Eco-Friendly Gifts: The Importance Of Reusing
Many of our Eco-Friendly Gifts are packaged in reusable containers such as aluminium tins. In this blog, we're going to talk about the real benefits of reusing, and why there should be a focus on reusing instead of recycling.
We're also going to give a bit of info on the recycling process, and it's downsides in today's global society. Using a case study on our Pampering Gift Sets, we can show how we are creating gifts based around reusable packaging.
Why Should We Reuse?
There are several reasons as to why we should reuse instead of recycle. Later on in the blog, we will talk about why reusing reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill every year, as well as waste being sent to incineration.
Much of this blog will be focusing on specific aspects of waste management that could be significantly reduced in scale, if less waste was being produced every year.
Reusing Instead Of Recycling
Recycling contributes to the single use culture.
Having the mindset that once a plastic bottle is thrown in the recycling bin, it will be recycled with no problems, means that people aren't that fussed about buying single use plastic bottles.
It's almost a safety stop for the large companies producing millions of tonnes of plastic every year. If their product ends up in the natural environment, it is now the consumers fault for not recycling it.
Theoretically, if there was no recycling, there would not be this excuse for large plastic producing businesses. This means that people would have to reuse items, as they would know there is no chance that anything good would come out of disposing of any plastic material.
Reusing encourages community action. The main example being hand-me-downs, shows that just because you are personally finished with the item, does not mean the item has no use anymore.
Clothes can be passed on many times over, without the need to create more clothing. As a source of microplastics, polyester clothing releases plastic content every time it is washed.
The clothing industry in general, as a result, contributes hugely to microplastic pollution in freshwater environments, as well as in our drinking water.
If clothes were reused, there would be a significant reduction in the demand for new clothing, which would lead to less plastic being produced to fill the demand.
Recycling is not effective. Only 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled. When you consider that 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, it shows there is an unfathomable amount of plastic still present.
Whether it be in landfill or the natural environment, plastic can remain intact for hundreds of years, all the time posing a threat to marine wildlife.
Exporting Plastic Waste
Recycling rates are not to be trusted. Developed countries such as the UK export much of their plastic waste to other countries to be processed.
Up until recently, this country was China. This was due to China finding it cheaper to import plastic waste from other countries to be recycled, rather than produce their own virgin plastic.
In 2018, China implemented their National Sword Programme. This meant they would now only accept plastic of a 99.5% purity rate.
This caused, and is causing huge problems, as much of the plastic waste exported to be recycled is far below that standard.
As soon as recycling being exported leaves the UK, it is automatically counted as recycled. There is no follow up on what actually happens to the recycling in the destination countries.
The UK government turning a blind eye to this situation makes it possible for an 'out of sight, out of mind' thinking set.
There were numerous reports of waste sent for recycling just being illegally dumped or burned, when the plastic waste wasn't of a high enough quality. Since the ban in 2018, developed countries are now looking for other places to send their plastic waste to.
Countries such as Malaysia have also been found with many tonnes of plastic from the UK filling illegal landfill sites. As a result, countries such as Malaysia have no started to send their plastic waste back to the UK.
Reusing reduces the amount of plastic being created in total. Simply using less will enable a proper plan to be put in place for the correct, environmentally friendly disposal of plastic waste.
Reduce The Strain
Reusing, as well as reducing, puts less pressure on the already failing recycling system.
In a purely hypothetical situation, imagine that instead of 100 plastic bottles an hour being processed in a recycling system, that only 1 was. This would increase the chances of the bottle being processed correctly, resulting in higher recycling success rates.
Part of the reason that the recycling system is not working, is due to the sheer volume of plastic entering the system every day.
Pampering Gift Sets: Case Study
Packaged in luxury wicker baskets, our Pampering Gift Sets are presented in a beautiful, reusable hamper.
The wicker baskets can be used over and over, reducing the strain put on the recycling system, as well as providing a long term keepsake box for the recipient.
We recognise how single use packaging can put strain on our waste management systems on a global scale, and how reusing can help reduce that strain.
