Is Recycling Sustainable?

During my visit to the Greenshowroom in Berlin in January, I was very impressed by the event and so inspired to see so many involved and interested in the movement. In our daily lives, we rarely see so many people being so passionate about a cause. The event was full of interesting new fibre innovations, collaborations and technological advances, however, there was one thing that I was missing throughout the event, but especially when companies were talking about their circular design plans: the infrastructure for collecting the garments they’ve made. To many this might seem to be a secondary consideration, as it is not a very sexy topic – it is essentially waste, an afterlife of the garment. However, it is one of the most important topics we should be discussing now and we should pay more attention to it, not only considering fashion but any other consumables as well.

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

RECYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE

Recycling is great, isn’t it? It makes us feel that we are on top of our contribution to reduce waste at the landfills and keep our consumption more sustainable. We separate bio-recycling from the plastic and paper and religiously empty them in their allotted bins, and we take our old clothes and other items to the charity shops to deal with our unwanted or worn items. But do we actually know where all of this ends up? Growing in Finland with its strict recycling rules, I always thought it is the responsibility of the country or the city to recycle those items. But it wasn’t until the recent upheaval of China not taking our recycled waste any longer that I saw the full picture.

Although, we might think that we recycle everything from food and plastic to clothes and electronics, the actual amount of produce that gets recycled is relatively small and most of it is shipped to countries such as China, India, Kenya and Niger to be recycled or disposed of. Globally only 20% of the end-of-use clothing is collected for recycling out of which around 70% is sent to African countries where they are sold to poor locals, the rest is turned into rags, insulations or furniture stuffing and will not be recyclable again (Fashion Revolution). Western countries, mostly the UK and the US, keep our western economies and consumerism up, by offering us the outlet of recycling, without really explaining what happens to our recyclables. When the recyclables are shipped to China we don’t have to think about it, and now we are in the mids of panic when all the recycling is stuck in our countries and we don’t have the infrastructure to handle it. There is so much recycled clothing that goes into African countries that they don’t want them any longer, in addition, it disrupts their economic growth. The technology we send to be recycled, on the other hand, is often sent to countries such as China, India, Nigeria or Ghana to be disassembled in hazardous conditions to retrieve any precious metals and then dumped on landfills that pollute the surrounding areas. (BBC & Techland Time)

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

To battle the problem that the US and the UK especially face when other countries are not taking in their waste anymore, the US is planning to reduce support to those countries whereas the UK is trying to ban single-use plastic. For the UK it is a great start, however, there are many implications that they are not considering! Charging 5p for plastic bags and a push to use more canvas bags was a great start, but if the canvas bags are disposed of at the same speed as plastic bags were it is not solving the problem (The Atlantic). Now, in the UK they are planning on charging people for getting a takeaway cup from coffee shops. Again, a great idea, maybe it will force people to use reusable coffee cups. However, an increase in reusable coffee cups would most likely see an increase in them ending up on the landfill as well. I have 4 reusable coffee cups because most of them started leaking or broke and now I don’t know what to do with them! How recyclable are our reusable coffee cups? And where is the information what we should be doing with them after their end-of-life?

I was actually quite excited about recycled coffee cups that many independent coffee shops are using to serve their coffees in until I realised I don’t know where I can compost it or recycle it. We lack in proper infrastructures to recycle our waste efficiently and economically. Recycling is not made easy for consumers. With many types of plastics, it is difficult to understand what can be recycled and where, or how it should be treated before recycling. We have recycling bins at home, at Universities and in the lobbies of some bigger corporations, but what about the rest of the city where there are only regular bins? And who’s responsibility is it to make it all work? Recycling is expensive, it’s a business. It requires funds and resources to sort through the waste and send it forward to be reused in a new material if it is still possible to reuse it. Many of our products are not designed to be recycled, most companies don’t think the afterlife of the product, so they are made out of a combination of chemicals and materials, which are nearly impossible to separate. And many products such as paper have toxic colourings which will be recycled alongside the paper and therefore stay in the recycling loop.

