While there are no national laws to deal with recycling in America, most states are taking the process very seriously.
No less than 13 laws have recently enacted legislation that has created recycling centres whilst others have imposed fines and weekly recycling pick ups. While the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) oversee waste management at a national level, there has yet to be a federal set of laws brought in that deal specifically with recycling. There are rules and regulations for getting rid of commercial waste however this has yet to spill over into the residential sphere.
Commercial waste has become a huge issue in last 10 years. Industries such as law, accounting, and travel insurance are all seeing massive increases in the amount of waste they’re producing.
Disposing of commercial waste properly is important to your business not just because it aides the environment but also because it is regulated under law. The EPA take a tough line on the incorrect disposal of commercial waste particularly if it is hazardous or harmful to the environment or to other people.
The waste management and recycling industry has become huge in recent years. It is party down to the fact that we are producing more waste and therefore need to get rid of it safely and also because of pressing concerns to the environment.
At the moment the USA emits 250 million tons of household and other municipal solid waste every year which is a huge figure even for an industrial and developed powerhouse. These were last years figures so it is likely that they will go up again when updates statistics are announced later on this year. In fact, this amount rises to some 545 million tons of solid waste each year if you take into account building and construction commercial waste throughout the country.
The good news is that we are well equipped to deal with this rise of commercial, medical and residential waste. There is a national recycling rate of about 35% which is quite high. This has risen year on year and that is without mandatory recycling laws in many states and a lot of people do so through their own free will.
Some interesting facts:
- Nearly 10,000 curbside programs are running throughout the country that deal with recycling. These organize weekly collections and advise on what products can be recycled and which cannot.
- Recycling just 5 plastic bottles (coke bottles for example) can make one t shirt or be used to create one square foot of carpet.
- Over 100,000 cans are recycled every minute across the country.
- Glass and aluminium can be recycled numerous times.
Recycling is big business in the USA and this is evident from the first fact we stated above. Even though lobbying groups have been trying to get more curbside programs running and even to have them mandatory across the whole country, the figure of nearly 10,000 is an exceptionally large amount.
Furthermore, one the most recyclable materials in the world is aluminium. We mentioned above how aluminium can be recycled almost indefinitely and around 60% of all cans used end up being recycled which is a great figure.
Another interesting fact is that around 35% of all our waste can be composted. This includes the 33 million tonnes of food that we produce annually that can be used for compost. Not everyone thinks of recycling food and putting it to other uses other than going straight in the trash and then to a landfill. In fact, most people will waste more food than their own body weight each year.
Finally an interesting statistic is that only a very small percentage of the population recycle their phone book. Most people generally just through it in the trash as they are being used less and less however they are the single biggest collection of paper that is not recycled every year and this has a damaging effect on the environment.
Recycling is slowly coming into the national conciousness and with facts and figures like those above then you can see why. Rather than simply throwing items out check online or local authority resources to see if they can, in fact, be recycled.
The UK is one of the most concerned countries when it comes to recycling. Just about everyone has serperate bins for garden waste, plastic products or newspaper and magazines however something else that they are leading the way on is training courses and careers in recycling and waste management.
While they are mostly being rolled out over England and Wales at the minute, the course are being ran by Get Britain Working scheme in England and by Working Links in Wales. They aim to get more young people into recycling and waste management jobs. Due to the relatively high level of youth unemployment in the UK at the minute, the emphasis is on young people learning practical skills. Rather than going to university and having an academic degree, more and more firms – as well as the Jobcentres – look for essential skills that can be used in the workplace. These are gained through training like the recycling courses being offered.
One notable example is the Welsh recycling and waste management firm Amber which is found near Cardiff. They have been active in the business for a number of decades now and have begun to offer Smart Development pre-employment training courses on site over the past few years. These courses offer essential skills and training to the unemployed so that they can then gain a job and a career in the industry; Amber themselves have taken on 6 new staff as a direct result of these schemes.
In fact, the schemes are also being used for those already employed in the industry as well. A lot of waste can be incorrectly disposed off at times and this causes issues for the companies involved. By using the training for these schemes on potentially new staff and current employees then it makes the whole waste management process a lot easier and more straightforward.
The UK itself is seeing a surge in the number of items being recycled and households now recycled ay an average of 40%. This is fairly high compared to some other countries and it shows that England and Wales in particular are seeing a positive response from residents to recycling and correct waste management.
