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What Happens to Rubbish?

How ingrained is it to throw rubbish away?  You pop it in the bin, a truck picks it up and it disappears.    How often do you stop to consider that there is no such thing as throwing something “away”, meaning your rubbish continues to exist, usually in a hole in the earth somewhere?   It’s not much different when you’re outdoors either.

Let’s look at the lifecycle of rubbish; by understanding where it goes hopefully there will be more context to no such thing as “away”.

Each week our bins are emptied and transported to transfer stations to be sorted and distributed appropriately, being broken down into these three categories.

Landfill – Plastic bags, fabric, coffee cups, laminated or plastic covered books, spray bottles, straws, toiletries
Process: These items are buried at a rubbish site, when the site is full the land is abandoned and left to regenerate over hundreds of years while a new site is created.

Recyclables – Plastics, Paper, Glass, Metal
Process: These are sorted and sent to manufacturing facilities to create new products that will re-enter your home.  This is the ideal cycle and use of our resources.

Compost – Food scraps, egg shells, fruit
Process: These items are used to create new products such as soil that will re-enter the home, or be used by councils and landscapers in nature projects.

Littering stops these processes dead in their tracks, leaving nature to take matters into its own hands.  While some items eventually do breakdown, they have an extremely harmful effect on animals and vegetation in the process.  This is how long litter lasts:

Banana Peel: 4 weeks
Apple Core: 8 weeks
Rope: 3-14 months
Cigarette Butts: 10-12 years
Rubber boot sole: 50-80 years
Tin can: 50 years
Plastic water bottle: 450 years
Plastic Bag: 10-1000 years

The average plastic item (shopping bag, water bottle etc) will last at least 450years before it breaks down.  That’s 5 generations of family that could see the same item of litter tossed at your favourite picnic spot.  That’s why it’s on you to Hike it Out.



(1) Comment

  1. […] the First Steps Leave No Trace Explained Choose your own Out What Happens to Rubbish? The Light-Waste Hike Menu Hike […]

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