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

There used to be many UK companies that handled recycled clothing, however, most have either reduced in size or seized to exist, because it is cheaper to send it away than sort through it (BBC). When it comes to fashion, only pure natural fibres are compostable, and that is if all the metallic or plastic parts are taken off it and it is not dyed with toxic dyes, and when it is composted in the right conditions. However, in most cases, clothing is created by combining cotton and polyester for comfort and durability (some just because it is cheaper to produce it this way), which until recently were almost impossible to separate. There are some technological advances to this, but it is still in its early stages. (Recycling International) .

Whilst visiting the Greenshowroom I noticed how many companies were designing circular loops into their production. Ecoalf collects marine waste to recycle it into polyester, QMilk collects milk waste to recycle it into a fibre and there are many other examples from Econyl’s recycled nylon to Revive collecting waste coffee. That is absolutely amazing, we are getting rid of ocean waste (this might take a while) and innovating with other waste materials to reuse them, but what about those products and their end-of-life, will they be collected from the ocean as well? We can’t endlessly collect waste from the oceans, it is not economic or good for the environment. Instead, we should collect everything there is now and stop other waste ending up in the ocean. Some companies, such as H&M, are accepting used clothes, however, most of them are not making it easy for the customers.

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

ALL IS NOT LOST

  • There is a new proposal in the UK to have a bottles and cans deposit that consumers will pay when buying drinks and will get back when bringing these for recycling. This is not a new idea as many countries are already using this system successfully. (BBC).
  • I read recently about a Cupclub, which is a service of reusable coffee cups for those who do not like to carry their reusable cups with them. Those coffee shops that take part in the Cupclub will have collection points for the cups after a customer has used them. I thought it is a great idea if many enough branches will take part. Similar type coffee shop wide scheme of reusable coffee cups is being used in Freiburg Germany.
  • The UK government has a scheme of a tax levy for businesses that do research and development into waste reduction and to tackle pollution. (Ethical Hour)

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE

The never-ending question is who is responsible for creating the infrastructure and making it work. Is it every consumer’s responsibility to make sure every product and item they buy is recyclable or compostable and is being disposed of in the right way, or hoard the waste that they can’t recycle? Is it companies responsibility to produce products that are recyclable in an easy way, that do not pollute and are not wrapped in millions of layers of plastic, and come up with innovative ways to make it easier for the customer to dispose of their items? Or is it the government’s responsibility to reinforce the laws against pollution and create the infrastructure that will serve all the different requirements from regular waste to clothing and technology?

According to Fashion Revolution fanzine, France keeps the companies responsible for the products they make including the packaging. They ask the companies to pay an upfront fee for all their products and packaging that helps fund the collection and recycling infrastructure. I think it is a brilliant idea, but then again it is only one of the options. In the end, it should be all three that should be working to create the infrastructure and make sure that it is used. I often debate whether it is companies or the government that should create the infrastructure and would be interested in hearing your opinions about this as well! I often think it is the government responsibility, but then I see these beautiful minds creating business models to combat waste and I am amazed!

Is Recycling Sustainable? - byLiiL

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Buy less and buy smarter. Make sure what you are buying is what you need and will last you for years.
  • Keep recycling, we can’t have our waste in the landfills either.
  • Ask your local government representative to take action and check the 6 actions by Fashion Revolution that you can do.
  • Use your voice and be vocal about these issues and how they should be fixed.
  • I also recommend reading the Fashion Revolution fanzine and learning more about this topic!
  • If you are in Scotland check also the Zero Waste Scotland website, anywhere else, I am sure there are similar organisations in your area as well.

Pictures are from Usplash and Fashion Revolution.

Do you find it problematic to sustainably dispose of your waste? And who do you think should be responsible for making our recycling infrastructure work? Let me know in the comment box below, on Twitter or Instagram, I would really love to hear your opinions on the matter!

