Global Recycling Day: We need to think resource, not waste


Global Recycling Day (March 18) signifies the importance recycling plays in preserving our resources. Read more on why recycling can help protect the planet.

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Waste levels are growing exponentially, with research suggesting there will be a 70 percent increase in waste to 3.4 billion tons by 2050. When it comes to plastics, according to data from Systemiq’s Breaking the Plastic Wave report, 40% of global plastic waste ends up in our oceans. Plastic pollution in our oceans is set to triple within the next 20 years. Global Recycling Day is important to TOMRA as it aligns with our vision of leading the resource revolution and it is an important day for society to stop and reflect on how we are currently operating with our recycling processes and habits.

As the global economy restarts, we run the risk of falling back into old habits when it comes to how we handle plastic. Change is needed to support the green agenda with recycling placed at the forefront, to eradicate a “throw-away culture” and protect our planet. We need to view recycling as a method to maintain resources within a circular economy, and not just as a form of waste management. This mindset shift will result in big wins for society, as we will use less resources, reduce litter and create less carbon, which helps fight climate change. Through recycling, more than 700 million tons in CO2 emissions can be stopped from entering the environment every year.

A day to make a difference: What is Global Recycling Day?

Launched in 2018 by the Global Recycling Foundation, Global Recycling Day on March 18 helps recognize, and celebrate, the importance recycling plays in preserving our precious primary resources.

Its missions can be defined twofold:

  1. “To tell world leaders that recycling is simply too important not to be a global issue, and that a common, joined up approach to recycling is urgently needed”.
  2. “To ask people across the planet to think resource, not waste, when it comes to the goods around us”. Without this, recycled products will never be valued or repurposed like they should be.

As the organizers of Globally Recycling Day state, “it is a day for the world to come together and put the planet first”.

Recycling needs to be on the global agenda. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are already helping to achieve this, and governments, businesses and consumers are taking their own action to support this. But collectively, we need to do more.

This is reinforced by Global Recycling Day – a movement to showcase the importance of recycling to save our planet.

Not waste, but a resource

The ethos of Global Recycling Day epitomizes the battle against the linear model of “take-make-dispose”. At some point in the near future, our natural resources are going to run out, meaning how we handle materials today will impact the availability of resources tomorrow.

Society has consumed more resources in the last 50 years than in the rest of history and, of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced every year, only 2% of plastic packaging gets recycled in a“closed loop”. This behavior is not sustainable.

We need to stop seeing plastic as a disposable commodity. Instead, it needs to be seen as a valuable resource that should be responsibly handled for recycling and reused in the production of new items – thus enabling a circular economy. This shift in societal mindset benefits the entire value chain, from having more high-quality recyclable material available during production, to reducing plastic waste pollution in our environment. All of this is achievable through efficient recycling processes.

Of the earth’s natural resources, we tend to think of six as the most important – water, air, oil, natural gas, coal and minerals. As Global Recycling Day puts it, recycling has become the “seventh resource”– one which can be reused and reused.

There’s a huge need for all of us to do “more and better with less” when it comes to how we produce and consume materials. In the production process, we need to design for recyclability and remove unnecessary material. As consumers we also have power by choosing and rewarding brands that do the right thing.

Another two important steps in the recycling process are collection and sorting. The above video is a great example of the collection of plastic bottles and how they are managed in a closed, clean loop. Through responsibly handling this resource after the consumer is finished with it, the quality of the plastic can remain and be turned back into a new plastic bottle.

Below is an example of the sorting step in the recycling process, where optical sorting technology is used to segment the resources. This enables plastic to stay in a loop and be used as the “seventh resource” rather than being lost to a landfill or incineration.


Responsibly handling resources to ‘Save The Planet’

Recycling is an integral element of the green agenda and protecting our resources. This “seventh resource” ensures we’re responsibly handling our materials to protect our environment; it already supplies 40% of the world’s raw material needs and it’s projected that recycling will save 1 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2030 from going into our environment each year.

Our ocean plastic alone is expected to triple by 2040, but taking action now can stem this tide by 80% – and recycling is key to protecting our environment and saving the planet.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) already recognize the importance of recycling, and governments, businesses and consumers are already taking action to support best recycling practices. Through this collective effort to enable the concept of “resource, not waste” and promote efficient and effective recycling, we can protect our planet’s future.

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