Recycling - there's no planet B

Recycling - there's no planet B

Empowering young people to take responsibility for their own future is not only desirable: it is a crucial feature of their education. The more we do within our communities, the more we can achieve.

Recycling is a key component in making a difference, moving us that little bit closer the saving our planet as we know it.

Recycling reduces the need for extracting (mining, quarrying and logging), refining and processing raw materials all of which create substantial air and water pollution. As recycling saves energy it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle climate change.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs states that the 2018 UK recycling rate was 45%. This seemingly low rate demonstrates the need for further education and the creation of further opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle. Educating children creates habits for life!

The EU waste from households recycling target for the UK is to recycle 50% of its waste by 2020. England produces over 80% of the UK’s total waste and Wales has the best recycling rates since 2015 exceeding the EU target of 50% year on year.

Although the UK is nearing its target, we have a lot more work to do, especially in comparison to other countries who are nearing 100%.

Dumping, littering, poor recycling and waste management is an ongoing cause of environmental pollution and if we are not effectively storing or recycling this waste then it is inhibiting animal habitats. Detrimental effects are severe, altering the natural process of the ocean and atmospheric biosphere. Marine debris is acting as a sun filter preventing inhibiting the sea’s planktons from conducting photosynthesis which ultimately provides us with half the world’s oxygen.

Plastic waste becomes brittle over time, breaking up into microplastics in our oceans, strong currents, colliding objects, and water trigger the breakdown. Albatross and sea turtles are amongst the critically endangered species specifically due to pollution, often mistaking plastic particles for food. On average 45 pieces of debris are found inside carcases, most of which is plastic. Fish also become contaminated by our polluted waters and when bigger fish eat the little fish, they too become contaminated.

The Education Secretary in 2018 urged all schools to eliminate their use of single-use plastics by 2022. The government’s 25-year Environment Plan pledges the elimination of avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and promises to consider steps to discourage plastic items that prove difficult to recycle and ideas to reduce demand for commonly littered items, including takeaway coffee cups and takeaway boxes.

There are also plans to introduce a world-leading new tax on plastic packaging which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content from April 2022, subject to consultation, to encourage greater use of recycled plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect our environment.

A YouGov survey commissioned by BRITA UK and Keep Britain Tidy in April found that young people are more committed than other generations to mitigating the effects of single-use plastic, with 68% of 18 to 24-year-olds currently owning a reusable water bottle, above the national average of 55%.

There are recycling schemes that can be run in school which will help your school become greener and help the environment. Talk to your local authority to see what schemes they are running. You can also use third parties, this is a great example from Recycling Guide UK

Utilise D&T – Design and Technology is the perfect subject to get students involved with recycling.

Design Technology GCSE curriculum looks carefully at the ecological and social footprint of materials such as polymers, with the consideration of the 6 R’s.


The 6 Rs
The term ‘the 6 Rs’ can be applied to the design of new products or when a product is finished with, used up or no longer wanted.

Here are some questions to prompt 6 Rs thinking:

Reduce – Can the amount of polymer used be reduced? Can the polymer be bought locally to reduce product miles?

Reuse – Can the polymer be reused for another purpose once a product is finished with?

Recycle – Can the polymer be disposed of correctly so that it can be recycled?

Rethink – Can the way a product is made be redesigned so that less or no polymer is used?

Refuse – Refusing to use a polymer could be a consideration; could a material that is sustainable be used instead?

Repair – When a product is broken, can it be repaired rather than discarded?


How can D&T lead on sustainable education? Read our resource-packed blog 'The Power of Recycling' which includes perfect tools for recycling in D&T...


23 view(s)