With love,

Lii

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6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable

How To Eat Sustainably (Without Going Vegan) – We’ve heard it all over that veganism is supposed to be the most sustainable diet and healthy for you as well. But let’s face it, everybody in the world will not become vegan no matter how much people keep talking about its benefits. For some people veganism just isn’t the best option. Not eating meat is a big step for being sustainable, especially when you leave out cow-meat, however, it is not the only consideration you should take when thinking about what you eat; how much water it takes to grow the food you eat, how many miles has it travelled etc. This article discusses other options which you can do to eat more sustainably whether you are vegan or not!

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable - byLiiL

Conscious Consumerism Is A Lir. Here/s A Better Way To Help Save The World – We often think that just by buying better options, striving to recycle and reducing waste will sort out the climate change problem. However, even though our decisions can make a mark on more sustainable consumption habits, it doesn’t change the problem that is at its root. This article excellently points out what are the problems that we really should be tackling!

The Unexpected Way Your Fast Fashion Wardrobe Is Sabotaging Your Career – This post by Alden Wicker explained a lot to me! It explains how we have decision fatigue whilst providing a new point of view why our wardrobes should be more conscious!

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable - byLiiL

Making Your Period More Ethical, Eustainable and Better For You –  A post by Quirky Queer explaining why we shouldn’t be using the supermarket hygiene products and what are the other options that are more sustainable and healthier for us. A great resource for any woman!

Eating Sustainably: What I Eat In A Day and Why I’m Not A Vegetarian – A post by world threads traveller about her eating habits. She brought a new point of why different diets are good and there is no one diet suitable for everybody, with a hint of history into her life, which brought a smile to my face!

Sustainable Pet Ownership: Ways To Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Pets – Because your pets, like you, are part of the nature and if they could decide, I am sure they would like to be a positive force on the planet… well except my Ninja, who loves a warm spot so much she has an angry look on when the heating is not on…

6 Articles To Help You Be More Sustainable - byLiiL

 

Let me know your additional tips in the comment box below!

With love

Lii

What Was I Up To In February 2018

February was a cold cold month when I’ve been just trying to keep warm and dreaming of warmer months to come. I had a small city trip to London to see a friend and was still so inspired by my visit to the greenshowroom that I’ve been sketching several posts about sustainability which still need a bit more finetuning before posting them. So stay tuned for that!

5 Article about - Is it Really Ethical? - byLiiL

The couple of posts that I did post about sustainability were the Sustainable News of January, The Ethical Jewellery and about Cred Jewellery and finally shared links to various posts discussing whether they think certain topics are ethical or not, such as is vegan leather sustainable.

Happy Favourites of the Week - Friends and Lilies - byLiiL

February is also a month of lovers with Valentine’s Day and I argued that it should be a day to celebrate all the love, not just lovers. I also enjoyed naps in the sunlight and reading great books, and I shared my favourite Instagram pictures of January.

Ethical Jewellery by Cred Jewellery - byLiiL

 

How was your February, I would love to hear about it!

With love,

Lii

Favourite Instagram Pictures of January

I liked so many pictures in January, which made it fairly difficult to reduce the number of images for this post. So sorry for the picture overload! As always I was very inspired by flowers and pastel colours. In addition, this month I liked interesting female pictures with various shapes and positions, and a lot of empowering messages. These Instagram accounts are absolutely amazing and I encourage you to check them out!

 

What pictures did you like in January?

With love,

Lii

Sustainability in 2017

2017 was a year of learning to me, as I mentioned in the Reflections and Goals post. I learned a lot about myself and about sustainability. There is still much more to learn, but I have to be proud of all that I’ve learned so far. If you missed any of those posts here is the list of sustainability posts from 2017:

5 easy sustainable fashion changes - byLiiL

Bee’s Wrap Sheets – A Sustainable Food Wrapping

4 Posts That Make You Think

Sustainable Vegetable Marking – Forget The Stickers

Dreams of a Dining Space

5 Easy Sustainable Fashion Changes

Why Change To Natural Cleaning Products?

