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Eleanor Newton: Recycling Is Great, But Reusing Is Better!


Today is Global Recycling Day and while recycling still has a major part to play in ending the climate crisis, we at Ground Delivery think reusing is the future. We support our local community around Reading to make the choice to reuse easier by providing a delivery service using reusable glass jars to distribute everyday groceries such as cereal, rice, pulses, nuts and tea and coffee. We’re demonstrating that a plastic-free approach to food shopping is possible – and we hope more people around the country will be inspired to start using services like ours.

It took a long time for recycling to become a key part of household waste management, but in recent years it’s become increasingly common. Around 50% of all household waste is now recycled, up from 11% 20 years ago.[1] It’s important to take a moment and realise how incredible an achievement that is. Not only does it show that the impact we’re having on the planet is slowly declining but it also demonstrates that people in the UK are keen to lower the amount of waste they send to landfill.

Unfortunately, most people don’t realise that a huge amount of the items they recycle, actually end up in landfill or burned.[2] Like most countries, we are unable to deal with the volume of our own waste and that includes recycling. The moment I learned that we in the United Kingdom, an industrialised nation, send our waste AND recycling to poorer nations was a turning point. Even if your plastic bottle is recycled, it may have travelled by cargo ship beforehand, causing our oceans massive harm, and if countries like Malaysia or Thailand cannot recycle our items then they are thrown into landfill or burned.

So if recycling isn’t the solution, then what is? We used to say reduce, reuse and recycle but somewhere along the way we became hyper focused on recycling and forgot about reducing and reusing. Reducing your waste can seem daunting, but often it can be as simple as taking your own bag to the supermarket or using tupperware instead of cling film.

It’s important to realise what a huge impact one person can have. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and anxious about the huge size of the climate crisis and I know I’m not the only one. Climate anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety nowadays and it’s easy to think that there are no solutions. But there are solutions, and switching out a few of your household items to ones that are reusable is a fantastic way to start. For example, if you start taking a reusable coffee cup to your regular coffee place as opposed to getting a takeaway cup, you could save hundreds of coffee cups per year. That is not an insignificant achievement!

A good tip for reducing waste is simply to pay attention to what you’re throwing away. Before you toss, stop and think. What is this bit of waste? What caused it? Why did I need it? Is there a more sustainable alternative? Plastic-free and zero-waste stores are starting to pop up all over the UK, making it easier and easier to reduce your waste and your climate footprint, but it’s important to remember that simply taking one step towards sustainability is amazing. You don’t have to start squeezing your rubbish into a tiny mason jar any time soon.

As today is Global Recycling Day it would be appropriate of me to recommend that you recycle more of your waste. Instead, I’m going to ask that you think more about reducing and reusing. Whether it’s buying clothes second hand, reusing a jam jar for food storage or not putting your loose veg from Tesco in a plastic bag (after all you can just wash it when you get home) every little helps and together we can make a huge impact.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/444744/household-recycling-rate-uk/#:~:text=Over%20the%20last%20two%20decades,its%20household%20waste%20by%202020.

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/17/plastic-recycling-myth-what-really-happens-your-rubbish

Eleanor Newton is the founder of Ground Delivery. Ground delivers zero waste groceries door to door in glass jars that are collected and reused.

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