06 September 2017

Is plastic recycling profitable?

Obviously, it's best not to recycle at all, and refuse or repurpose instead.
However for an average person, living on average salary and not having enough time to buy only entirely biodegradable, unpacked goods it's a bit of a Holy Grail crusade.

So if it's not possible to go completely zerowaste, why so many people find it hard to recycle?

There are many reasons that people, who avoid recycling, name as culprits:

  • It's hard to do
  • It doesn't make any difference
  • They should pay me to recycle
  • I have no space for recycling
  • It's inconvenient

To me all of these sound exactly like the last point:

Recycling is inconvenient

Just consider what "it's hard to do" means. It means that it's complicated either to the fact that you have to separate, clean, take to the recycling centre or make sure you use the right container or a mix of all of these.
That is a hassle. And why is that? Because recycling business want to push as much responsibility for the pre-processing onto consumer's shoulders, to cut costs.

How about "it doesn't make any difference"? On the surface, it looks like another issue, but in reality, the results aren't visible because so many people choose to not recycle for the rest of the reasons. Hence the main point is again: inconvenience.

"I have no space" reason is a no-brainer. Of course, recycling takes space. Especially if you have to separate, keep special bins and so on. Major inconvenience if you have a small house!

Should they pay me to recycle? That's a controversial one, but only if you don't look at it in depth. Imagine I've bought wine in a lovely crystal carafe. I drank it, but the carafe still has value, and I can sell it easily. Why not recyclables? Are there no companies who'd use these materials? As a matter of fact there are. Simple example are the bottle returning schemes that work in many countries. Usually glass bottles are exchanged for a small fee which makes the inconvenience a bit of a smaller burden.

It almost seems as if the "recyclable trash" is worth nothing or costs a lot more than raw resources.

And it has been that way, but not nowadays.

Recycling industry reports show that the plastic scrap recycling business has grown more profitable over the past decade. With the rising cost of petroleum, plastic scrap recycling saves natural resources and reduces production costs.

Recycling plastic business includes a broad base of scrap suppliers, a recycling plant, shipping facilities, and buyers of the end product. Recyclers of plastic prefer to purchase directly from major suppliers, such as retail stores and chain restaurants. Any successful recycling plastic business needs an uninterrupted supply of scrap plastic which means that there is a constant need for the product. In this case your trash.

The demand side of this business has shifted dramatically over the last decade or so also due to initiatives such as the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for buildings. Post-consumer recycled content garners extra points towards certification. So that has driven demand up, which makes it more profitable than before to deal in recycled plastics.

The fashion business also uses recycled polyester (and promotes as such on the price tags), which likely comes from recycled PET bottles, very hard to recycle otherwise. So there is a lot of healthy demand compared to in the past for these recycled resins.

Why then isn't the inconvenience taken of an average Joe to help recycling become a norm rather than some fancy-pants green fighter play?

It's profit. A lot of wealth comes from natural resources management and ownership and it makes no sense of these people to want the recycling to become the choice of the future. That'd make their valuable goods obsolete.
Of course, this kind of thinking is devastating, but let's not forget we're dealing with people who in majority care more about their wallets and less about the future of this planet.

I believe there is a lot we can do to put pressure on the governments to make them aware that we know these simple truths:

Recycling is profitable for companies 
Recycling is inconvenient for consumers

There has to be a shift in obligations towards recycling business if we want a better future.
And business leaders who understand this and support it should get more help from their governments so that they can help us, consumers, live a better, greener life.

05 September 2017

Paper Tissue Issue

Green People know that paper manufacturing is environmentally harsh.

Consumers like soft, plush tissue paper and that can only be achieved by cutting down forests. Recycled paper is slightly more rough and not as pleasant to those delicate body parts we want to touch.

Paper production uses a lot of timber destroying wildlife habitat. But the process of timber gathering is already a very devastating one. Heavy machinery is a source of physics destruction and sound pollution, making some parts of forests entirely uninhabitable.

It’s a major generator of water and air pollution including dioxins and other cancer-causing chemicals. The industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming gasses.

According to Wikipedia:

Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites, accounting for about 35 percent by weight of municipal solid waste (before recycling). Even paper recycling can be a source of pollution due to the sludge produced during de-inking.

