Why recycling needs to go further to combat climate change

Ahead of Global Recycling Day on March 18, Ranjit Baxi, founding president of the Global Recycling Foundation says tackling climate change must be a worldwide effort.

We are all aware of the importance of recycling, and in recent times the issue has become even more widespread. The plastic crisis has been one of the most high-profile items on the news agenda in the last year, yet not enough people have focused on the link between recycling and climate change. As the importance of recycling gathers even more attention, we are beginning to see a new focus on how better recycling can cut carbon emissions, save energy and, ultimately, help to save the world from irreversible climate change.

As is widely known, the reduction of carbon emissions is a key element in fighting climate change, yet the focus tends to be centred around transport, aviation and other industries.

Recycling, however, has been shown to save over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions every year, according to a study conducted by the Bureau of International Recycling. Promoting recycling saves carbon emissions while reducing the waste sent to landfills. We also save energy by manufacturing products using recyclable raw materials – utilising the seventh resource – instead of new ones.

This important link between recycling and climate change is gaining traction across the globe. For example, with the impacts of ‘fast fashion’ becoming of increasing concern, MPs have recently claimed that new clothes should be taxed and the money goes towards a clothes recycling scheme. One of the key reasons cited for this was that the clothes industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and pollution, with the global fashion industry producing 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in 2015 alone.

The world is waking up to how recycling can help to tackle one of the greatest issues of our times, but we need to go further.

The recent landmark agreement announced at COP24 in December 2018 showed marked progress in taking steps towards combating climate change. At the conference, governments around the world agreed to a set of guidelines for how to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. While this represents an important step forward, more needs to be done and recycling offers a key opportunity, for both individuals and industry.

The Global Recycling Foundations urges governments around the world to support the growth of recycling industries and for the industry itself to consider its vital role in championing the circular economy and alleviating the effects of climate change. And while industry has a crucial role to play, we also need better societal awareness around why recycling is key to the fight against climate change, which is why we launched Global Recycling Day in 2018 and are gearing up for the second annual event on 18th March 2019. Global Recycling Day was created to spread awareness around the importance of preserving earth’s resources and securing the future of our planet, and we invite people around the world to join us in celebrating recycling and putting our planet first.

Recent figures from the UN have highlighted that we have just 12 years to prevent irreversible climate change, after which we could see a rise in temperature that will make the onset of drought, floods and extreme heat even more likely. We are facing a crisis and we must act, and recycling is one of the key ways we can work to protect the world. The Global Recycling Foundation urges governments and organisations to work to invest in the industry, and for individuals to make their impact by supporting Global Recycling Day this 18th March 2019.

By encouraging the world to think ‘resource not waste’, we can ensure a better recycling culture and protect our planet.


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Eric Stevens
Eric Stevens
5 years ago

Making packaging out of plastic or paper uses a huge amount of energy, and so does recycling. If anyone thinks this is going to save the planet, dream on. We need to ban single and short use packaging and get people to take their own PERMANENT packaging to shops that have dispensing machines rather than pre-packaged goods.

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