If change were easy, we wouldn’t need to talk about it so much. Human beings have a tendency to underestimate the effort required to enact real change. Certainly anyone who has tossed away their last pack of cigarettes or determined to lose weight knows how true that is in their personal life. The same is true for society as well. Matters where societal change meets individual habits may be the most difficult of all.
It can be done, of course. In fact, our air and water have gotten generally cleaner in the last 50 years, whatever gains we have yet to make. We have at least become a bit more conscientious about where we throw it when we throw it away.
But not all change is created equal. We have a much tougher road ahead when it comes to recycling. A recent article in the London Daily Mail illustrates the point. Now, Europeans have demonstrated a greater capacity for government oversight than we have here in the states—though we are certainly gaining on them. It is clear that lack of regulation can hardly be blamed for the plight of their recycling programs.
Case in point: while recycling is required virtually everywhere in England now, there are varying standards for setting it out. Recyclers would, of course, like the material to be sorted if possible. Just how much is a factor of what you can get people to do successfully. Many use a system of three separate bins to sort paper, plastic, and metal. At least one town council requires a system of six bins. The question of where you store such bins on your property doesn’t seem to be mentioned. The six bin system certainly would allow for detailed sorting of, for instance, different types of plastic. It ought to make things much easier for the recycling processors.
Or it would if it actually worked. Instead, despite the best efforts of participants, contamination persists. Contamination can be a huge problem in recycling, and it cuts right to the bottom line of both funding and function. As a result, massive amounts of supposedly recyclable material are headed for the same old spot—the local landfill. The Daily Mail notes the total has doubled in the last three years, with nearly 20 percent of all household recyclables rejected.
So what to do? Keep trying to get it right, for one thing. Work to innovate in matters such as pick-up and sorting. But, more importantly, put more effort into eliminating the problem of non-renewable materials in the first place. Reduction is a big part of that–smaller packages with less wasteful displays, for example.
But the best solution of all is to develop and utilize new materials that don’t harm the environment, regardless of where they happen to land. At Paper Water Bottle, we believe those materials should be Backyard Compostable, actually nurturing the soil that will ultimately yield the next batch of fiber to make the products we need. That’s not just incremental change; it’s A Refreshing Alternative.