Our Pampering Gift Sets have no single use plastic packaging, leaving materials with much higher recycling rates such as aluminium, to contain each selected item.
Recycling can only do so much. Common plastics such as PET have an average maximum of three times that they can be recycled. This is because every time a plastic material is recycled, the quality of the polymer decreases.
Past the average of three times, the quality of the polymer is now so low it cannot be recycled any further.
To address this, many recycling plants just add in more virgin plastic. This means that many recycled plastic bottles are actually made with a combination of recycled plastic and virgin plastic.
Recycling contamination means many tonnes of plastic that could be recycled every year, are sent to landfill or incinerated instead.
Let's take a common example of incorrect processing leading to recycling contamination. PVC and PET are both common plastics in mass production today.
PET requires high temperatures to soften and mould it, so it can be recycled. At these same high temperatures, PVC starts to break down into hydrochloric acid. This new acidity damages the PET to the point where it can't be recycled anymore.
This results in the entire batch of PET sent to landfill.
Reusing Vs Landfill
Reusing items we already own, as well as refusing to buy single use plastic, reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill every year.
Landfills result in the surrounding environment being damaged. Landfills full of plastic waste result in leachate being created, which pollutes the surrounding ground water and natural environment.
As landfill sites are rained upon, the rain absorbs the soluble molecules in the plastic waste. Many of these molecules are toxic, and can severely damage the surrounding environment.
This combination of toxic molecules and rain water is known as leachate. The leachate then moves downwards until it reaches the groundwater surrounding the landfill.
This combination of toxic molecules can be extremely dangerous to the surrounding wildlife. A landfill in Oxfordshire is reported to release 27.5 tonnes of ammonium into the River Thames every year.
When this ammonium pollution reaches the River Thames, it breaks down into nitrogen. This extra nitrogen has the potential to cause excessive plant growth and decay.
This process damages the water quality, starving fish and other marine microorganisms of the oxygen they need to survive on.
Another more worrying result of landfill leachate pollution are what's known as blue-green algal blooms.
These have the potential to kill domestic pets, wildlife and livestock. In humans, these algal blooms can have serious health effects.
Skin rashes, stomach pains and nausea are just a few of the resulting consequences of humans coming into contact with blue-green algal blooms.
Reusing Vs Incineration
Incineration is another common method of dealing with plastic waste. Any reusing will cut down the amount of plastic waste sent to incerination, and reduce the severity of the consequences for burning massive amounts of plastic.
Incineration involves burning plastic waste, resulting in 75% of the solid plastic waste being converted into gas. The other 25% remains solid in the form of ash.
There are two main dangers of producing gas from solid plastic waste.
Toxic gases formed from burning plastic waste included dioxins and furans.
There has been extensive research carried out, which shows there are several worrying health impacts that dioxins and furans present. Several of these dioxins are known to be carcinogens in humans.
Short term exposure to the same chemicals can result in altered liver functions and skin lesions, whilst long term exposure can mean impairment of several vital physiological systems.
These systems include the immune system, the developing nervous system and the endocrine system.
Examples of incinerators presenting a health risk to the surrounding communities are many. A class action lawsuit took place in Miami recently, due to the rates of cancers and other diseases being linked to the local incinerator.
With an estimated 14,000 people affected by leukemia, seizures and liver disease, the class action lawsuit seeked to get reparation from the city of Miami for not dealing with the incineration plant for decades.
Since the 1970s, people in the affected community have been dealing with the health damage caused by the plant.
Throughout this blog, we've hopefully given an insight into the key problems that the current waste management system is having to deal with. Reusing will reduce the amount of waste entering the system, which will mean safer, and more successful rates of waste being processed on a global scale.
Gifts For Environmentalists
Gifts are such an important part of communicating with the people around us. Our range of gifts for environmentalists will bring joy to those closest to you, as well as minimizing the impact on the environment.
We noticed that many shops selling gifts for environmentalists do not take the entire life cycle of each gifts into account. By designing gifts around diverting waste away from landfill, our gifts give a unique way of bringing joy to the recipient, whilst staying kind to the environment.
If you would like to read more about why reusing and reducing is important, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.