There is no eco-challenge that doesn’t address household waste. According to a Brighter Futures Together, in the UK each of us produces a half tonne of waste per year and that’s increasing, not decreasing (1).
Recycling materials is one solution for decreasing what goes to the landfill, but the process of recycling doesn’t reduce the amount of waste produced. In fact, recycling may actually be encouraging more waste production. There is little relationship between people’s recycling behaviour and their waste reduction behaviour (2). A study in Exeter similarly concluded that recycling and reduction behaviours are fundamentally different. Reduction is undertaken least often (3).
Yet, Brighter Futures Together suggests that of six waste reduction management behaviours prevention of waste is the more favoured option. Recycling is only third in the hierarchy.
A couple of years ago, I entered a household that was almost entirely at the bottom of the hierarchy. Starting with bottles, the shift to level three commenced. A year later, we stepped the rungs to reuse. Yet, despite the household losing two people and a dog, I’m still amazed, and appalled, by how much plastic comes into the house and just how much waste needs to be recycled and reused. The process has made me realise that we are still part of the problem and waste reduction is a far better solution.
This week’s challenge is about the examination of consumer habits that produce waste in order that they might be changed. But, ironically, I don’t want you to change, but to look in the mirror. Your task is to audit what is brought into the house that will soon find its way into the bin, even a reuse or recycling one. How large is the scale of your waste production?
Next week’s challenge theme: Waste reduction
- Angela Ebreo and Joanne Vining (2001) How Similar are Recycling and Waste Reduction? Future Orientation and Reasons for Reducing Waste as Predictors of Self-Reported Behavior. Environment and Behavior May 2001 vol. 33 no. 3, 424-448
- Stewart Barr, Andrew W. Gilg and Nicholas J. Ford (2001) Differences Between Household Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Behaviour: a Study of Reported Behaviours, Intentions and Explanatory Variables. Environmental & Waste Management, 2001, vol. 4 (2)