Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Why should we recycle?

Many of us still don't think that we need to recycle or can't be bothered. Sometimes choosing the correct bin to put our rubbish in and emptying them feels like too much effort. Realistically, separating our rubbish is not that difficult and only takes a few minutes of our time. In some countries people receive money for items that they recycle, mainly plastic and glass bottles. I feel sad that many of us will only recycle when we are paid, but on the other hand, encouraging recycling through enabling people to earn money has raised awareness of the importance of recycling and people doing this often want to recycle other items.

What we can recycle varies in different places. In Reading, my home town, I can recycle paper, cardboard, plastic and glass bottles, cans and batteries. When I moved to university in Chester I discovered that there I could also recycle clothes, shoes, electrical items, ink cartridges, mobile phones, plastic pots and foil. I also had a compost bin for food waste such as meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and tea bags and another bin for garden waste. I am now currently living in Melilla, an area of Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa. Here I can only recycle paper, cardboard and glass. It it difficult for me to put something into the general waste when I know I can recycle it somewhere else. Sometimes I feel like filling my suitcase with plastic bottles and recycling them when I go home, but I know this is a ridiculous idea.

Sometimes it is hard to understand why recycling helps the earth. The main principal is that recycling saves the energy that would be otherwise required to produce waste products again. Production along with other polluting factors such as transport is increasing the levels of harmful gases in the atmosphere and this is causing the global temperature to rise. As a result, weather patterns have changed in some areas, which have had devastating effects such as more natural disasters and problems in farming and agriculture.

What annoys me about climate change in the media is that it usually shows a lonely polar bear floating away on the ice in order to make people feel sympathetic and take action. Its true that glaciers are melting, but it's more than just the polar bears who are suffering. The saddest part is that most affected areas are the underdeveloped countries in the global south who don't have enough money or resources to waste like we do and therefore they don't largely contribute to global warming. Whilst they struggle with natural disasters and changing weathers affecting their food production that are a result of our irresponsibility, people like us living in developed countries  mostly located in the global north experience few problems.

Furthermore, many people believe that a change in global temperature is natural and has occurred throughout history. That is correct, but it is scientifically proven that global warming as a consequence of human activity does contribute to climate change. The current global temperature is rising very quickly and it won't be long before we won't be able to live in certain parts of the world due to extreme weather. If you're not convinced, I can reassure you that I have studied this as part of my degree in International Development. I think many of us don't want to accept the reality and find it easier to make excuses, turn a blind eye and continue to enjoy our ignorant bliss.

Choosing not to recycle increases landfill and many of the items that are put in landfills take hundreds of years to decompose. Many items, such as glass, never decompose and will stay there forever. The world is already over populated and eventually we may run out of space. Nobody wants to end up living next to a landfill. Packaging is also included in the price of the items we buy and putting them in landfill is not only wasting resources, but money as well. Plastic bags are a perfect example. Why do we get a plastic bag every time we go to the shop? In some places people have to pay for plastic bags, therefore we can save both money and resources through taking a reusable bag to the shops. It is also easier, as plastic bags don't last very long and aren't particularly easy to carry. Let's be honest, most of us probably have collected more plastic bags than we will ever need.

Additionally, continuing to produce items made from wood, card and paper is causing deforestation, which not only destroys the habitat of animals and makes them endangered, but also increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as trees and plants are vital for producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Recycling paper and card can help prevent this.

There are also negative sides to recycling, for example melting old plastic down to make new items can use a lot of energy. For this reason some cities choose to limit what they can recycle and send general waste to be incinerated. On the one hand this is a method of producing energy but on the other hand it causes further pollution. Despite this, as long as we continue to produce more waste, environmental degradation will cause more problems and resources will become scarce, so we need a solution. Nobody is perfect, I know I travel more than the average person, although I don't drive and in my everyday life I try to only use transport when I really need it. We can't control every cause of global warming and there is no perfect solution, but we can still create solutions and make a difference.

For me one ideal solution would be shops where we can refill our containers. For example, we buy a bottle made of strong long-lasting plastic and fill it up each time it becomes empty. In order to do this people would need to start rejecting disposable containers and demanding reusable ones. At the moment it feels like this won't happen any time soon.

Through my writing I want to show that I am not the 'crazy tree hugger' that people seem to think I am. As you can see I have learnt many things about recycling which have led to my passion and made me realise that it is a very important part of the future of humanity.

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