This is also having a knock on effect as the two countries are producing less rubbish as well so less is going to landfills and dumps whilst more is going to recycling centres to be put to good use.
This is one of the reasons as to why training those who are unemployed in recycling and waste management is crucial for the future direction of the country. Everyone from recently unemployed 50 year olds to 19 year olds looking for their first job are interested and enrolling in these training schemes. It is also creating job value and opening up more opportunities. They are creating a new wave of employee’s in a growing and bustling industry that is only set to get better as the years go on due to the higher levels of recycling and proper waste management that is predicted in the coming decade.
Like most developed countries around the world, recycling has become part of the national lexicon in Australia. There has been a concentrated effort in recent years to ensure that both residential and commercial recycling and waste management is carried out properly across the whole country.
The first proper recycling mill was actually set up in the country in the 19th century and consisted of a paper that used recycled rags to make paper. In the 1920′s Melbourne started to see recycling rounds and collections both from commercial and business properties and from households as well. Indeed, Australia became one of the first countries to do this.
As time went on the country began to see more and more kerbside recycling schemes being rolled out in the major cities and towns and this has went from strength to strength in recent years. The National Packaging Covenant was signed around 10 years ago which further extended recycling programs and collections while cutting down on non-recyclable waste and packaging in the country. Australia current produces 400 kilograms of waste per year for every household which is actually one of the highest on the planet. In fact, on average each Australian will produce more household waste than any other country hence why there has been such a need for a coherent recycling program.
Batteries are actually the most common form of waste produced by the average Australian household and if they are not disposed of correctly then they present a significant danger to the environment and also other people. While recycling rates are actually going up – they have risen from the 2007 estimate of 52% – there needs to be more awareness raising. Even though over 90% of Australians have access to kerbside recycling services provided by their local authority, they aren’t be used and utilized as efficiently and effectively as possible.
For example only around half the number of paper and cardboard that is used every year is actually recycled and even though there has been an increase in the number of plastic being recycled in the country, it is still falling short of an acceptable level.
The good news is that there are several organizations that are promoting awareness both to residential properties and commercial businesses so that waste is better managed across the country. This includes providing the knowledge to dispose of waste properly and raising awareness so that people know the dangerous of not doing so. Fines and other official sanctions are being implemented for businesses that fail to comply.
Recycling is currently a buzzword down under and it is becoming much more common to see ordinary people disposing of their waste properly. In fact, businesses are also starting to take heed of the legal implications of not recycling or getting rid of hazardous materials in a safe way and there is a much more concentrated effort from the Australian business community. Recycling rates are expected to rise again in the next year and this can only be seen as a success for the country and the environment and shows that official drives and initiatives are starting to work.
Wales is a country that is fast building up a reputation as one of the most important and efficient recycling hubs in Europe. The small nation has already started benefiting from various training programs and courses that are being created for the unemployed and are especially targeted at young people. The waste management industry in Wales is booming at the minute with weekly recycling pick ups, local government and council directives for commercial waste and various offer initiatives to get people to recycle more often.
With that in mind then we shouldn’t be surprised that this week the Welsh government reported that they are currently recycling around 49% of their waste. This is a high figure even for a developed country like Wales with a strong infrastructure. Welsh environment minister John Griffiths was quick to point out that the new figures are the highest quarterly recycling figures ever recorded for Wales or any other nation in the UK (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and this makes the achievement even more impressive.
The release of the new figures coincided with the announcement that the country produced 388 thousand tonnes of municipal waste between July and September 2011 and that this was actually a decrease in the amount of waste that was produced in the same period from the year before. So as the amount of waste is decrease, the recycling percentage is going up.
Furthermore, waste per person is on the decrease too. The report stated that 68 kilograms of waste per person was produced in July to September 2010 and this fell to 59 kilograms of waste per person in July to September 2011. Definitely showing that the figures are going in the right direction.
The local government currently has some ambitious targets that it is hoping it achieve come 2020. They hope to have a 70% recycling rate by 2025 and zero waste by 2050. When these plans were announced a few years ago they were seen as immensely ambitious however with these recent statistics then it is not out of the question that they will be met and the country seems to be on the right road to do so.
The reasons behind the increase are easily found. The country has several local government and council initiatives that ensure that recyclable goods are dealt with properly; this includes weekly food collection services and also making sure that the local population play their part in waste management. The environment minister John Griffiths further reiterated the desire of the local government to keep this good figures going to ensure that they do meet these ambitious targets for the 2020′s.
