Getting rid of unwanted stuff has never been easier, with household waste recycling centres, civic amenity sites and municipal dumps in pretty much every town across the UK. Town councils, too, are encouraging us to recycle with various collection systems and online advice.
Yet how many of us actually stop to think about how much waste we are actually getting rid of, say in a 12-month period? The Government estimates that we chuck out 177 million tonnes of waste every year in England alone. The impact of this can be reduced if the waste is dealt with correctly and responsibly. However, unethical practices like fly tipping still cause significant problems, as does a lack of commitment to recycling and reusing items wherever possible.
It is estimated that over 90% of British people aged between 16 and 54 own a mobile phone. The older generation is catching up too, and many of us regularly upgrade or change our phones, leaving old handsets hanging around in a drawer. These figures add up to a massive estimate of 90 million mobiles languishing in UK homes, completely forgotten.
If they were all thrown away, they would generate around 7,500 tonnes of potentially toxic landfill waste. That’s just in the UK! Yet recycling schemes do exist to reuse phone components. Some charities also collect old mobile phones for use in developing countries, or to sell on as spares.
According to UK trade group, the Nappy Alliance, around 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away every day, resulting in 400,000 tonnes sent to UK landfill sites each year.
One nappy will take around 500 years to fully decompose once it is in landfill and it also creates methane, a greenhouse gas that’s more powerful than carbon dioxide. Using cloth nappies on a baby or young child can reduce the impact of this problem, as can ensuring that disposable nappies are dealt with in a resposible way.
Consumer pressure has reduced packaging in many retail settings, switching plastic for biodegradable cardboard or foil. Supermarkets are cutting down on plastic bags too, with compulsory charging for them already in effect in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and due to be introduced in England this October.
An estimated 8 billion single-use plastic bags were doled out across the UK in 2013; an equivalent of 130 bags per person. Charging will reduce the number of plastic bags that find their way to landfill, however, consumers can also help by reusing their plastic bags, or taking cloth bags, boxes and more sustainable carriers to the shops.
Electronic goods are notoriously hard to dispose of, and must be handled correctly to cause the least negative impact on the wider environment. This is where calling in the experts is wise, so that unwanted items can be recycled or sold on as much as possible, or removed in the right way, with the right certification to prove ethical, safe disposal.
Up to 3 million domestic fridges are thrown away every year, making up just a small part of the half a million tonnes of electrical products disposed of by UK residents annually. Yet selling them on, if in good enough working order, or offering them for spare parts etc. can also help keep the UK’s electronic waste down.
Unchecked waste disposal causes long-term problems, yet the impact can be reduced through careful thinking about how to move unwanted items on, or remove the need for them in the future. If in doubt, junk removal experts can get rid of trickier refuse for you, ethically and effectively.