Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy

Recycling is a success story – and one which Friends of the Earth and our supporters have been at the heart of since our first campaign to persuade Schweppes to take back used bottles in 1971.

Our guest writer is Julian Kirby, Resource Use campaigner at Friends of the Earth

Recycling often comes in for a bad press. Ironically, it is a subject which itself falls victim to an endless recycling of scare stories about ‘slop buckets’ and Byzantine systems of sorting.

And yet recycling is a success story – and one which Friends of the Earth and our supporters have been at the heart of since our first campaign to persuade Schweppes to take back used bottles in 1971. And it was in no small part thanks to the work of thousands of our activists that the 2003 Household Waste Recycling Act was passed and recycling facilities were brought to our doorsteps.

All this upward pressure – and more than a little political will to be fair – meant that recycling in the UK leapt up by 30 per cent in ten years. But that was from an abysmal start, and even now the UK only hovers around the average European Union rate. Wales and Scotland have recognised this and set themselves 70 per cent targets for 2025, but England and Northern Ireland seem content to do the minimum 50 per cent necessary by 2020 under EU law.

We’ve shown the cost of poor recycling before, in our 2009 Gone to Waste report revealing the at least £650million of recyclable materials the UK buries and burns every year.

Our new report – More jobs, less waste – shows how many jobs we could be throwing away as well. The report calculates that at least 51,400 new jobs would be created across the UK if we recycled 70 per cent of the waste collected on behalf of local authorities by 2025, about 25,000 more than if we only recycled 50 per cent of that waste.

And if we recycled 70 per cent of business waste as well we would create at least a further 18,800 jobs. Given that recycling creates around ten times more jobs per tonne than sending rubbish to landfill or incineration it would be economic as well as environmental madness not to show some genuine ambition in recycling. After all, the Flanders region of Belgium is already recycling well over 70 per cent of its waste. What are we waiting for?!

If the coalition is serious about being the ‘greenest government ever’ then they could easily bring about 75 per cent recycling by 2020, making up that extra distance by ensuring supermarkets stop selling products that can’t be recycled.

Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy. Recycling more of our waste simply requires political will. It’s time for more jobs, less waste.

17 Responses to “Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy”

  1. Philip Cane

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  2. Friends of the Earth

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  3. MoonEra

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  4. Laura Blake

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  5. KarlBooton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  6. Mr Jabberwock

    There is a simply amazing assumption in this article that creating employment is per se a good thing.

    Of course creating productive employment is a very good thing; it is hard work and people who create successful business that provide productive jobs deserve any rewards they can gain. But jobs that are not productive are a very bad thing and those that impose them are damaging society.

    Now I do not know whether the jobs this article is talking about productive or not, the author does not take the time to argue this. But clearly thinks and assumes the readers will assume that all jobs good.

    You can increase employment by, for instance. requiring two guards on a train. Marvellous? No a disaster that would reduce the use of public transport in the long run.

  7. Croydon Labour Party

    “@leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk” #Croydon too!

  8. Mr. Sensible

    Fully agree with this article.

    In that respect, is it a good idea for the coalition to scrap ‘Pay as you Throw’ and replace it with some kind of reward system for recycling? I remember hearing in I think June that when the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead tried this, 1 resident said that she wasn’t recycling any more than she would have done. This scheme targets the wrong people; those who already recycle.

    And I also think it isn’t helpful that my local Tory council closed 3 Household Waste Recycling Centres in August. What message is that sending about how seriously the Tories take this issue?

  9. Jason M. Reeves

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  10. Croydon feed

    “@leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @ww… http://bit.ly/9il7HU

  11. Chris

    @Jabberwock

    The market will take care of everything will it? Just like it took care of the financial system…

  12. Akheloios

    I was a part of the last generation to see widespread recycling of glass bottles. You’d go to the local shop, buy a bottle of pop and then bring the bottle back. It worked.

    The real problem is with subsidies, a bugbear of every right thinking economist, but the subsidy hasn’t been Government money. The subsidy has been the relative free source of petrochemical energy since from start of the 20th century. Several million years of solar energy has been used to prop up a system that is becoming more and more unsustainable.

    When the oil and gas supplies run out, we’re in for serious problems. We can attempt to bridge the gap through renewable sources of energy, such as solar cells, tidal power and wind power, but the fact is, we’re going to have to live without the massive subsidies that oil provides.

    No more shipping water from one side of the world to the other. That means lettuce and other high water content food products from Africa/US/Asia to Europe will become unsustainable.

    Europe will have to grow its own food and produce its own raw materials. The food problems can be easily solved through desiccating food produce at the source, then shipping, but for raw materials? Recycling is the only way we can have a consistent stock of glass, silicon, metals and other raw materials.

    It’s better to put that infrastructure in place now then go through a worse depression than the recent one, or the one of the 1930s or the one in the late 1800s.

    No-one can disagree that the system needs work and improvement, but it does hold the best chance of providing us with the raw materials that we’ll need for industry in the coming decades.

  13. PhoneBookRecycle

    Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy | Left … http://bit.ly/99yJub

  14. MyCityExplorer

    Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy | Left … http://bit.ly/99yJub

  15. thinkB4Ushop

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

  16. Uncertainty in Recycling Waste « Pollution Free Cities

    […] Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy (leftfootforward.org) […]

  17. Emma F

    RT @leftfootfwd: Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy: http://bit.ly/cPM3QF by Julian Kirby of @wwwfoecouk

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