A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth

It’s becoming easier to buy products made from recycled materials, and it is also becoming easier to buy items that can be recycled. This is thanks to us.

Political pressure and people power, to say nothing of scientific evidence that proves how vital it is, mean that we are all much more likely to read a newspaper printed on newsprint containing a high proportion of recycled fibre. We now look for those little words on the packaging that say it is made from recycled material. Paper kitchen towels can be recycled in the compost bin. A manually operated shredder will work wonders on documents and produce compostable material.

Simple gadgets convert newspapers into bricks that provide efficient fuel for the fire.

Plastic drink bottles and tubs are shipped to China from Europe and recycled into the fabric to satisfy the world’s need for lightweight, hardwearing, warm, synthetic fleece jackets.

It’s a little depressing to ponder how much it costs the planet in human time, toxic emissions, and fossil fuel to collect, ship, sort, and manufacture using the detritus from our thirst for bottled water and highly processed foods, but it does at least show a willingness to tackle recycling head-on.

Mobile (cell) phones can be taken apart and the various components re-used.

However, the hunger to recycle is tempered by the risk to the health of those undertaking the work.  Fortunately, dangerous elements such as lead, chromium, and cadmium are at last being designed out of things like electrical equipment.

As the economies of less developed countries take off, inadequacies in the surrounding infrastructure are often exposed. Those countries are less likely to have systems in place to cope with the rubbish that gets created by a so-called modern society. Everything, from old CFC-filled fridges and cars to polystyrene boxes and non-biodegradable rope, just piles up, un-processed and unloved.

It is the countryside and urban wasteland that is most vulnerable, and perhaps it is their landfill sites that become clogged quickest with waste created by newly affluent citizens. Their governments need persuading to initiate sustainable schemes for recycling and to introduce penalties for manufacturers who pollute the environment.

It takes political will to come up with solutions and we all have a part to play.

We in the more developed parts of the world have been subjected to years of nagging by environmental groups. Our children and grandchildren learn of the importance of recycling when they are at school. For them, it is second nature to sift and sort every waste item into categories, and we have learned fast. It is perhaps the older generation that is lagging behind.

For the sake of our future, we must support environmental pressure groups as they present their case in high places. Taking as examples the fleece jackets made in China, the kitchen waste that goes into the compost bin, and every newspaper that is converted into a combustible brick, we are proving that we care about our precious planet, and not before time.