It may not be a subject we pay much heed to – by its very nature rubbish is something we want to get rid of, not chat about in the lunch room. However, some of the facts around rubbish management are almost unfathomable.
We all know that as humans we create waste, but very few of us know just how much. It’s easy to think that when we dispose of our garbage each week, it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ but you may be surprised at just long it takes most non-organic items to break down, with most plastics taking anywhere between 20 and 1000 years.
More and more items are being made from recycled products, such as newsprint from old card stock and toilet paper from office stock. So without knowing it, you may be coming into contact with recycled goods in a very intimate way!
Rubbish, Waste and Recycling Facts
1.Bundles of Love
There’s no denying that babies are cute. But just like us adults, our gorgeous littles bundles of love sure can produce a lot of waste! The average little cherub goes through a whopping 4000 – 5000 nappies before they move on to big kid pants. If that sounds like a lot that’s because it is. In weight terms, you’d be looking a nappy mountain tipping the scales at around 2000kgs – that’s same weight as a family car! Imagine the smell!
2. It’s in the Bag
Single use plastic bags are a huge burden on the environment. Not only do they make their way into the ocean, putting sea life at risk, they also cannot be recycled easily as they get caught in most recycling machines. To make matters worse they don’t break down easily, but most of them end up in a landfill as bin liners.
While they seem like a necessary part of our lives; for carrying shopping and collecting household rubbish, once we are forced to pay for them, our priorities may suddenly change. When Ireland imposed a tax on plastic bags, charging customers 15 cents at the checkout, surprisingly, the total number of bags used dropped by 90%.
3. There’s Gold in them i-Hills
Forget mining for gold in the mountains or panning for it down in Greymouth! It is estimated that around seven percent of the world’s gold may be lurking in e-waste! Yep, hiding inside your unwanted computer or outdated iPhone, there could be a teeny-tiny fortune! While ripping apart your unwanted computer items may not make you a millionaire just yet, new strategies are being explored to extract gold from large volumes of e-waste. Compared to old fashioned methods of gold mining, e-waste offers far great gold-to-mass ratio.
4. Plastic not so Fantastic
While most plastics can be recycled, many still end up in landfills. This is not great as most plastic products can take up to 1000 years to break down. But the sad thing is that plastics never really disappear. They break up into nano-particles, then work their way deep into the earth or into the sea, contaminating our drinking water and polluting our soil.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Centre found that even after a 24 hour fasting period, subjects still had high levels of the plastic, bisphenol A, in their urine, which is a known cause of cancer. We may be able to avoid using BPAs ourselves but when too much of it is leached into our waterways from the disposal of plastics into a landfill, there will be little escaping it.
5. Let’s Have a Gas!
In New Zealand our dairy and beef cattle get a lot of stick for their effect on the environment, largely due to methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change and New Zealand has the largest methane emissions rate at 37m tonnes per year. That is six times the global average. While this is largely due to our high numbers of sheep, deer and cattle, landfill gas emissions make up 4% of New Zealand’s total methane emissions. So the less we send to landfill the less methane we create.
6. Brown Paper Packages Tied up With String
When you start to think about how many items can either be composted, repurposed or recycled, it’s easy to wonder what is actually going into our New Zealand Landfills. Frustratingly, single use packaging contributes 352,000 tonnes of our annual landfill waste. That’s roughly the mass of 58,000 African elephants. It makes you wonder how much our landfill volumes would reduce if we simply cut down on the amount of packaging materials we use every day.
7. We Have a ‘Wheelie’ Big Problem with Tyres
New Zealand has a serious problem with waste tyres. While it is vitally important to ensure that our cars are fitting with quality tyres with adequate tread, disposing of them after use remains a huge environmental issue. Us Kiwis create 5 million waste tyres per year. While 70 percent of these end up in landfills, a large portion goes on to litter highways and ruin our serene countryside.
8. Yes We Can!
While we all may enjoy a nice cold beverage on a hot day, we may give little heed to what becomes of our aluminium drinking cans after we’re done with them. Did you know that aluminium cans can be recycled and ready for reuse again in just six weeks? That’s pretty impressive considering it takes the same amount of energy to manufacture one can from raw materials as it does to recycle 20! Make sure you’re recycling your beer cans!
9. Through the Looking Glass
Glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle. It can be reused over and over again; unlike some plastics which can either not be recycled at all, or degrade after a few processes. Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes. Sadly, however, glass products that end up in the landfill, tossed in there out of ignorance or laziness, will never, ever decompose.
10. The Earliest Recyclers
Recycling may seem like a new initiative but it has been around in one form or another since as far back in 1031 in Japan, the home or origami paper arts. Up until this time, the people of Nara, Japan, made paper from the mulberry, gampi and hemp plants. However, to slow the use of materials, a method of recycling waste paper was created. The paper was then resold again at paper shops and known as kamia-gami, literally translating to paper-shop-paper.
What can you do?
It may seem bleak when we peruse these staggering facts, but there are still plenty of things we can do to reduce our effect on the planet. For one we can stop using plastic bags at the supermarket. Considering the average plastic bag is used for 12 seconds before it’s thrown out, the question is: Do we really need to use them at all? If you must use them occasionally, then remember you can recycle them at designated collection points at most supermarkets. While you’re at it why not try to reduce the amount of packaged foods you buy?
You can also try composting your food waste! It not only helps you save money on council rubbish bags, the compost produced makes a great nutritional boost for your veggie garden.
Consider your purchases carefully. Do you need that cheap t-shirt or will it wear out after a few washes and inevitably end up in the landfill? The less we buy, the less we dispose of.
We can do our best to reduce our volumes of household waste, but inevitably there may still be times when we need to call upon professionals to help collect our excess rubbish. When you hire 24 Hour Junk to remove your rubbish, you can relax, knowing that our team of professionals will do their best to ensure they recycle where possible so that the least amount of waste ends up in a landfill. We recycle and repurpose what we can and green waste is composted. If we all work together, we can make a difference!