Introduction To All Things Recycling

Recycling has played a major role in the 21st Century and households up and down the UK have become vigilant in separating their waste to ensure helping the environment. Essentially, rather than throwing away all rubbish together, it's now split into what can and can't be used again to create new products.

There are a number of environmental benefits recycling brings, including:

  • Reduced waste of new materials
  • Reduced energy consumption (less energy required to recycle, rather than start from scratch)
  • Reduced air pollution due to less incineration of waste products
  • Reduced water pollution as a result of limited landfilling.

There are plenty of products that can be recycled to aid in improving the eco system. This includes common materials such as glass, paper, cardboard and plastic. However, it's also possible to recycle fabrics, including clothes.

Of course, many people around the country will religiously recycle packaging from the kitchen. They'll likely have a designated recycling wheelie bin and potentially have separate containers in the home for glass, plastic and paper. However, fewer people realise the importance of textile waste and just how damaging this can be to the environment.

The government has had a big part in improving the visibility of recycling, primarily because of targets handed down by the EU in reducing energy usage. However, there's also the problem of landfill sites being overused and the more waste dumped by householders, the less space there is to dispose of it.

For that very reason it's important to consider the possibility for recycling in all walks of life. No longer should you solely be looking at kitchen waste to recycle, but your entire home. Before throwing anything away, think first about the possibility to recycle.

As mentioned above, the wastage of clothes is having a significant effect on the environment, but there are many other products also missing the recycling bin. This includes electrical goods, scrap metal, mattresses, batteries, cooking oil and even ink cartridges from the printer. All of these can be recycled and by doing so you'll reduce your carbon footprint and give the environment a boost.

Throughout this guide we'll emphasise the importance of reusing and recycling, particularly clothes. Please have a read through, so you can understand just how impactful textile waste is on the environment.

Why is it Important to Recycle?

Waste in the UK is at an all time high. This isn't surprising given the population of the country is steadily rising and is in fact the fastest increasing in Europe. For that reason it's vital to do your own little bit when it comes to safeguarding the environment and improving the world we live in. To do this, recycling should play a significant role.

However, other than a rising population, there are plenty of reasons the level of rubbish in the UK is on the rise, including:

  • Increased wealth, so more people are buying products and creating extra waste
  • The production of non biodegradable packaging
  • A change in lifestyle such as the rise in fast food outlets and packaging.

But why is this waste having such a large impact on the environment? There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, the incineration of materials at landfill sites contributes to the release of harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases. Secondly, there's the impact of deforestation on the habitat, which is increasing the problems of global warming. As raw materials are used to create new products, deforestation worsens.

Then there's the vast amount of energy used to create new products, as opposed to recycling old ones. As more natural resources are used to make household goods, the impact on the environment becomes more extreme.

You also have to consider the effects on people if recycling wasn't undertaken. It's not just the environment that's dramatically affected by waste. The areas in which people live are too, such as cities and towns.

Because of excess waste:

  • Landfill sites in the UK are filling up quickly, leaving Britain with little room to dispose of materials
  • The economy is worsened as raw materials cost more to create than recycling would
  • Natural resources are plundered, leaving fewer options for future generations.

The Environmental Impact of Textile Waste

So, we have discussed the impact recycling will have on the environment as a whole, but how about textile waste? Millions of Britons are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to separating plastics and cardboard from the general household waste, but the disposal of clothing has become a serious problem not just in the UK, but also around the world.

Instead, when clearing out the drawers and wardrobe people will often simply bag it up and include it with their household waste. This can't be said for everyone and many will recycle, donate or resell; however, it's important for the message of textile waste to be pushed, so we can all do our own little bit for the environment.

Now, businesses, local authorities and individuals are being asked to consider their textile waste in a bid to save the economy financially and improve the environment. The UK is wasting millions of pounds every year by shipping textiles off to the landfill sites, rather than recycling.

According to research conducted by The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), there is 1.4 million tonnes of textile waste landfilled rather than recycled or reused each year. The UK would save around £24m by recovering just 10% of this wastage for recycling.

Textile waste includes clothes, mattresses and carpets, with WRAP also identifying a gap in the market for those who could recycle carpet and mattresses. Statistics show only 25,000 of the 169,000 tonnes of mattress waste are recovered for recycling.

WRAP director Marcus Glover says: “What our research demonstrates is that there are real opportunities here for organisations and individuals to reduce our carbon footprint by diverting textiles from landfill and extracting the maximum financial end economic benefits available from smarter re-use and recycling.

"We know there's both infrastructure and reprocessing capacity out there, so there's a challenge here to make sure people are aware not only of the implications of sending textiles to landfill, but also of the different collection opportunities available for all unwanted textiles – not just clothes."

It's not just the UK suffering from a lack of knowledge when it comes to textile waste though. In the US it's estimated each person wastes 32kg of clothing annually, with only 15% of this ending up in a recycling centre. The rest is landfilled or incinerated, causing lasting damage to the environment.