Data suggests that recycling rates in England have largely been at a standstill since 2011, increasing only slightly each year. Every day, an average of 1.8m kilos of plastic waste is exported from the UK to poorer countries – most of which comes from some of the UK’s biggest household names.
To make matters worse, this number continues to increase each year. Perhaps this is because the consequences of not recycling regularly – or not recycling at all – are not immediate. If brands are unable to clearly envision the reward of recycling (saving the planet), they will not feel any urgency to make an immediate change. We hope to shed some light on how regularly recycling plastic and paper can help the environment.
How does recycling help the environment?
Any brand will know how important packaging is for the distribution, promotion and protection of products. This is especially true when it comes to extending the shelf life. In order to produce new packaging, raw materials need to be harvested and extracted from the Earth. More often than not, such activities harm the pale blue dot we call home and increase the pollution of soil, water and air.
Recycling, on the other hand, helps to reduce the harmful effects of constantly producing more paper and single-use plastics. But this is just a snapshot of why recycling is so important.
What impact does recycling have on the environment?
Let’s take a further look at the great impact that recycling can have on the environment:
Unfortunately, one of the most common destinations for waste in the UK is landfills. In 2016 alone, around 24% of the UK’s waste was sent to landfills. This is quite an alarming figure considering the fact that most of this waste could be recycled instead of being tossed away.
There has been a recent shift away from non-biodegradable packaging. However, the majority of packaging that ends up in landfills is not biodegradable. The issue with non-biodegradable packaging is that it can take a long time to decompose. A glass bottle, for example, can take up to 4,000 years to fully decompose. Nearly 690 billion units of glass bottles and containers were produced in 2020. If these containers are not disposed of properly, they will continue to take up vast amounts of landfill space. This landfill space will not be able to be re-used for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
With all this in mind, it’s important to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. That way, we will have more land to use or re-use for other purposes.
Conserve natural resources
Millions of trees are felled every day to keep up with global paper consumption. Similarly, tonnes of steel, iron, coal and other raw materials are dug up every year to help create goods and packaging materials.
However, the demand for raw materials appears to be greater than supply. If the lifecycle of raw materials continues to end with disposal, we could eventually run out of such useful natural resources. Not to mention, raw materials such as coal release lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burnt. This is a big issue when it comes to fighting climate change.
Instead, such materials should be recycled to reduce carbon emissions, save energy, conserve raw materials and – most importantly – create a circular economy.
When plastic waste is not recycled properly, the risk it poses to wildlife increases tenfold. For example, if waste is not safely put in the recycling bin, it could blow over into surrounding bodies of water or a sea thousands of miles away.
The effects of plastic pollution on marine life have been well documented over the past few years. Research suggests that sea turtles are attracted to the smell of plastic, which is a major issue as they use chemicals in the air and water to help them find food. The more that businesses recycle, the less of a threat plastic waste poses to marine life.
How does recycling help brands?
In the past, opting for more sustainable packaging options didn’t always make financial sense for most businesses given that the cost of using virgin plastics is often lower than using recycled plastics.
Although producing single-use plastics is sometimes cheaper, we are currently witnessing a shift in consumer buying behaviour. As the benefits of recycling become clearer, consumers are changing how they shop. This includes only supporting brands that align with their ethics.
46% of Brits feel guilty about the amount of plastic they use, with a further 82% actively trying to reduce the amount of plastic they throw away. Part of this effort also includes purchasing from brands that use sustainable packaging options. 50% of shoppers say that they would be more than willing to pay a higher price for products with biodegradable packaging, highlighting that there is indeed a profitable market out there for businesses that opt for sustainable over more traditional packaging solutions.
What can your brand do to help the environment?
Of course, recycling has countless benefits for both the environment and society at large. So, it’s wise for every brand to ensure they have an efficient waste management system in place to reduce their impact on the planet. But your business’ efforts to save the planet don’t have to stop there.
At Tyler Packaging, we are all about sustainable packaging design. We produce a range of compostable pouches that are biodegradable and help reduce the impact that landfills have on the environment. That way, your business can provide sustainable packaging solutions to consumers without compromising on quality or design.