Anek. – Sustainable and Instagrammable

Introducing Primrose and Pixie

A Mall For Repaired and Recycled Goods

Fashion Revolution Week

Introducing Mirabelle – Jewellery with Meaning

6 Piece Capsule Wardrobe by Honest Rosie - byLiiL

Introducing Boodle Boutique

Travel Sustainably

Use Your Power of ‘Choice’ When Making Buying

Straws – Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

Inspiration of the Month – The Sustainable Futures Report Podcast

7 Reasons Why I Choose To Shop Small

Introducing – 1 Dress 14 Styles by Doo.Bla.Vey

Sustainable News of the Month – July 2017

Are Big Brands Stealing Small Brand Thunder?

Before the Flood Documentary and Review

Uncovering The Secrets Behind Fashion Sizing - byLiiL

TED Talks About Sustainability

Understand The Sustainable Fashion Terminology

Chasing Coral

Why Do We Expect To Buy Cheap Fashion?

Sustainability Causes and How To Support Sustainability

Inspiration of the Month – Cradle to Cradle

Sustainable News of the Month – October 2017

What’s All The Fuss About Plastic?

Why I Don’t Shop on Black Friday – The Issue With The Sales Culture

Sustainable News of the Month – November 2017

Straws - Eco-Friendly or Healthy?

My plan is to make even more and better sustainability content for this year and you can help by letting me know what you would like to read about Sustainability in 2018 in the comment box below!

With love,

Lii

Sustainable New of the Month – November 2017

Sulapac Ltd presenting a Novel Premium Eco-Packaging at Luxe Pack Monaco – A new eco-packaging designed in Finland is taking over the world even though it is still in its infancy. I hope this it the future and we could say bye to the plastic cosmetics waste!

Are Petite Poplars the Future of Biofuels? Studies Say Yes – Researchers are studying whether poplar trees might be the more sustainable source of fuel and how to create it economically.

Sustainable New of the Month - November 2017 - byLiiL

 Pulling Iron Out of Waste Printer Toner – To combat the toner waste problem and wasting important resources a group has reportedly devised a way how to get iron out of the printer toners and reuse it as a bridge or building components.

Organic Farming Can Make an Important Contribution to World Nutrition, Research Shows – According to the research organic instead of the conventional farming could be more sustainable as well as contribute to world nutrition despite of lower numbers of yields.

Additive Manufacturing And Sustainability: The Environmental Implications of 3D Printing – Nevertheless of the excitement of 3D printing and its possibilities, it’s impact on the environment and sustainability hasn’t been researched widely yet. This article discusses the current research conducted and what may be possible implications.

Sustainable New of the Month - November 2017 - byLiiL

Green Roofs To Reduce the Effects of Climate Change – It is no surprise that green roofs are good for the climate and people as well, but the research explains that if at least 40% of roofs were covered with plants it could start combatting the climate change.

Crunch Time For Food Security – Insects are considered as an option to feed the population of the world.

 

Let me know any other interesting sustainable news!

With love,

Lii

What Was I Up To in November

Last month, again, was very busy for me work vice, and it looks like December will be as well until Christmas. I still managed to have some time to write about sustainability. I shared the interesting Sustainable news from October, I wrote about the sustainable problems with plastic and Why I don’t shop on Black Friday.

What Was I Upto in November - byLiiL

As Christmas is nearing I shared some Sustainable Christmas gift tips and new soy wax candles. There is definitely more coming soon!

Finally, I shared articles about how to make your life better and my favourite Insta pics from October.

Happy Favourites of the Week - New Things For Winter - byLiiL

What did you do in November? And what are your plans for December?

With love,

Lii