The problem: We’ve all seen pictures of packaging – plastics, cans and lots besides – that gets into rivers and the ocean, causing havoc with nature and the environment. We all want to do something about it, and the easiest everyday thing – recycling right – can be a bit confusing. That's especially true when it comes to plastic packaging, a global environmental issue highlighted by Dame Ellen MacArthur, and most graphically by Sir David Attenborough in his Blue Planet II series. That's why we're part of the UK Plastics Pact.
The solution: Let's start putting nature first by making recycling second nature. We're all doing our bit but our environment needs us to do a bit more. We're developing an app that you'll be able to download onto your phone which will:
a) Be a quick and handy way to check what and where to recycle locally (wherever you are)
b) Let you track how you're doing (what, and how much you're recycling)
c) Let you know how much of a difference you're making
d) Compare your recycling creds against your friends, encouraging everyone to get involved and do more
We've started already!
a) What and where to recycle
So far, our clever little app lets you scan a piece of packaging with your phone and can already tell you what it’s made of and how to recycle it at home, or where you can recycle it near you. Clever, but a bit "functional".
b) So you're recycling, but wouldn't it be cool to track exactly what, and how much you're recycling?
We can build some clever tech that counts up everything you scan, how much plastic, metal, paper or glass you’re recycling, and pops up some nifty graphics to show how you’re doing. All you need to do is put it all in the right bin.
c) What if you could see what difference your recycling is really making?
Did you know recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb for 3 hours? So how many plastic bottles does it take to light your local primary school? Or the streetlamp outside your house? Or heat your local swimming pool? If recycling one aluminium can saves 7 times as much energy……. Can you do the maths? Well, we can do it for you. We can build a number crunching tool that does all the hard bits and lets you see how your recycling is making a real difference cancelling out other energy and CO2 emissions in your community.
d) How about getting your family and mates involved too?
With a little bit more tech, we can link you up with your mates so you can compare your recycling creds and have fun checking out who's the biggest eco warrior in your clan!
£10,000 will enable us to build on the foundations of our basic personal tracker. Using your phone's location,
the app will be able to give you precise, localised advice on what and where to recycle. And we can add in lots of other stuff too, like where to find on-the-go recycling - which we're really pretty awful at in Britain!
Another £15,000 does the fancy maths and shows how heroic you’ve been - what difference you're making.
Go from hero to totally awesome and £20,000 more will let you get your nearest and dearest involved as well as getting your competitive juices going!
And if you guys turn out to be utterly unbelievably planet-saving amazing app-funders, another £10,000 will provide educational infographics and cool factoids to convince everyone how easy it is to be a recycling guru!
Honestly, we'd like to get it to a screen near you NOW! But Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's going to take us the summer to get our app built, tested and ready for you to play with. We're aiming for the final version to be ready before next March 2019 (a great way to celebrate our 10th Birthday!)
We’ve been doing this recycling business for 9 whole years now. We’re the not-for-profit people who put those little recycling labels on oodles of packaging. We’ve won awards and accolades for them – from the UN Environment Programme, to the UK Government’s Environment Plan, to the local council recycling officers' wish list. We’re really proud of our labels and that more than 7 in 10 people recognise and act on them.
You can see more about us here .
- Each of us throws away our own body weight in rubbish every 7 weeks (ok, it takes a bit longer for some of us). And like our waistlines, it’s growing every year. Around a third of it’s food waste (mostly avoidable) and slightly more is packaging (which helps prevent food and product waste when the design is ace).
- A bit more than two thirds of packaging (by weight) gets recycled in the UK. Some of the rest shouldn’t be. The wrong kind of plastic can ruin tonnes of the right kind of plastic recyclate (that’s the stuff that comes out the end of the recycling plant) which means it has to be thrown away too. Tricky bit is telling the good from the bad. If our label says Not Yet Recycled DON’T DO IT! Bin it instead.
- Despite the Landfill Tax being older than most of you reading, we still bury 16 million tonnes of household waste in UK landfill sites each year. In Belgium they’re mining their old landfill sites for recyclable stuff. Coming to a landfill site near you soon?
- Between us we recycle less than half the plastic bottles we use, even though practically EVERY council collects them for recycling. They could be back on the shelves as a bottle within weeks, and go on being recycled for years. Lots of bottles are made from 25% recycled plastic now. Lots of companies want to hit 50% within a couple of years. We need to help them by recycling more.
- Pat on the back to us all for recycling enough glass each year to launch 10 space shuttle missions, but still 75% of the average glass bottle is virgin ie first use glass (except for those famous green bottles which far from sitting on the wall can be as much as 90% recycled glass).
- Aluminium and steel cans and aerosols are totally recyclable, but 80 million food and drink cans end up in landfill each year. It takes 20 times the energy to make an aluminium can from new instead of recycling. Only your food and clothes have a higher environmental footprint.
- If we all recycled 10% more clean paper and card we’d save 5 million trees each year. And over 1 billion kilowatts of energy (that’s a lot of lightbulbs) and 2 billion gallons (sorry, Brexit and all that) of water (or 3,600 Olympic swimming pools). But don’t recycle the sparkly stuff. It really messes up recycling plants.
In case that's not enough reasons to act, read on:
- Plastics and glass are virtually indestructible. They just break down into tinier and tinier bits. Now we know that the really tiny plastic bits are turning up in fish we’re worried, but we don’t know how worried we should be yet. Washing your clothes also puts micro-fibres into the environment, and a lot of ocean plastic is from fishing nets, so lots of other stuff needs to happen as well as recycling packaging.
- Paper, card, wood and food waste break down in the environment, but anything that floats can collect at weirs, grates and choke points, causing all sorts of mayhem. The really big deal is they give off methane when they break down anaerobically (same stuff that comes out of the back end of a cow and about 30 times more dangerous for the planet than CO2). Natural doesn’t automatically mean good (think salmonella).
- Metal packaging litter is aesthetically degrading more than a bio-hazard, specially now ring-pulls stay attached to the can. Steel rusts eventually. Aluminium stays and stays and stays. Mostly, littered metal can be recycled if it gets picked up. But who wants to deal with someone else’s old beer cans?
- The biggest problem is not packaging. It’s what people do with it. If we recycled or binned it all properly it wouldn’t cause such major harm to nature or our environment. Litter is pollution. Litter is anti-social. Litter is unacceptable. Take it home – and demand more on-the-go recycling bins!