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The truth about waste

Kaya Purchase investigates exactly where our rubbish ends up

We all feel that tiny bit good about ourselves when we recycle – taking the extra effort to wash out the tins and separate the plastic containers from the food waste all in the name of the planet. When I make sure to not just toss everything in the same bin, I always feel like I deserve a little pat on the back. I’m nothing short of an eco-warrior. But, few of us think about what happens after the rubbish is taken away. Where does it go and how does the recycling process actually work? We all know deep down that nothing disappears, all that we discard ends up somewhere, but the convenient myth of our consumerist society is one of shiny, neat aesthetic pleasure and the success of capitalism rests on the concealment of the dirty truths behind the consumption and disposal of products. In other words, it depends on an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ philosophy. Recycling is undoubtedly better than just throwing things away, but where does our waste end up?

The method of reusing materials is as old as civilisation, but what the modern Western world has come to know as ‘recycling’ is inspired by a model that was introduced in the 1960s in America. It initially was presented to factories to encourage them to consider the life of their packaging after consumer disposal, inviting them to ditch single-use plastic and focus instead on reusable materials. However, this concentration was quickly shifted to the individual consumer, whilst industrial waste and manufacturer responsibility was largely ignored. Instead the model became the industry we have today, advertised as a vague, environmentally-friendly solution to waste. However, what still remains widely hidden from consumer knowledge is the amount of energy, pollution and additional raw material inputs necessary for recycling. It also produces inferior plastics, which means that you can only recycle plastic a limited amount of times because each time it is recycled it becomes less pure, or ‘degraded’.

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About Be Kind

Hello, A lot of the good news we read about in the press is from towns, cities or countries that aren’t our own, and whilst it’s fantastic to hear of successful stories or schemes in a place far from yours, it’s always really exciting to learn of great things happening on your home turf. I moved back to my home town in Essex a few years ago, after stints overseas and in London. With most of my adolescence spent here, the streets are lined with memories, but I felt a disconnect as I grew up and wanted to seek out likeminded people and pastures new. I returned with a sense of trepidation and, probably, a slightly irritating snobbery. But things have changed and I was wrong. Take Best Days Vintage, for example (p74). Based in the heart of town, they caught my eye a while back when I saw a sign outside offering free help and advice for anyone who didn’t know how to register to vote. The vintage store is not only promoting sustainable shopping, but they have created a safe space for young people to come and talk about their problems – they’re focused on building a community and spreading positivity. My hairdressers, a converted double decker bus (@originalbutton), recently posted on Instagram about their decision to make the salon an #antigossipsalon. Gone are the celebrity gossip mags and in their place is a book swap corner. They want to use their position to spread kindness and create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. I think it’s a fantastic idea. You might think there is nothing going on in your locality, but kind people are making things happen everywhere. We all need to open our eyes and ears to the great things going on nearby and lend our support – and who knows, maybe you could be the next person to start a positive movement in motion. Have a great month, Phillipa Editor