waste by means of recycling. There have already been changes with the 5p plastic bag charge, which has really taken off.

DEFRA put together a survey that compared the recycling percentage from the year 2013-2014 to 2014-2015, and has ranked the local authorities from highest to lowest percentage of recycling in 2015.

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From this information we can see the local authority who recycled the most in the UK was South Oxfordshire, with a whopping 67.3%, 1.5% more than the previous year. Wales was the country that performed the best overall, as Denbighshire came top with 65.9% and Wrexham last with 56.4%. When we compare that to the worst of England (Isles of Scilly with 19.2%) or Scotland (Shetland Islands with only 9%) it is a really positive result. Northern Ireland scored 59% at its highest in Banbridge, and 30% in Strabane at its lowest.

It doesn’t seem a coincidence that the areas where recycling is at its lowest happen to be isles, perhaps due to the lack of space to create facilities. However, the percentage of recycling rates depends on several factors such as kerbside collection, what is collected and secondary factors such as demographics, in which case it is not directly linked to the local authority. WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) found that areas where food waste was collected generally had higher recycling rates. Additionally, the size of the containers provided and how frequent waste was collected also influenced the percentage of recycling.

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Zero Waste

While recycling is a great initiative, there is a growing wave of people who is striving towards a Zero Waste lifestyle. The Zero Waste International Alliance defines the term as “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use”.

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San Francisco and Kamikatsu are role models in terms of sustainability. Currently, 80% of town waste gets reused, recycled or composted; the rest goes to landfill. By 2020 the goal is to be 100% zero waste. San Francisco collects organic material and turns it into compost which is then sold to local organic farmers and vineyards. Composting means that less organic material ends up on landfills and it reduces the production of very potent greenhouse gases, ultimately contributing to slowing down climate change.

Meanwhile, in Kamikatsu, they have gone from incinerating all trash to having a recycling centre with 34 different categories. An initiative that received a lot of resistance from neighbours at first, this activity has been normalised and the centre has specialised employees who help citizens, and there is also a shop where residents can bring in and take items for free. You can find more information on both stories by visiting Seeker Stories on Youtube.

Are you inspired by Rachelle Strauss‘ lifestyle? Have you adopted the 5Rs? Let us know by leaving a comment or tweeting us @Preloved. If you want to share your tips, who not write in and have share them on the blog?!


Zoe Allison

Zoe Allison

Writer and expert