Clearing up the confusion of environmental myths

Do you know if coffee cups are recyclable? Should you use a hand dryer over a paper towel? This week the Green Element team was at an event aimed at debunking environmental myths. The aim was to clear up the issues that confuse people regularly about the sustainability and help them make informed decisions.

We all unknowingly make the wrong decisions but for the right reasons. Informed by misinformation we cannot be as effective as we need to be. We want to help the issue and try recycling, but instead, we recycle the wrong materials and taint the whole batch.

These environmental myths can divert the cause with little effort, so we need to make an effort to educate ourselves and remove any confusion there might be. So here are some quick facts to help clarify things –

  • Recycling figures have not improved in recent years. You might think that we are more aware of the issue and are making more of an effort. But the data shows a plateau in the amount of recycling happening in the UK over the last decade. This is partly due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the consumer.
  • Do not put compostable “veg ware” in your food bins, they still go in general waste. Food waste should be kept separate from all other waste types. It is recycled using a process called ‘Anaerobic digestion’ which does not work on plant-based cutlery. They go to the landfill where they will decompose properly and do not pollute with microplastics.
  • Coffee cups should not go in your recycling. While they might have the logo and the brand might say they are – they are not. They are laminated and treated to keep the heat in. This cannot be recycled other card and paper. It needs a specialist process to break down. While some offices have access to this facility, it is still the best practice to use a permanent cup and remove this issue completely.
  • While plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds are getting a lot of attention in the media. They only account for 0.1% of all plastic waste. Banning them is a great start, but there is still a lot to be done about our global plastic problem.
  • Black plastic does not get recycled. All plastic sorting systems use black conveyor belts and NIR (near infra-red) scanners to sort their waste. Black absorbs light, so the black plastic does not get scanned and bypasses the system, usually contaminating other waste. The black plastic that does get through is rendered useless by the black dye that is used. It is the most wasteful of all plastic products.
  • If you must use plastics, the best to type to use is clear. In the sorting centres, this is considered ‘high-value’ waste that gets sorted easily and quickly. Any plastic that uses dye is compromised and gets neglected.
  • Steel recycling is so efficient that it can go from the recycle bin to the shop shelves in 60 days.
  • Waste incineration renewable creates carbon waste that is harmful. It is best to change your provider to a completely renewable firm. They are cheap, efficient and clean.

Are you interesting in being more sustainable but still have some questions about how to do it? What are your environmental myths? Get in contact and we can help clear up the confusion and make positive change within your business.

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