We produce an enormous amount of waste every day, but where does that waste go and what impact does it have on our environment?

Unfortunately, we use huge amounts of electricity, water and land to clean up and recycle waste we've created, and the rest is left in landfills or pumped straight into the sea.

What kind of waste do we produce?

There are lots of different types of waste, and therefore, lots of different ways in which we deal with it.

Some of the waste we produce includes:

  • Rubbish - plastic, metal and food we don't eat or need.
  • Sewage - every time we flush the toilet, we are sending waste into sewers.
  • Industrial waste - when companies manufacture products, they produce waste in huge quantities including plastic, waste water, chemical and organic (food and plant) waste.

Why can't we just recycle everything?

There are a few waste products we recycle on a regular basis, but the process of turning something we don't need anymore into something we can use can be very costly, use a huge amount of energy and even create new waste! These include:

Water - we recycle water that goes down our plug holes and toilet by pumping this sewage into complex water treatment plants which filter and clean the water, removing the rubbish and killing harmful germs. Once it's clean enough, it is pumped back into rivers and lakes. However, in less economically developed countries, there is no water treatment plant and therefore, dirty water is never cleaned - it gets pumped back into rivers and lakes and makes clean water dirty!

Rubbish - we recycle cardboard and paper, aluminium cans, glass, and some types of plastic at recycling plants - all of which require large amounts of electricity, take up huge parts of land and require lots of intensive processes before they can be made into something useable.

The amount of things we can recycle is increasing as we develop new technologies and spend more money on recycling, but there are still lots of things we cannot recycle. For example, many types of plastic cannot ever be processed back into plastic that can be reused. These types of plastics often end up in landfills or even dumped in the sea.


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