Metsä Wood sawmill in Kyrö, Pöytyä, Finland

Yet everyone still thinks that because toilet paper is soft and spongy and breaks in hands, and facial tissues are thin and biodegrade in months rather than years the problem is minimal.

It isn't.

According to the environmental agencies across the world about 20% to 30% of all household waste is paper. Less than half of it gets recycled. The remaining bits often end up polluting natural animal habitats and beaches.

These problems get raised every now and then. Animals covered in dirty tissues get photographed and for a while public thinks before flushing a whole set of barely used tissues.

But there are truths nobody ever speaks of publically and I feel are very important.

Dabbing your eyes with paper tissues might be the worst idea ever.
Milled paper sheds micro fibres, which is you're unlucky might cause serious eye damage (especially if you're allergic) or a build-up which will irritate and dry your eyes.
Did you ever stop to think why so many people nowadays get eye problems? Sure, we do use more monitors and stare at various screens for hours. But we also use way more chemicals and our eyes are constantly exposed to physical irritants.

Tissue paper ads to those.

It's worse if a producer promises no fibres. That can only mean the papers is mixed with polymers or cotton fibres as binders and makes this type of paper practically non-biodegradable or non-recyclable.

Some facial tissues are also full of anti-bacterial agents or fragrances. Regardless of what the producers claim, none of these substances are natural and healthy for our skin. Some could irritate and cause skin inflammation.

Another problem is called: containers. People usually speak of tissues or paper, but rarely touch the issue of what they come in. Most of the time facial tissues come in foil or a paper box with foil window. Sometimes that foil doesn't even have information about recycling. Other times it isn't recyclable at all. Even if it is mechanical separation of the paper and foil makes this process very expensive. 
Toilet paper and wipes come in foils almost 100% of the times unless it's plastic boxes and even those rarely get recycled, because most people dispose of them in their sanitary bins.

Why not move to a more eco-friendly, healthier and cheaper solutions?

Yes, in the long run cloths are way cheaper than paper tissues, if only slightly more inconvenient.

Table Of The Wedding

Here's what I've found.

There are several types of products that tissue paper is used for:

  • napkins,
  • facial tissues,
  • paper towels, 
  • toilet paper.


It's easy to replace napkins with beautiful set of cloth ones.

And as much as everyone advises taking one instead of a bunch when you're eating out I would just say: Take a pretty handkerchief with you. It weighs nearly nothing. Will fit in your bag or trouser pocket and can be used to clean your mobile screen when unused too.

You don't need paper napkins at all. 

Facial Tissues

Replacing facial tissues with cloth is a no-brainer. Not only are cloth tissues safer as I've written above, but also depending on the actual need you can have a whole set exactly suited for purpose.
Flannel for when you need it soft and absorbent (yes these are the best for uncomfortable sinus infections), cotton (for anything else) and even coarse linen for when you want to defoliate, wipe your make-up or grease from garage work.

They are also way more classy and prettier than paper waste.

Paper Towels

There's no debate that paper towels are extremely convenient. Especially if you're in a hurry, or in sudden need, nothing comes close to a handy towel at hand.
Or does it?
I actually know that a batch of nicely folded cloth towels placed strategically around the house don't have to look bad and won't add to laundry. They're actually even better because cloth won't tear or leave smudges on cleaned surfaces.

I also use ecoegg reusable bamboo towels in the kitchen. They are even better than paper towels, because they are stronger, last longer, can we washed and will in the end biodegrade safely. We have put ours in the compost bin, when they've run thin.

Another product which is perfect for spillages and when that extra absorbency is key are ecoFORCE quilted cloths. They can be washed and reused as well.

 Ecoforce Recycled Super Absorbent Cloth

Toilet Tissue

When it comes to toilet tissue the problem becomes a touchy one, because nobody wants to really switch to cloths for this, other ways such as washing are simply time consuming on most occasions. Although a bidet at home solves most of such problems, but obviously isn't a solution for everyone.
I'm still working on this one. Just need to organise some space in my bathroom ;)

Jokes aside, my household operates on these rules:

  • We only buy recycled toilet paper,
  • We avoid major brands, especially super white, super soft, because that means nature devastation and chemical pollution,
  • We use an amount needed not more,
  • We NEVER use non-biodegradable wipes,
  • And we cut down wipes usage to zero by using toilet paper with water or a bit of baby oil for way better and heather results!