Plastic consumption has increased by 900% since 1980.

The amount of waste we produce is starting to make us sick. Plastic consumption has increased by 900% since 1980.

We now know that at most 30% of plastic we place in the recycling or general waste bins ends up in the oceans.

Comfort of recycling is a fallacy ….. perhaps we should call it “decycling”. Plastic isn’t recycled because there isn’t the technology or market. It is financially impossible to recycle difficult materials like soft, single-use plastics. There is no market for the byproducts.

Yes, PET and HDPE are recyclable. However, if we don’t reduce our plastic use more plastic will end up in our oceans. We recycle around 30% of our plastic in Ireland and export the rest (2), in a similar manner to western countries.

It is then “out of sight and out of mind”. Because of EU regulations, this waste is often exported to countries that have little oversight over its destination. It is now known that most of this waste ends up in the sea.

Recent research shows that plastics in oceans are being underestimated and could have 10 times more in different strata (3). This has a large carbon footprint because 99% of plastic is made from oil. Most of the energy needed to make it comes from burning oil and other fossil fuels.

Plastics manufacturers don’t want to lose the profits that they make from their production. This is a very demoralizing situation for anyone who is trying to find the right bin to dispose of their plastic. It is also difficult to see how we can combat a system that is so clearly flawed. We must fight and the first step to doing so is to buy produce that has not been wrapped in plastic.

Second, we should not buy plastic from a retail outlet. Thirdly, we should pressure our politicians to stop the plastics industry. It is important that we continue to follow the proper disposal rules for our domestic waste.

Global food waste is a major problem. According to estimates, food waste would be third in carbon emissions after China and the USA (4). Although the reasons are complicated, it all starts with a subsidised system that encourages intensive farming. This is a system that promotes intensive farming, which results in food being cheap but also degrading soil, water, and air. These subsidies should be directed to more sustainable methods such as organic farming.

Good news: Food waste can be reduced. We need to eat what we buy, and support local organic producers. It is important that food scraps are placed in the compost bin. We should consider it a natural resource and not a waste.

If it is not properly disposed of, carbon will end up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. It will end up in the compost bin, where most of it is stored in a more stable form. Also, it will be added to soil ….where it provides essential nutrients a win-win situation.

This program highlights the confusion that we all have regarding domestic waste recycling. These problems are compounded by the non-standardised rules, regulations, and laws that can vary across the country.