Guest blog by Gilly Carr, Founder of Luxecycled
Growing up I was always very aware of the need to reuse things. We didn’t have a lot of money and my mum, like a lot of people having been brought up during the war, was very conscious of the need to be thrifty. Also being an artist, she was very resourceful and would often come up with some very inventive uses for our unwanted stuff.
Following in her footsteps, I studied art at Uni and have been a designer maker most of my life. I’ve sold on artisan platforms such as Etsy, Folksy and Notonthehighstreet.com but after one particularly busy Christmas I realised I was ordering large quantities of new fabric at the same time as donating my family’s used clothes to charity. It suddenly didn’t add up.
I was making a range of Scandi-inspired Christmas decorations at the time but realised that the expensive gingham fabric I used was the same as that made into some men’s shirts, so I started buying these high quality cotton shirts from charity shops and made my decorations from these. This inevitably got me thinking, If I was doing this surely there must be many others, but where to find them?
And so the idea for Luxecycled: the recycled marketplace was born. We felt inspired not only to support small businesses and traditional crafts but because we felt it was the best way to show how used materials can be ‘born again’ and become the products of tomorrow. Above all, it would be a creative way to make use of waste and to encourage more people to buy and make products from recycled and reclaimed items.
We’ve found some amazing products to stock, including wallets made from bicycle inner tubes, leather bags made from saddles and sofas, clothing from plastic bottles, furniture from old pallets and are constantly amazed and inspired by such creativity!
Why Recycling Matters
Recycling is one of the easiest and most pro-active ways to help protect the planet. If it sometimes feels overwhelming to read about the diminishing natural world, polluted seas and the increasing greenhouse gas emissions, there is simple positive action we can take every day to help.
Just by reducing waste, recycling our rubbish properly and by making better choices on what we buy and how we shop we can all contribute to a better, healthier environment
But although we know what we should do, how much do we really know of the facts and figures behind it and exactly how does recycling help?
There are 5 main areas of concern around waste and the reasons for our need to reduce and recycle:
Pollution and climate change
Conservation of resources
Pollution and climate change
Modern society has an insatiable appetite for brand new things but producing new products requires a huge amount of fresh resources, manpower and energy. Recycling the old and used reduces the need for extracting, refining and processing raw materials, all of which create air and water pollution and cause damage to the environment on not just global but also regional and local levels.
The more we manage to recycle the more harmful greenhouse emissions such as carbon dioxide are reduced, air quality is improved and waste in landfill is kept to a minimum helping to prevent the anaerobic decomposition that creates methane and contributes to increased global temperatures.
Along with the destructive effect on the planet, direct pollution of plastic and other waste in our seas and rivers is an increasing problem. By failing to recycle properly and safely many of these plastic items get blown or washed into rivers and end up on our waterways and coastline, in our wildlife, and ultimately in the food chain.
Conserving our natural resources
Diverting waste away from landfill and into reprocessing saves valuable resources as converting recycled materials into new products reduces the need to consume more natural materials such as wood, iron ore, precious metals and cotton, helping to protect the forests and natural habitats of wildlife as well as rural populations that depend on wild land for their homes.
The world’s on-going obsession with new consumables has led to the devastation of ancient woodland and virgin rain-forests that can’t be replaced and to more of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities being exploited or evicted from their homes in the search for cheap timber.
Although we consider it a synthetic material, plastic is actually made from fossil fuels and is a combination of natural substances such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil.
Reprocessing it, or minimising its production, reduces the need to grow, harvest and extract new materials from the earth, something which we cannot sustain in the quantities and speed at which we are doing.
Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process calls for considerably less energy than that required for producing products from new raw materials. Energy plays a part in several stages of the life of a new product: the extraction of raw materials to create it, the manufacture of these materials into products, transportation, consumer use and the eventual product disposal.
In most cases, recycling uses less energy and manpower, and at lower costs, than those involved in disposing of the unwanted product.
This has many knock-on effects:
The energy saved prevents further air and water pollution to our atmosphere and waterways.
Fewer fossil fuels are burned and emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change are subsequently reduced.
Raw materials require large amounts of energy to extract, refine and process them.
