The UK Government report that every year, British people generate over 200 million tonnes of waste (222.9 million in 2016), with England being responsible for approximately 85% of this.
As somewhat of an environmental improvement from previous decades, ‘Recycling and other recovery’ was the most common final waste treatment type in the UK, which accounted for 48.5% of all waste – 104 million tonnes. However, standard landfill was reported to be the second most used waste treatment in the UK, accounting for 24.4% (52.3 million tonnes) of total waste disposed of in 2016.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of recycling waste products and what difference it really makes to our planet, alongside the differing roles that domestic and commercial recycling (e.g. waste collected by private skip companies) have in all this.
How does waste disposal impact our planet?
Such high disposal of waste to landfill has huge, serious impacts upon our ecosystem, both nationally and internationally. Some of the waste which is taken to landfill will eventually rot, however, a large proportion will not, causing obvious issues in terms of space.
Waste which is made up of materials which are able to decompose naturally will usually generate methane gas. Methane gas is an explosive substance which contributes to the greenhouse gas effect by giving off and absorbing thermal infrared radiation into the Earth’s atmosphere. Essentially, greenhouse gases absorb the heat rising from the Earth’s surface and re-emits a lot of it back towards the ground, creating a heating effect for those of us living down here…
But what has this actually done to our planet?
– NASA report that, if it wasn’t for the impact of such damaging greenhouse gases, the average temperature of the Earth’s surface would be -18°C, rather than the staggering 15°C it is now (a 33°C difference). Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane (a common gas that is given off from landfill waste) trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, with higher-than-natural concentrations, leading to an unnatural warming effect on our ecosystem.
– The US Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2016 that, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration on Earth has increased by around 40% to now above 400 parts per million (ppm). To put this into perspective, current CO2 levels are 100 ppm higher than they were at any time in the previous million years and likely higher than any time in the last 25 million years. This whopping effect of greenhouse gasses is something that naturally should have occurred within 5,000 – 20,000 years. Such an abrupt impact on the Earth’s atmosphere is to blame for the current unnatural heat energy balance of our planet.
– As the oceans inevitably warm up as a result of this atmospheric change, sea levels continue to rise. This is a result of two factors; warmer temperatures causing the ice glaciers to melt into water; and warmer oceans causing water to push further along shores causing physical changes in ocean temperature. This could have a catastrophic result for coastal locations all around the world; which is very bad news for any of us island countries. For example, since 1922 sea levels at the Boston harbour have risen by a staggering 10.4 inches as a result of climate change.
– With little in the line of natural defence from such unforeseen climates changes, it is ultimately the natural ecosystems and wildlife systems which will be most dramatically affected by this climate change. WWF UK reports that global warming is the most likely danger to the cause of species extinction this century. This climate change is happening far too quickly for many species to adapt, it’s that simple.
How is domestic recycling dealt with?
Domestic waste deemed recyclable by council services is sent to MRF (Materials Recovery Facilities) to be processed and dealt with accordingly. The major Merseyside MRF for domestic waste removal is based in Glissmoss and is operated by Veolia. Operational since 2011, this particular facility takes the majority of waste materials from Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool and Sefton households.
Glissmoss MRF is ultimately responsible for producing seven secondary raw material grades and has the capacity to process over 200,000 tonnes of waste materials on an annual basis (35 tonnes of material per hour). Processing these numbers, we can see that this major Liverpool MRF divert about 63,000 tonnes away from disposal per year, which leaves a staggering 167,000 tonnes (approx.) to be sent to landfill and processed as un-recyclable.
Liverpool Echo conducted an investigation into how exactly your waste is processed by the council. Ultimately, the report concluded that Merseyside as a whole recycles approximately 41% of waste products on an annual basis.
Workers remove anything that clearly shouldn’t be there by hand (e.g. plastic bags, hose pipes and car batteries), however, human error can often come into play here. This particular investigation noted the following as some of the most peculiar things which Liverpool residents had sent in to be recycled: a hose pipe, DVD player and “massive gas canister”.
How does commercial waste disposal differ?
Investing in the skip hire services of an environmentally conscious disposal company is the perfect for choice companies who wish to get rid of waste efficiently whilst remaining wholly confident that they are not further contributing to climate change. Below, we are going to provide a conclusive and honest answer on the commercial waste removal process, its motives and its increasing importance for our dwindling planet.
Unlike individuals and families getting rid of waste within the domestic sphere, companies are ultimately required to pay a fee to get rid of their rubbish and recycle bulk loads of materials, which is where waste removal services come in. Without sounding overly pragmatic, the transparent reality is that recycling waste is to skip companies what making houses are to a bricklayer; it’s what puts the bread on the table.
Of course, skip companies will sometimes have to resort to landfill when there is an abundance of un-recyclable waste. However, it is worth emphasising that this is a last resort. It costs them money and puts further strain on the environment!
Pulling open the truth from behind the curtain further, landfill charge the likes of skip companies for the amount of waste they dispose of by weight. Therefore, it is of the highest priority for waste removal services to ensure that this amount is as low as possible – giving them all the more motivation to separate as thoroughly as possible through the help of expert machinery and hardworking staff.
The process of recycling
Within the domestic sphere, waste materials embark on a far different recycle journey than waste which companies dispose of using expert waste removal services. These vary by specific council legislations, for example, some common items are made from different grades of plastic that don’t currently have a market value. However, some general categories of different waste materials are paper, glass, cardboard, wood, metal, plastic, soil, brick and concrete.
In general, however, the following provides information on the life cycle of waste materials that come from the likes of waste removal companies sending products to be recycled.
As a result of wood recycling, a common product particularly for those businesses working within the construction industry, wood energy provides 66% of all the renewables used in the EU. This makes it the largest renewable energy sector available. Also, the UK can be thanked for producing 20% of that 66% renewable energy, making it the single largest provider within this category. Impressively as well, 90% of Scotland’s renewable heat used comes from wood energy, making it an important player in the utilisation of renewable energy sources.
Getting more specific, different types of wood are graded as part of the sorting process that the likes of private waste removal companies provide:
- Grade A wood (Virgin wood) – untreated and unpainted wood. Found as whole pallets which can be reused as pallets. Broken pallets are shredded and used as animal bedding on farms, sent to biomass plants.
- Grade C Wood – MDF, treated wood, painted wood. Sent to larger, wood recycling plants, biomass plants and converted into energy.
Brick and concrete, on the other hand, is cleaned, separated, crushed and resold as different aggregate materials, or alternatively sent to quarries. This last option is particularly impressive, as quarries begin the process by digging away to find and sell raw materials. Then, once this material has run out, there’s a gaping hole in the Earth which needs to be filled. So, once the ground is level again, they are usually turned into housing estates or other forms of built property.
Likewise, quarries rely on the clean recycling of soil. As part of this process then, the soil will be cleaned, separated, graded and resold before being sent to backfill the same gaps left by quarries – making it a fully renewable operation, which waste removal services help contribute towards.