Wales is quickly leading the way and becoming a shining example to many countries in terms of waste management and recycling. While they are hardly the biggest nation, they are making steady progress towards recycling and ensuring that there is as little waste as possible in the country in the coming years. Whether or not they make their zero waste target remains to be seen but they are certainly on the right track to do so.
While we can boast about our own waste management figures and statistics, the fact is that developing countries are finding it difficult to being the process of efficient and effective waste management and this is through no fault of their own. There are various infrastructural, economic or societal issues that prevent many countries from developing their own waste management industry. This can and does have a damaging effect on our planet and also on their own country and it leads to an inadequate disposal of waste.
There is also a significant body of evidence that suggests that E-waste is becoming harmful to developing countries around the world. With the sharp and steady increase of electronic products to countries such as those in South America and South-East Asia, there is the potential for a lot of recyclable goods to be simply ignored when it comes to disposing of them. Various reports have speculated that e-waste from old and broken computers will have risen by around 200 to 400 percent in countries such as China and India by 2020. This is a staggering amount and will lead to serious environmental and economic issues.
It is also predicted that e-waste that comes directly from discarded mobile phones will be 7 times higher in China and an astonishing 18 times higher in India over the same period. As more and more people in developing countries are getting access to smart phones – whether real or fake – the potential for mass amounts of e-waste is very real.
There have been several theories and suggestions as to how to combat this problem. One idea is to incorporate scavengers and waste pickers into the system. At the moment they are simply savaging for themselves however, by giving them employment and then bringing them into the mainstream waste management process it can open up both job opportunities and develop the waste management system of a developing country as well. It might not change the whole industry on its own but rather it can aide in the development of an effective recycling system.
In most developing countries less than 10% of solid waste is managed properly and even less is actually recycled. While there are informal system of waste management and recycling, there needs to be better formal and legal systems to do so. Many valuable materials such as silver, gold, palladium, copper and indium are going to waste by not being recycled effectively. This causes problems not just for the developing nations but for all countries.
There is a sound economic argument to be made for waste management in developing nations. By creating their own recycling and waste management system – instead of often illegally exporting it – they can retain the valuable materials and elements, recycle them again and create products to boost the economy. It is not as easy as 1,2,3 and there are numerous issues with infrastructure and finances that prevent this from happening – including the apathy of the local people – however the first step to better waste management in developing nations is to get the local populace enthusiastic and supportive about it.
Disposing of medical waste is of utmost importance. Not only does it cause hygienic problems if it is simply discarded of but there is also a massive potential to cause harm if it is not gotten rid of properly. This does not just apply to hospitals or clinics for example and households are also at fault here for not properly getting rid of their medical waste.
Recently there has been a rise in the number of waste management workers who have been injured as a result of stray syringes. These types of medical waste should be disposed of in the relevant manner and not just thrown in the bin. In the UK for example there has been an increase in workers coming into contact with used syringes and this has left both the Norfolk county council and Norfolk Environmental Waste Services (NEWS) concerned over the safety of their workers.
Medical waste has its own special needs in term so of disposal and covers a wide range of different materials. Used needles and syringes, soiled dressings, blood, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, body parts, diagnostic samples, medical devices and even such things as radioactive materials all come under the term medical waste and need special management techniques to dispose of them safely.
In the Norfolk story, Steve Jenkins, local authority contracts manager for NEWS, reiterated the need for needles and syringes to be put into a sharps box that can be picked up from most local pharmacies and clinic’s. These boxes are the safest way to get rid of needle or syringe and can then be returned to the clinic or the pharmacy who will dispose of it in the correct manner.
One of the biggest issues is awareness. While there is a concentrated effort to raise awareness for the general recycling industry and promoting the benefits of recycling properly, medical waste is sometimes overlook. In many circles it can be seen as a commercial problem for surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals to deal with however, in reality, this is somewhat different and ordinary people have an obligation to dispose of their medical waste in the correct way.
Hundreds of needles and syringes are currently put into ordinary bins every year and this causes untold problems for the waste disposal systems and the staff who work there. The upside is, is that there has been promotion drives in recent moves to decrease the likelihood of this happening. This includes informational TV adverts, going door to door with literature and also putting notices on recycling bins as to what can and cannot be put inside.
