Eco-Warrior Challenge No.4

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.

waste-hierarchy2-300x163

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

References:

  1. http://www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk
  2. 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 BehaviorEnvironment and Behavior May 2001 vol. 33 no. 3, 424-448
  3. 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)

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6 thoughts on “Eco-Warrior Challenge No.4

  1. You know I think the whole thing needs to begin with the manufacturers. We used to get our cylinders of test strips for our glucose meters two to a box. The insurance requirements have now changed causing the manufacturers to package them only ONE cylinder to a box. But guess what! The bloody box is the same box that held two! Not only could they cut waste, but they could probably lower the cost of the strips if they didn’t have to pay for the excess packaging. It’s very annoying!

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    1. Absolutely, it’s hugely irresponsible. Back in the 80s, I did this course where the trainer related a story about matchboxes. They used to have two lighting strips on the packets. Some guy came along with a bright idea and he bought hundreds of boxes of matches and lit all the matches just using one of the strips. He then sold the idea, saving £$xxxx for the companies. Reducing packaging increases profits!! Reducing waste at source is a win-win situation.

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  2. Where I live there’s been designated recycling bins since around 1998.
    But a lot of the excess packaging problems are due to EU Health & Safety rules. Have you noticed that when you buy a bottle of chemical in a supermarket, it gets wrapped in a bag to stop contamination with your food products.
    Or fresh meat products also get given a second wrapper, too, over and above the wrapper the meat is inside in the first place. Double-wrapping is just as bad as the old bad habit of double-bagging – when bags were free.
    It was actually considered ‘sensible’ to be a double-bagger. Industry psychological motivators used to promote this idea as being an attribute on industry courses back in the 80’s. To not be a ‘double-bagger’ indicated that one was careless and took unnecessary chances. How times have changed?

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    1. Not in a habit of buying chemicals from supermarkets, but do get and have experienced what you’re saying. Now, I’m more usually asked if I want a bag or not for the possible contaminants. I suspect a 50% rise in global population since the 1980s would make the problem hit you in the face somewhat? Education, alternative media outlets… yup, the times they are achanging, but still can’t help feeling that it’s not enough – like governments are doing enough to appease the discontented (and prevent full-scale revolution), but don’t have the sense of urgency needed to fully address the issues.

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