Recycling plays an essential role in tackling the climate crisis, but it’s not always as easy as just chucking our rubbish in the recycling bin. We’re all doing our bit, but, somehow, our waste is still ending up piled up in landfills or clogging up our oceans. How will recycling change to prevent this?
What’s the problem with recycling at the moment?
1. Lack of knowledge about where and what to recycle
Packaging manufacturers continue to create packaging that can’t be recycled
If you’ve ever put something in the recycling bin without knowing for sure that it can be recycled, you’ve experienced ‘wishcycling’.
Wishcycling is putting something in the recycling bin and hoping it will be recycled, even if there’s little evidence to confirm this. Unfortunately, packaging manufacturers continue to create packaging that can’t be recycled, which has resulted in over half a million tonnes of household recycling being rejected at the point of sorting in 2019/20.
Products often lack clear labelling
Unclear labelling about recycling can mean recyclable products end up in landfills. A study by WRAP concluded that multiple labels cause uncertainty, with the Green Dot causing particular confusion for UK consumers.
Some products don’t feature any information on recycling at all. For example, Which? magazine found that 60% of bathroom products had no recycling information on the label, despite most of them being partially or wholly recyclable.
With nearly a 24% increase in ethical consumer spending and finance in the UK from 2019 to 2020 and the market now at £122bn, it’s not surprising that many companies want to cash in on our enthusiasm for more sustainable products. This has increased the trend for greenwashing — when a company misleads consumers into believing their products are sustainable, perhaps by using green buzzwords or making false claims.
This means that some products labelled as ‘recyclable’, ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ aren’t easy to recycle, yet consumers continue buying them in good faith.
What could recycling look like in the near future?
- The ‘Right to repair’ movement is expected to grow
The UK’s new ‘right to repair’ law has been gaining traction in other countries as people recognise the need to repair their old appliances and save them from landfills. Manufacturers now have to make repair information and spare parts available for up to ten years for certain new white goods and televisions. It’s expected that the law will be extended to include more appliances and the time frame of 10 years will be increased. Hopefully, the right to repair will also be extended to consumers and repair cafés, as well as professional repair services, and there will be financial incentives to encourage people to repair old products, instead of buying new ones.
2. There will be clearer labelling on packaging
The onus is now on manufacturers to make effective changes to how they communicate with their customers. A recent study by WRAP made recommendations to improve on-pack recycling information so that it’s easier to understand.
3. Alternative packaging solutions will be created
As we increasingly demand alternatives to throw-away products, especially single-use plastics, creative minds are coming up with new forms of packaging that won’t harm the planet. For example, Eaglestyle Ltd works with decent packaging and creates coffee cups made from plants that Eaglestyle Ltd collects and turns into compost.