As I put the recycling out last week I started thinking about how different countries recycle. I agree this is a big thought for early on a rainy Tuesday so maybe I was just dreaming of somewhere sunnier.
According to the Defra website, in 2009/2010, on average, each person in the UK generated 457kg of waste. Of that 181kg was recycled and 275kg was not. That is an average of 39% of waste recycled which sounds pretty good but the idea of 275kg (I'm imagining bags of sugar) being thrown away by every single person is really crazy. I find it odd how most people wouldn't thrown rubbish on the pavement but putting rubbish in a bin that is later taken and put in a big pile on the ground somewhere is fine. How is that a good system of waste disposal!?
The U.K. is improving its recycling habits and slowly reducing its waste. It's a problem we all need to face and deal with. Companies need to start packaging products with less plastic, in fact with less everything. Consumers (us!) need to remember to recycle as much as we possibly can and minimise our food and non-food waste, do you buy loose apples rather than plastic wrapped ones? And finally government and local authorities need to keep providing better, easier and more extensive recycling facilities.
As a developed nation the U.K. has a responsibility to lead the way towards sustainable living. We've got the money (we still have more than lots of countries!), the infrastructure and the technology to show the rest of the world how it's done. Whether we will is a different, more worrying question but we can't expect less developed countries such as India to be showing us how it's done.
It's hard to find reliable figures for India's recycling. Some put the level of electrical waste recycling at 40% while others say 20% of paper is recycled but I can't find a statistic for total waste and total recycling annually. This is probably due to the much larger numbers and much less organised system of waste disposal in Indian. Not everyone get weekly collections and nice colour coded recycling bins!
From what I've heard from friends who have visited India, electrical recycling is quite easy but anything else is almost always binned. Maybe this is because the electrical components are more valuable than other waste but this might be changing as new innovative ways of recycling and using waste are appearing across India.
In one of the biggest slums in the world, Dharavi in Mumbai, recycling is funding a mini economic boom. Almost every street on the slum contains family run factories recycling everything from oil drums to ball point pens. This waste not want not attitude is helping lift people away from absolute poverty and helping them improve their living conditions. Read more about this here.
Recycling is becoming a real money maker in India where brand new resources are expensive. There are now many entrepreneurs setting up their own recycling factories and finding new ways of recycling unwanted items across the country. For example, Mr K Ahmed Khan has patented a method to combine old plastic bags with bitumen to make new roads and in 18 months has laid 40km! More on this here.
It's brilliant to read these success stories and I'm sure there are lots of similar stories around the world and in the U.K.