A report jointly produced by the Environmental Services Association and Waste and Resources Action Programme has found that 10,000 jobs could be generated by the UK recycling industry.
One of the main areas for potential recycling and reuse is the electronics industry, because an estimated 12 million tons of electronics waste will be created by 2020. An estimated seven billion pounds (as in the currency, not mass) of valuable precious metals might be extracted from all that electronic waste.
The increasing cost of raw materials would mean that being able to reuse existing materials from products that are thrown away could save a great deal of money. Further, once that material was successfully reused, it might serve as evidence that a circular economy is advantageous, rather than being a burden and not much more than a civic duty. Cell phone recycling is one example.
‘About 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined at design stage. If we work together to change the way products are designed, we can avoid the current trend of a third of potentially recyclable material being lost to the economy. This is vital for resource efficiency and security, and to reduce environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions,’ explained David Palmer Jones, chairman of the ESA. (Source: The Guardian)
This is exciting news, because waste is a culturally-based concept that results in linear thinking. This thinking means that culturally we have certain beliefs that have caused much useful material to be thrown away at times. The UK has actually increased its recycling rate very much in the last decade and is anticipated to meet the EU goal of 50% by about 2017.
During WWII, UK citizens practiced recycling with meticulousness. A survivor described this mentality,
‘Even before the war, we were always careful. Ordinary people didn’t have the sort of money they do today and anyway, things just weren’t so available. No ordering things on the internet! If you wanted something that you couldn’t get in the local shops, you had to make it for yourself and we’d always collect good containers to put things in – you’d never dream of throwing things away. All my father’s nails and screws were kept in old jam jars – a different jar for each type. That’s the sort of world it was; waste not, want not. You just didn’t think anything of it – and these days I get letters from my local council telling me how I must recycle more. You have to laugh, I suppose.’ (Source: Recycling Expert)