How full is landfill?
Have you ever wondered where all those TVs from the 1980s went? The mountainous plastic beasts with their ample ‘booties’ which once enjoyed prime position in most UK households, along with the likes of the Commodore 64's and their big bulky monitors?
Slowly but surely replaced by slim successors, boasting flat screens and touch technologies, in the last few decades it’s become all too easy to drive to your local tip and dump something.
Replace, renew, upgrade, out of sight, out of mind.
But where’s all this stuff actually going? Is there a graveyard of 60 million monitors lurking somewhere deep underground? Just how big is the landfill ‘bin’?
Frankly, it’s a tricky question to answer. The Packington landfill outside Birmingham was one of the UK’s biggest sites. It actually sits above the ground, forming a towering hill of rubbish in the countryside and covering around 380 acres of former grassland with more than 19 million tonnes of waste.
That was just one site. In the UK alone.
No one can predict exactly how quickly we’ll use up all the available space we have, but we can definitely control what goes into it. All types of electronic waste present a challenge for recyclers, but televisions and monitors are particularly difficult to deal with. Older models included a glass cathode ray tube which can contain up to eight pounds of lead and other dangerous heavy metals! Once that glass enters landfill it inevitably breaks, causing the lead and other toxins to leach into soil and water.
Some good news is that recycling has developed significantly since the days of the bulky TV's. Specialist, and often complex, processes mean that several of these components can now be reclaimed, reused, sold and turned into new products.
In the UK, Recycle Now lists 28 different recycling labels that can appear on packaging. Most households today are pretty educated in sorting their waste and most councils will collect the majority. But where does it go from there?
Since China ‘shut its doors’ to imported recycled waste last year, there’s an increasing National crisis particularly around plastic. The UK produces more waste than it can process at home (roughly 230m tonnes a year which equates to a scary 1.1kg per person per day).
It’s all too much. The bottom line is there isn’t a bottomless pit. We need to stop and think at the point of purchase, as well as the time to throw away. With the enticing pricing of companies like IKEA and Primark, it’s easy to slip into a culture of disposable living and one-upmanship: replace, renew, upgrade. Let someone else clear up what we no longer want or need. Yet this culture has already cost us, and we’ll continue to pay the price if we don’t action change.
The real solution is to think before we buy. Digital platform Provenance is helping companies to be more transparent with their supply chains, engendering trust and goodwill amongst consumers and encouraging them to make positive choices at the start of the chain, so we’re not leaving damaging traces along the way. It’s about where a product has come from as well as what it’s leaving behind.
Statistics show that Generation Z and those behind it are typically willing to spend more on sustainable items, so we’re heading in the right direction towards a better future.
At &Keep we’re positive we can do this together by making sustainable switches and recycling responsibly.
Let’s not default to replace, renew, upgrade.
Let’s remember Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Be a changemaker. Leave a good impression. You’ve got this.