Most medical waste is disposed of correctly however there is a small proportion that isn’t. While recycling in itself should be seen as a noble endeavour it needs to be done properly. Luckily there are very few injuries every year to waste management and recycling staff when dealing with unexpected medical waste however the potential is there and the emphasis recently has been to decrease the likelihood of ordinary waste management workers coming into contact with medical waste.
Waste management in the European Union has come on leaps and bounds in recent years given the high priority that is being placed upon this industry. Many countries within the EU system actually lead the way in regards to recycling levels and the percentage of waste that is recycled however the EU itself has acknowledge that it needs to do more itself to make this process more efficient.
In recent weeks there have been covert talks between leading waste campaigners and trade associations with the aim to creating a pan-European recycling platform that bring together all countries and interests in the EU to work towards recycling goals and targets. There is currently what is known as the European Recycling Coalition however its role in waste management across the EU, at any level, has been diminished recently and it holds no real influence or lobbying power hence the need for a new group to be created.
One prominent member at the talks was the well known environmental and recycling campaign organisation Friends of the Earth who look set to play an important role in negotiations and talks in the coming weeks and months. While the meetings to date have been little more than exploring the possibility that such an interest group can be created, there is expected to be more talks in the future with a better emphasis on substance rather than exploratory discussions.
The EU currently produces around 3 billion tonnes of waste when you combine all member countries which is a lot even considering the size of its remit. Around 90 million tonnes of this waste is hazardous and even though the EU is better placed than most to deal with potentially dangerous waste products, it can be down more effectively with an interest group to promote these needs. The projections in the EU for waste production are set to rise and as soon as 2020, people inside the EU will produce almost 50% more waste than they did at the end of the 20th century – quite a rise in a short space of time and something that presents serious problems to waste management.
Currently the EU is focusing on three main areas. Reducing the amount of waste that is produced by through better manufacturing for example and promoting eco-products and services and they are also working in improving landfill sites and methods of disposing waste that cannot be recycled. Finally there is the emphasis on recycling itself. The EU has a directive to recover as much material as possible in terms of recycling and many countries within its jurisdiction are positing high recycling rates.
Coordinating a recycling effort for the size of the EU especially when member countries are developing their own laws and restrictions on waste management is not an easy task by any means. Whether or not a new organization within the EU process will aide waste management is unknown. What it should do however is provide a way recycling and waste management to be better represented with interested promoted from a wide range of different organizations, countries and members of the EU.
While the UK has one of the better recycling process around the world and when taking all 4 countries together it actually boasts a high recycling rate, this does not extend over onto organic recycling.
Currently around 7.5m tonnes of food is wasted at home each year in the UK and this accounts or about half the total food wasted throughout the country. So, half of the food that is gone to waste in the UK is done so by households. This is a large figure and goes to show how little food recycling is actually being done even though the mechanisms are in place to do so.
A new report that has just been released showed that UK households on average produce more than 5kg of food waste every week which works out at 260kg per year. Almost 2/3 of this is said to be what is deemed ‘avoidable waste’ coming form cooking too much food, not eating enough etc… Basically food that could have been saved and used another time but instead of thrown straight in the bin. Around £11.8 billion per year is being lost on food waste every year which is about £500 for every household in the country.
While some of this food waste can be attributed to the production process, about 75% is actually lost in the home or at the consumer stage. A major cause of this has been special offers ins supermarkets and stores. The rise of the ‘buy one get one free’ culture has meant that people are purchasing more than they need, not using it and then it is simply going to waste as it is not being recycled properly.
Radical and sustainable change is needed in order to combat this food waste problem. Most local authorities in the UK do provide food waste bins in the home which allow for discarded food to be put to good use however actually getting people to use them on a regular basis is proving more difficult.
Some of the more damning statistics paint a better picture as to what could be achieved through better food waste management. For example, if all food waste is recycled then this would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road in the UK and the environmental benefits that go along with that. Also, families can save around £60 every month by only using or purchasing the food they need.
That being said, food waste is actually decreasing. It has been reduced by about 21% over the past 3 years although it still remains a major problems in the country with both environmental and economical issues associated with it. Achieving better food waste management is not difficult and it is just a case of raising its problems to households. Outlining the benefits to proper food waste management especially in economic terms tends to work best. Even though the UK can claim many accolades from their recycling programs over the last decade, food waste remains one of the downsides so far and better initiatives and promotion are needed to reach future targets.
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