The problem with recycling... and what to do about it

Growing up, recycling has always been rather a virtuous affair, a ritual of putting our plastic in a green bin bag and sending it away to start a new life.

And that's what plastic was designed to be, a material that could be recycled again and again and again. Except, as with all ideals, making it work in the real world is hard!

China announced recently that they won't take any more of the UK's recycled plastic - a result of their citizens campaigning against yang laji or 'foreign garbage'. It bodes real trouble for us in the UK because we don't have the resources for recycling here.

So what are we going to do? Well currently the government is looking for new countries to take on the plastic. These could be developing countries and, it's been highlighted, we don't even know if that plastic is going to landfill.

Compare this statistic. Currently 44% of UK plastic is recycled but, in the world, only 9% of plastic is recycled. Sound fishy?

Next time you're in the supermarket, look around at all the plastic packaging. Are those bottles or film cloudy or clear?

Only new plastic can be clear, and many companies are convinced that we like clear plastic. So, if Coca Cola churns out over 100 billion new plastic bottles a year, who is going to recycle all that?

If this gets you thinking, don't stop there. We don't think talking about the environment should be a story of gloom, but instead a motivator to get us up and making changes.

None of us want to be like the humans in Disney's WALL-E after all, waiting for someone to clean up our mess...

Of course not!

Let's do something about the plastic problem in the place where a lot of that plastic waste starts. In our home.

We only ever make simple changes because we believe they're the ones that stick.

So here are three easy things we did this month, which you can try too:

1. Buy your fruit and veg from street vendors, small shops and markets

At the moment, supermarket produce comes in a crazy amount of plastic film and plastic trays, a lot of which isn't even recyclable. The simplest thing to do here is to switch to your local shops and markets for fresh produce - it's often cheaper and tastier too! Make sure you ask for a paper bag or bring your own reusable one.

2. Don't take the plastic cups in your office vending machines

In a past life we weren't so good at this. It's really tempting to take a plastic cup for your water and lots of plastic cups for your hot drinks, but all this goes to landfill. Bringing in a bottle and a mug are a simple way to fix this - and they'll look more stylish on your desk.

3. Support your town's zero-waste shop and any locals doing good things for the planet

We're really excited in Cardiff at the moment as Ripple, our new zero-waste shop, is nearing the final stages of crowdfunding. A zero-waste shop is basically a supermarket where you can bring all your containers and fill them up with food, beauty products... you name it. Look up the zero-waste shop in your town. If you have one, you're very lucky - go and support it!

All these small things we can do may seem like a drop in the ocean, but we've heard it said:

"It's only one straw, said 8 billion people."

So just imagine 8 billion fewer straws in the world, 20,000 fewer plastic bottles bought every second and 7 million fewer disposable coffee cups in the UK each day alone.

Start with simple changes and you'll find, as a community, there's a whole lot of difference we can make.