Bex and I had a great time working at Shambala. Apart from watching some great music, going to poetry slams and listening to a man in wedding dress tell us about permaculture, Bex and I learnt A LOT about waste. We worked 3 shifts on the recycling team, sorting out waste (more glamorous than it sounds) and chatting to the various people who make Shambala happen. Just because you want something to be recyclable doesn’t mean it is. Here’s what we found:
Not all coffee cups are made equal.
Some of you may have seen Hugh’s war on waste, I didn’t sadly. If I had of watched it I would have been more prepared. So many coffee cups aren’t recyclable or compostable simply because they are lined with plastic. The nice waxy ones that feel weird in your hand? Not good. Let go and never hold one again. A mere 1 in 400 coffee cups in the UK are recycled. I can believe that after having to throw so many mostly paper cups out of the recycling pile. Long live the eco-cups, travel mugs and people who sit in the coffee shop and drink their drink out of a cup that will be washed and reused.
Plastic has a magic number: 1 2 5
Check your plastic item and it should have a triangle with a number in the middle. As alluding to being recyclable as the nice sustainable triangle would like you to believe, only the numbers 1, 2 and 5 are. The numbers actually refer to the chemical material that forms that plastic.
Grade 1 is Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) which is most plastic water bottles bottles, sports drinks and plastic containers. This is recyclable!
Grade 2 is High Density Polyethene (HDPE) and is most likely milk bottles, juice bottles and cleaning product bottles including those like shampoos. This is recyclable!
Grade 3 is BAD. This is Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) which is largely the clear plastic food packaging, this can’t be recycled and if that isn’t enough it is also known to cause infertility in animals including the polar bears.
Grade 4 is BAD. This is Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) which can be found in plastic bags. This can’t currently be recycled and poses a risk of leaking estrogenic chemicals.
Grade 5 is Polypropylene (PP) which is most plastic bottle tops, margarine tubs and yoghurt pots. This is recyclable!
Grade 6 is BAD. This is polystyrene (PS) which many lightweight take away containers and cups are made of. PS is believed to leak cancer causing chemicals into food.
Grade 7 is BAD. This is any other plastic. Largely polycarbonates and Bisphenol A. These can leach endocrine disruptors into food and drinks causing adverse effects in humans and wildlife.
A scary reminder that plastics are not as safe as we want them to be. Check out eartheasy for more information.
People want to recycle!
What was also great at Shambala was so many people were recycling! The bins were labelled so we didn’t have to do too much sorting apart from those sneaky non-recyclable-but-look-recyclable items. The only bad thing was that all too often recyclable materials are contaminated with food which means they can’t go in the recycling. Understandably, at a festival you’re not going to have the opportunity to wash the paper plate you’ve just eaten off however, if you’re at home give your milk cartons, food trays and jam jars a quick wash first please!
Wanna find out more about recycling, check out Recycle Now.