There is sometimes controversy in what our own and other countries are or aren’t doing to save our planet. Some controversy is justified *cough* Trump *cough* and some isn’t. However, I do believe we can learn lessons from what other countries are doing in the battle to reverse the damage to our planet. Battles like recycling plastic and the advantages of recycling if we do.
One country who is truly leading the way is Sweden. Swedes recycle nearly 100% of their household waste and they even have to import more waste for something to burn to produce more fuel. Burning waste is a different issue and has its own negatives but in this blog I want to focus on recycling. In 1975 Sweden only recycled 38% of it’s household waste. They have truly showed up what we can be capable of. Sweden seems to recycle everything! The usual stuff is recycled such as paper, plastic bottles and cans but they also offer other services. You can take leftover medication to a pharmacist, food is composted or converted into bio-gas and trucks go round and collect electrical items. Residents also take them to recycling centres their selves. These are only a few options in Sweden designed to make a better planet for all.
In Germany consumers are charged a deposit or “Pfand” in German when they buy items such as Pepsi. German supermarkets have machines for those who take bottles back and they will get up to €0.25 back per bottle. This will vary based on material and what the bottle was originally used for. Machines will scan the bar code to establish the value of the bottle. As a result seeing plastic bottles on the street is essentially unknown. Not the case here in the UK where litter is a huge problem and a plague of wildlife.
Rwanda, still considered a Third World Country banned plastic bags in 2006. Not just because of the physical effect on the environment but also how they were being disposed. Authorities were concerned burning was releasing toxins into the air and the bags themselves were clogging up drains which led to flooding. Bags are even searched at airport security for plastic bags and any found are confiscated.
Anyone who violates this law faces a fine, typically this will be around 50,000 francs (US$61, €67) or even face time in jail. This is just the start for Rwanda who plan to be a sustainable nation by 2020.
Some laws are yet to be enforced by passed through their parliament or equivalent. France has passed a law banning plastic cutlery, plates and cups. This will come into effect from 2020. While they have been condemned for violating EU law regarding free movement of goods it has to be argued this is a step in the right direction.
Small steps are being taken in the UK such as the 5p plastic bag charge. Of the UK England was the last country to bring the charge into effect. The charge did lead to nearly a 90% reduction in plastic bag use. If this one act can make such a dramatic change what more as a nation can we be doing? No one wants to be taxed more or charged for things that we take for granted but you can’t deny the 5p charge made a difference.
How can you make one change now?
- Contact your local government representative about environmental issues and make them take notice.
- Sign petitions to force the government to take action. In the UK 100,000 signatures are required for a debate in Parliament to be considered.
- Education! Speak to your friends, family, employer and further. If people emotionally invest and commit to combating environmental issues, one by one we can all make a change.
- Look after your environment yourself. Dispose of your litter responsibly or even go one step further and help take it off the streets. “Plogging” is trend in Sweden that began in 2016 which combines jogging and picking up litter. This is an example of society taking a stand and committing to a better future.