What You Need to Know About Waste Disposal
2nd March 2020
It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business, large corporation, or just an individual household; waste disposal is something we’re all responsible for. With waste becoming an increasingly bigger strain on the environment with every passing year, it’s long been vital to ensure that we dispose of the correct waste in the correct place.
But if you’ve ever been tasked with waste disposal at work or at home, you’ll know that locating the right bin for your needs isn’t as easy as it seems. These days, there seems to be a bin for every kind of waste we produce. This helps to keep pipes in working order and our waterways clear of harmful substances, but relying on your instincts can sometimes lead to your rubbish ending up in places that it shouldn’t.
If you’ve ever found yourself lost amongst colour coded bins and various warning labels, we’ve created a handy guide to prevent you from making some of these common waste disposal mistakes.
When can waste not be recycled?
Recycling has become such a normal and important part of our lives that it seems outrageous to suggest that sometimes recycling is not what’s best for a particular item. As surprising as it seems, not everything that looks recyclable (including plastics) is suitable for the blue bin.
In fact, campaigns have even become emerging to encourage people to stop throwing items such as soiled nappies into recycling bins. The #BinYourNappy campaign was specifically designed to spread the awareness that unfortunately, items soiled with human waste cannot be recycled. This came after research showed that 10% of parents thought that nappies were not suitable for a general waste bin and a third of those that incorrectly recycled them thought that nappies showed the recycling logo.
This issue is not exclusive to soiled nappies, however. There are plenty of regular household items, such as crisp packets, that are recycled every day, despite the fact that most local authorities do not collect such waste. Familiarising yourself with what the various on-pack recycling labels found on your waste items stand for will help ensure that your waste ends up in the appropriate place.
What can and cannot be flushed down the toilet
Awareness surrounding the dangers of putting waste items down the toilet may be growing, but the problem is far from flushed away. Water companies all over the UK are urging their customers to be mindful of what ends up down the drain, as this creates a great amount of financial and environmental strain.
According to Northumbrian Water, the worst offenders are items such as wet wipes, nappies, cotton buds, condoms and sanitary products. And while some of these mistakes are certainly due to negligence, there are many reasons why people may feel they need to or should flush items down the toilet.
For example, wet wipes that are marketed as “flushable”, according to water companies, are not really suitable for flushing at all and still contribute considerably to sewer blockages. Sanitary products, another common offender, sometimes get flushed out of necessity. When a public toilet does not have suitable sanitary bins, women are far more likely to flush their products down the toilet than carry them around until they find a suitable location.
Even if you are flushing waste items down the toilet for a valid reason, finding alternative ways to dispose of your waste is vital. The repercussions of flushing unsuitable items down the toilet are severe, with thousands of blockages occurring every year and plastic pollution still a major environmental threat. Even if your waste item claims to be flushable, it is always safer to dispose of it in an appropriate waste bin and reserve the toilets for their destined purpose.
The importance of sharps waste disposal
Unless you work in an industry that deals with items such as needles, razors or knives, it’s unlikely that you’ve ever had to dispose of sharps waste or deal with a sharps disposal bin. But that is slowly changing as businesses and local council attempt to tackle the growing and controversial topic of recreational drug use in public places.
While you won’t be finding sharps bins in every local cafe or restaurant, there are some locations, such as Bodmin, that have already approved the installation of sharps bins in public bathrooms. Over in the United States, Starbucks announced their plans to introduce sharps bins into its stores in order to protect its staff and customers from any sharps waste left in its bathrooms.
Needle bins have also begun to appear in public spaces away from public toilets, such as parks and other areas where needles and syringes are regularly found. These items pose a huge health and safety risk to both the general public (especially children) as well as employees that are tasked to empty general waste bins that could contain sharp objects.
Of course, while sharps bins help to reduce the risk of someone obtaining a needlestick injury, they are not to be used by the general public in order to clean up any sharps waste. If you happen to come across sharps waste, whether it be in a washroom or a public place, do not attempt to dispose of it yourself. Instead, contact the local authority who have the equipment required to dispose of the needles safely.
Waste disposal may seem like a never-ending list of dos and don’ts, but being aware of how to handle waste is important in ensuring your health and safety as well as that of the people around you. These days, reading labels and segregating is a necessary part of waste disposal and we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves in where our rubbish is destined to end up.
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