We live in a throwaway, disposable society. Our linear production, consumption and disposal patterns contribute to massive resource depletion, pollution problems and climate change. We live on a planet with finite resources yet an increasing amount of products we buy are disposable. According to the book Rubbish! 90% of raw materials used in manufacturing become waste before the product leave the factory while 80% products made get thrown away within the first six months of their life.
Manufacturing new products and even recycling old ones causes carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to be released. Every product we buy has used energy (usually fossil fuels) and emitted greenhouse gases through the extraction and production of resources (minerals, metals, plastic, wood, etc), and the manufacture and transportation of the product. This is referred to as embedded energy and carbon.
For a fascinating, fact-filled look at where all our stuff comes from see this short 20 min video The Story of Stuff
The stuff we buy has a massive carbon footprint. For example over 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with UK consumption is associated with production of goods in UK or overseas. By throwing away these products we contribute to climate change, landfill problems and pollution.
We are all responsible. Every year households in Derbyshire throw around 189,000 tonnes of waste into their general waste bin. This gets dumped in a landfill somewhere. Not only is that a huge waste of resources, it costs Derby and Derbyshire council tax-payers £22.7m a year on landfill charges.
However much of this waste could be avoided by:
Reducing ie consuming less in the first place – do we really need it?
Reusing – can a product be repaired, can we give it away to someone else who might use it, can we use it for a different purpose?;
Recycling – where the useful resources in a product are extracted and turned into a different product.
In a world of finite and dwindling resources we need to consume much less and more wisely. We need to re-think how we use and consume products, and re-design products so that they last longer, require less or no fossil fuels to produce, and are designed for reuse. Ideally we want to live in a world of zero waste.
Practical info on what you can do to reduce, reuse, recycle to move Chesterfield towards zero waste can be found on other pages.