The effects of obtaining new resources can be felt on many levels. Accessing new raw materials not only causes environmental damage but also air and water pollution for local communities. Mining for new metals can have devastating effects on the landscape and the potential to endanger wildlife and the populations who live and work in and around the industry.
Mining precious metals like silver and gold causes erosion, contamination of soil and water and the loss of biodiversity. Excavating involves deforestation and the movement of large quantities of soil and vegetation and can cause injury from sinkholes and collapsed tunnelling as well as the release of toxic chemicals such as sulphuric acid, into the environment. There is also the potential for ancient rock to emit radioactive elements and dust into the atmosphere - a whole host of nasties
Recycling reduces landfill
By recycling our waste properly and efficiently, discarded materials can be reused or re-processed into new products resulting in less rubbish sent to landfill. The benefits of this are felt both locally and globally, not least the decreased emissions of methane and other harmful substances into the atmosphere, but also at considerably less cost to local authorities.
It's estimated to be six times cheaper to manage recycled rubbish than dispose of general waste with correspondingly less use of energy or new raw materials as a result.
The entire recycling process is more labour-intensive and requires more man power, helping to create jobs. A recent report calculated that if the UK target of recycling 70%+ of our waste was achieved by 2025 an estimated 50,000 jobs would be created to manage it.
All good reasons to sort your rubbish correctly!
So if these are the facts, what about the figures and how well are we actually doing?
According to the Gov.UK website, the total waste generated by UK households in 2018 was 26.4 million tonnes. Of that, only 45% (11.88 mill tonnes) was sent for recycling, a reduction on the 45.5% the previous year!
This year the government target for recycling household waste is 50% minimum, in stark contrast to that already being collected in other countries, notably Germany (56.1%), Austria (53.8%) and South Korea (53.7%).
But we could, and should be doing much better.
We all know that packaging, and plastic packaging in particular, is the scourge of the household waste bin, and we'd be right. 11.5 millions tonnes of packaging (44.5% of all household waste) is generated annually, although with increasing awareness of the environmental damage it does approx 70% is now either recycled or recovered.
Sadly little of this is plastic.
Last year 32% of all recycled packaging was paper and cardboard, followed by metal tins and cans, then glass with plastic lagging somewhere behind. Of the overall 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging generated by UK households per year, 371,000 were plastic bottles, but currently approx only 45% are recycled compared with the 90+% in Germany and Sweden.
Government figures for 2018 show the percentage of materials recycled:
Paper and card - 79%
Glass - 67%
Steel - 77%
Aluminium - 52%
Plastic - 46%
Wood - 30%
So where does this recycling go and what becomes of it?
Batteries/electrical equipment - reconstructed into reusable metals and components.
Food waste - biodegraded to make new compost and soil.
Glass - glass is melted down and used to make new bottles.
Textiles - clothes and other textile waste are processed and sent to developing countries. Those unsuitable for reuse are reprocessed into fibres to make new products.
Paper - recycled into new moulded-fibre products such as egg boxes.
Cardboard - Card is pulped and made into new goods.
Aluminium - melted down and made into ingots to form into new drink cans.
Plastics - reprocessed and made into building materials such as pipes, etc. for the agricultural and construction industry. Also shredded into pellets and remoulded into other plastic items.
Cooking oil - recycled into fuel, electricity, heat and fertiliser.
Garden waste and grass cuttings - shredded and composted for fertilisers and agriculture.
Polystyrene - reprocessed into furniture and car parts.
Wood - recycled into kindling and other wood products.
Copper, lead, steel, other metals - melted down and reused.
Tyres - reused for energy.
That well-known mantra, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle helps us identify the areas in which we can do our bit: choosing to buy less and more sustainably, thinking carefully about whether something can be reused, repurposed, rescued, mended or donated, and what we do with it when its life truly has come to an end.
All this brings us to why we started Luxecycled in the first place. It's not enough simply to recycle, we need to close the loop by buying recycled and ensuring what we buy is also recyclable as far as possible. When buying items that display the green chasing arrows, we support community recycling efforts, companies that make waste into new products and support a clean and healthy environment.
Blog by Gilly Carr
Founder of Luxecycled
& Sustainable Merton Community Champion
Visit Luxecycled.com to find out more!