February 27, 2019
The challenges facing the management of commercial and household waste in the UK in the very near future are well known and have been briefly discussed here. Alongside this, the problems arising from waste mismanagement globally are increasingly in the news, ranging from the huge masses of floating rubbish in our oceans to the collapse of a dam holding mining waste in Brazil, for example. In some cases, innovative small-scale solutions, as well as more traditional methods of managing waste are making a real difference to local communities blighted by the problem.
Taking the very topical subject of plastic waste in our oceans as just one example, the scale of the problem worldwide is bewildering. It is thought that there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans and it can take years for it to break down. The issue was highlighted in an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report in 2016, which states:
- By 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight).
- Plastics production has increased twentyfold since 1964 and is expected to double again in the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050. Despite the growing demand, just 5% of plastics are recycled effectively.
- At least 8m tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.
While statistics like these can sometimes have only a limited impact due to their almost inconceivable scale, the graphic images of entangled marine wildlife and waves of discarded plastic that have made it into the popular UK press cannot fail to bring home the reality of the problem.
MacArthur, who broke the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005, says fundamental reform is needed. Her vision is for a “new plastics economy” in which the industry, governments, and citizens work together to ensure that plastics never become waste and cut the leakage into natural systems. This will require changes to how goods are designed, manufactured and packaged to reduce – or even phase out – the demand for plastic. However, attempts to solve the problem will be battling against growing demand from emerging markets, which the plastics recycling industry is struggling to meet.
At a local level, there have been many examples of coastal communities refusing to wait for government or industry to tackle the issue and instead have taken up the challenge themselves to clean up or reduce plastic pollution in their area. For example, Surfers Against Sewage – an environmental charity based in Cornwall – promote beach cleans with the slogan “Think Global, Act Local. Tackle the plastic pollution that blights your beachfront” and similar community beach cleans have taken place elsewhere along the coastline.
Although not in the UK, a good example of an innovative small-scale solution is a fish sculpture named Goby. The idea here was that instead of just placing a number of ordinary bins around the beach, the locals made a giant see-through fish out of barbed wire and mesh, before adding a sign that read: “Goby loves plastic, please feed him”. The key to the success of this was that recycling was turned into a game for kids where they had to ‘feed’ Goby and as a result felt more of a connection with the process, rather than simply dropping rubbish into a plain bin.
This is a fantastic idea to encourage people to stop littering on beaches, but the underlying problem remains that most of the plastics in the oceans were not dropped on a beach. Nevertheless, like many other environmental issues, there are going to have to be a range of measures taken at local, national and international levels if we are to solve the problem of plastic in our oceans. Furthermore, the success of Goby the fish suggests that there might be scope for this idea to be modified to suit particular circumstances and adopted elsewhere, even away from coastlines – for example, on housing estates in the UK to encourage recycling.
However, the success of innovative, novel ideas clearly lies – at least in part – in the very fact that they are novel, and inevitably there is always likely to be a role for the more traditional ways of collecting waste. metroSTOR offers a range of waste and recycling bin storage facilities to help with the control of residential waste streams, increasing recycling rates and eliminating cross contamination. These facilities can also ensure landlord responsibilities are met and raise the profiles of our communities with proven reductions in litter, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour.
At metroSTOR we proudly embrace innovation and are always searching for new and inventive ways of resolving storage problems. Look out for exciting new ideas coming from metroSTOR to inspire everyone to recycle, regardless of where they live!