Many of us are probably in the dark about what happens to the waste we recycle. Does it enter a vortex? Does it really get made into new things?
I’ve visited several recycling centres since I started working for Waste Aware Business (WAB) and I also maintain the directory of recycling services on the WAB website and I’m beginning to understand just how much good work is being done to recover the value from materials for which we no longer have a need (mostly packaging but also end-of-life products).
I recently found a useful little section in the main Waste Aware Scotland campaign website which shows the waste journeys of many of the materials that both businesses and members of the public can now recycle in Scotland.
Included in the section are the journeys of the following widely recycled materials:
This waste journey information, although simplified, is interesting because it shows that something really quite extraordinary happens to the things we leave out in our recycling collection boxes/bags each week. Something far removed from the journey taken by the waste in our black bin bags (which is tragically short and terminal – all the way to the nearest landfill site).
Our friends at SEPA have produced some great videos showing waste journeys which can be found here.
By learning about what happens to the waste once it leaves our business or household it makes it seem worth the little extra effort involved. It also helps us all to realise that, by recycling, we really are making a difference by avoiding a) the need for virgin materials and b) the waste of the materials used to make the products and materials we put out for recycling.