Britain and the world's recent record on waste is really quite rubbish. Since the 1960s the amount of rubbish we create has gone up by 500%, meaning that the average UK household produces around a tonne of waste per year. What’s more, the kind of rubbish we now produce is much more difficult to break down compared to fifty years ago.
Ash and pottery have been replaced by glossy paper and glass, while plastic disposal has increased more than tenfold. The “waste not, want not” attitude of the post-war years has been replaced by a prevalence of packaged goods and a throwaway culture.
But don’t worry, as it's not all bad news. Over the past few years the proportion of household waste we recycle has been climbing by between 0.5-1% per year, leading to it reaching 45% in 2015.
The progress on the recycling front is consistent but frankly it's slow. Sixty percent of household waste can be recycled – that's around 100 stone, so think of that next time you stand on the scales.
So how can we help to make up that extra fifteen percent? Here are some recycling stats and tips you might not know.
It's easy to forget that oil can easily be recycled at many supermarkets and petrol station forecourts. Although used oil seems sticky and horrible, seven litres of useable product can be made from every ten litres of used muck.
Like oil, recycling big pieces of furniture can often seem too complicated. However, organisations like the Furniture Donation Network exist to make it much easier. Just go to furnituredonationnetwork.org, book a collection and your furniture will be resold (for a social welfare charity), reused or recycled to a high standard. Many other charities also run furniture pickups and have donation centres.
Large metal items
The furniture pickup services will sometimes collect some types of large metal items too, such as bed frames. Don't forget the good ol' local scrap metal merchant though. Just check on the web or over the phone that the company you use complies with all necessary environmental legislation.
With all of our mobiles, remote controls and iPods, we get through a lot of batteries in the UK – 30,000 a year, to be precise. The problem is that these fairly innocuous looking little lumps contain some seriously harmful chemicals that can kill plants and animals as well as damage soil. Fortunately, many supermarkets, electronics stores and recycling centres now have battery bins. Take your used AAs there and they can be recycled, good as new. Of course there are always rechargeable batteries, which can be used again and again.
Stats aside, we should be proud of what we have done with recycling. We've begun to take a threat and turn it into an opportunity, and if we keep it up the future could be brighter than ever before.