One of the biggest environmental issues we are facing today is climate change. It has an impact on every aspect of our lives, including our health and wellbeing. Recycling means fewer raw materials are required to make items, which helps reduce our carbon footprint and our contribution to climate change. A new study by packaging experts RAJA UK has uncovered just how much waste is not being recycled, and as a result, ends up in our ecosystem. Here are just a few of the ways not recycling or reusing items is having a direct impact on both our health and the world around us.
The pressures that are put on the environment
The recent increase in extreme weather conditions is a consequence of climate change. These conditions include flooding, droughts and landslides. By not recycling or repurposing items, we use more energy and raw materials, which then increases the amount the greenhouse gases we emit and puts more strain on the environment.
As a result, it is predicted that southern and south-east Europe will face water scarcity issues, which will have a major impact on agriculture. This includes farmers producing much smaller yields which, in turn, results in decreased food production. Without effective adaptation of farming strategies, each degree-Celsius increase in the global mean temperature could reduce global yields of maize by 7.4%, wheat by 6.0%, rice by 3.2% and soybean by 3.1%. This could lead to a food shortage and price of goods would be much higher.
- The impact pollution has on species
Incineration and landfill are often the final destinations for waste that isn’t reused or recycled, however, this isn’t always the case. Excess waste can end up in our oceans or other habitats, seriously endangering the creatures that live there. It is estimated that 267 species are being affected by plastic pollution worldwide. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there, as over 700 species are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of plastic in our oceans.
This plastic debris is one of the biggest threats to ocean wildlife as it is estimated to kill over a million seabirds a year. They become entangled in the plastic or mistake it for food, and end up ingesting it. This is also the fate of sea turtles, as records suggest that over 1,000 sea turtles die annually after becoming entangled in plastic. What’s more, Professor Brendan Godly from the University of Exeter states that this number is a serious understatement, and the real figure is much higher.
- The impact pollution has on human health
It’s not just the environment that is paying the price of climate change. Humans are exposed to pollution in both airways and food streams, which can have a significant impact on our health. The Royal Society of Medicine has uncovered that the rise of pollution in the air has resulted in 6,000 people in the UK who have never smoked, dying of lung cancer. It turns out the food we eat is just as polluted as the air that we breathe. Evidence suggests that the average person eats the equivalent weight of one credit card (five grams) of microplastics a week. By 2030, that could equal a massive 468 credit cards ingested per person. Microplastics can have both carcinogen and mutagenic properties; the ingestion of microplastics may cause cancer or cause mutations in your DNA.
Household items that you can reuse or recycle
When it comes to knowing what you can reuse and recycle, cardboard, glass and metal often comes to mind. But there are a surprising number of items that sit in your home that can be repurposed or recycled, such as:
Batteries: Annually, 22,000 batteries are sent to landfill in the UK. Batteries contain seriously hazardous materials such as lithium, mercury and lead that can seep into the soil when they’re sent to a landfill. Instead, you can easily recycle them by taking them to a designated collection point or go a step further and opt for rechargeable batteries to reduce your waste.
Clothing: Brits throw away 336,00 tonnes of unwanted clothing each year. Sell, gift or donate your unwanted clothes to give them another life and keep them out of landfills. For clothes that aren’t fit for donation, repurpose them into cleaning rags or take them to your local recycling centre.
Carpet: In the UK, over 500,000 tonnes of carpet waste is produced annually. If your carpet is in good enough condition, turn it into a new rug, car mat or cat scratching post. If your carpet has seen better days and is not fit for repurposing, take it to your nearest carpet recycling centre.
Bubble wrap: Once you’re finished protecting fragile items with your bubble wrap, why not use them for insulation in winter? Tape them to the windows in your home or greenhouse to keep your space significantly warmer and save money on your energy bill.
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