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    Wednesday, 1 February 2017

    Britain to Bottle It Up

    When it comes to waste, the whole of Europe is on-board with systematic waste reclamation. This act, recycling, is taken quite seriously by some countries, and rightfully so as the actions of one country can affect bordering neighbours. Germany, archon of efficiency, recycles 98% of its plastic bottles. That’s an unimaginable feat when compared to America’s dismal 23% recycling rate for plastic bottles. The country has been recognised as one of the top recyclers in the EU thanks to strict regulations to guard against unnecessary waste and rigid rules as to sorting recyclables. Other European countries are wobbling in the wake of Germany’s hyper-competence.

    Blogger Jessica Scott-Reid of Canada documented her experience with the German recycling system: “all glass bottles must be separated by color – brown, green, clear, and so on ... Plastic bottles are to be returned to depots, located within grocery stores or as standalone businesses. And there are special bins in each home for biodegradable waste, which is picked up on regularly scheduled days … there were also designated cardboard pickup days. This is all in addition to each municipality’s own system for recycling all the rest – cans, plastics, paper.”

    In Britain, it is estimated that something like 60% of its plastic bottles are recycled. Governing bodies in the UK have are in the midst of introducing a plastic bottle levy in an attempt to reduce waste in landfills and at sea. A deposit return scheme has been proposed that would tack an extra 10-20p to every plastic bottle purchased. The extra cost is redeemable by returning the bottle to recycling centres. Versions of this scheme have been operating successfully in Europe and North America for years. Speaking about the proposed scheme, Prince Charles told Sky News, “It always seems extraordinary to me we don’t take these sorts of initiatives which can make a dramatic difference.”

    “One of the most troubling environmental trends, as I see it at least, is the progressive build-up of plastic waste in the oceans.”

    Much of the waste now at sea originates from the usual plastic goods – plastic bags, straws, and bottles – that  start out as land waste before making their way into rivers. Borne to the sea via these channels, these harmful items circulate the world contributing to the creation of trash islands. Plastic can be swallowed and eaten by wildlife, causing irreparable damage to their digestive systems and packing their bodies full of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. It’s gotten to the point where those who enjoy eating shellfish can inadvertently consume up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic a year. The chemicals found in marine life contain the endocrine-disruptor Bisphenol A (BPA) and all the chemicals soaked up by microplastics on their journey from land to river to ocean to consumption. Needless to say, this is extremely worrying news.

    Prince Charles said as much: “Some of that plastic is being swallowed by sea birds, by whales, by dolphins, seals and other creatures to the point today where plastic waste is estimated to be in the guts of all marine mammals.”

    General plastic waste has been a problem for decades. Big contributors to the problem, however, are the infamous micro-beads. These tiny, extremely detrimental additions have made their way into everything from toothpaste to cleaning products. Used as an abrasive aid, micro-beads are washed into the water supply and make their way into oceans. The offending items have recently been banned in the US and Canada, and the EU is on their way to doing the same (petition). Apparently, a new “litter strategy” is being worked out by Defra to deal with both micro-beads and other plastic waste in Britain.

    Jacqui Litvan

    Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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