Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Why you should be an environmentally conscious consumer

With the world’s population ever increasing, between 45 and 60 billion tonnes of raw materials are being used every year, according to environmental group WRAP. Everyday objects including cars, televisions, clothes and computers require rare earth elements for production and these resources are becoming harder to source.

Therefore, being an environmentally conscious consumer is not only incredibly important when it comes to purchasing products, but also disposing of them when they have reached the end of their lifespan.

Facts and figures
· Every year around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enters the UK economy; however, only 115 million tonnes gets recycled.
· Consumers are guilty of throwing away 7 million tonnes of food and drink annually, most of which can be safely consumed.
· Each year UK consumers throw away an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing.
· Around 25 per cent of waste electrical and electronic equipment, with an estimated value of £200 million, can be used again instead of thrown away.
So several items simply thrown away without a second thought are potentially damaging to the environment, when many of them can be recycled and in some cases, still retain some value.

It is therefore important to encourage a circular economy, where products and more importantly resources are retained rather than thrown away. A circular system will reduce waste, encourage resource productivity, improve the economy and help reduce the environmental impact production and consumption of goods has.

What can be recycled, re-used or sold on
· Glass. One of the most recyclable materials in your home. The closed loop process of producing recycled glass is 40 per cent more efficient than manufacturing from scratch.
· Paper. Recycling paper is beneficial for energy conservation, water efficiency and air quality. Every tonne of recycled paper is estimated to save 17 trees.
· Clothes. Instead of sending old items to landfill, you can sell unwanted clothes online and at the same time help the environment.
· Electronic waste. As mentioned previously, these products often contain rare or potentially hazardous materials. Dedicated recycling centres exist for this kind of waste and certain products like ink cartridges can easily be re-used.
· Plastic. Not only important as it is made from a resource than will eventually run out, but the recycling of plastic avoids having to incinerate it, which can release harmful chemicals into the environment.
· Aluminium and steel. Though a popular material for the packaging of food and drink, an aluminium can will take over 500 years to decompose.
Therefore the majority of household goods we buy, consume and dispose of have certain environmental consequences. The choices we make have to be careful and considered, but thankfully opportunities to be an environmentally conscious consumer do exist.

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