What's old is new (and helps us grow)
Ever thought of getting a smartphone for only half the price?
Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, many of which are already in scarce supply.
Minimising waste provides added value to us all and encourages resource-efficient growth.Commissioner Connie Hedegaard
Second hand shopping, an integral part of re-use and recycling, makes sense. It is kind on the wallet and makes an important contribution to climate protection. By contrast, dumping waste in landfill sites causes lasting damage to air, water and soil, polluting the surrounding areas and emitting high levels of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. It is often a pointless waste of valuable materials.
Recycling and recovery has emerged as a key industry to protect our environment, encourage innovation and boost our economy. Across Europe, state-of-the-art treatment facilities that transform waste into compost or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) are being built. In the cement industry, one of the highest CO2-producing sectors, sustainable ideas are being introduced that enable energy and materials to be recovered from waste and later used as a substitute for primary fuel and raw materials. We can even help unwittingly, with just the heat of our bodies.
Modern recycling plants can be found all across the EU.
Innovative ideas have been encouraged by the legislation and policy introduced by the European Commission. Recycling of household waste has increased from 17% in 1995 to 40% in 2008, with the amount going to landfill dropping from 68% to 40% in the same period.
I'm surprised that so little can do so much. But I'm happy to do my part to help the environment.Hanna Svensson, Train commuter whose body heat is used as an energy source
A few enterprising ideas
Smarter choices with a lasting impact won’t require major adjustments to our daily routine:
- Every year we use up to 190 different plastic bags which will take as long as 1 000 years to break down in a landfill dump. Taking a reusable carrier bag when you go shopping will cut down on this waste and stop plastic bags from littering the streets.
- Choosing goods with less packaging at the supermarket will ease the burden on our landfills, while re-thinking the need to print at the office will curb deforestation. That's how to reduce our individual waste total of six tonnes per year.
- Bringing used glass to the bottle bank and sorting paper, cardboard, plastics and cans from the rest of your waste can save enormous amounts of CO2.
How you can help
But given that even the most effective recycling and waste management processes generate greenhouse gases, the key strategy is to prevent waste in the first place. That’s where you can help make a difference in shaping a desirable future for us all.
Have you given a second life to clothes or electronic devices? Tell us about your low-carbon tricks on Facebook.