Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reward - a Revolutionary Way to Create a Cleaner Earth


Hello everyone,


My name is Emma and I am back with another blog to highlight the importance of recycling and its positive impact on our planet. Over Christmas, I was working as a Coach Guide, in Lapland, Finland, where I was introduced to the country's amazing recycling programme.


Moving on to the big question -

What is recycling?


Recycling is where a community or country collects materials and processes them to turn them into new products which prevents them from being disposed of; hence, preventing harm to the planet.


There are several benefits to recycling. For instance, properly recycling materials prevents objects from ending up in landfills and incinerators, which would’ve originally contributed towards global warming. Alongside this, countries would also see a reduction in pollution as recycling reduces the need for more raw materials. Recycling existing materials will also protect the world's natural resources – including timber, water and minerals. From a social security point of view, recycling also creates jobs for people and increases economic security. The EPA’s figures showed that recycling has created 681,000 jobs in the U.S alone.


Possible fixes? Some steps in the right direction -

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, REWARD (a new definition of the 4th ‘R’)


Before we do a case study of Finland’s system, it is worth exploring other countries that reward their citizens for recycling. Many countries believe that the best waste is one that is not generated. This means that rewarding people who recycle correctly might be less likely to produce excess material waste and, hence, reduces unnecessary contributions towards the ongoing pollution crisis.


1) Australia

Sydney has implemented a system which gives public transport credit to those who recycle. People can deposit materials in more than 500 machines which accept plastic packaging, glass and cans across New South Wales.


2) Spain

Spain has implemented a slightly different system for recycling. In some communities, machines do “reverse sale”. In other words, machines receive recycled materials and pay the citizens for it.


3) Surabaya, Indonesia

Surabaya, the biggest city in Indonesia, launched a programme which allows its citizens to pay for public transportation using credits earned from recycling materials, such as plastic. With similar initiatives in neighbouring countries, it would be great to see Indonesia take steps towards tackling its plastic waste problem.


4) Argentina

Buenos Aires has implemented a number of recycling schemes. One of them includes awarding the public with discount coupons to allow for cheaper purchase of products.


Finland

Since I am currently working in Finnish Lapland, I thought I would talk more specifically about their recycling programme and how it benefits the Earth.

The scheme dates back to the 1950s and has grown on a very large scale. The automated bottle-return machines programme expanded to include plastic bottles in the early 2000s. These machines are also located near places where beverage purchases can be made, supermarkets, and convenience stores. This means that people don't have to go out of their way to go back and recycle them which may have helped with its success.


There’re 5000+ machines spread across Finland and therefore, are very accessible for people to take their recycling to. Hotels, schools and restaurants also play a part in returning bottles, cans and other recyclable materials.


Finnish citizens are rewarded for their recycling through cash rewards for the same. For example, plastic bottle returns are worth between 20 and 40 cents and aluminium cans about 15 cents.


The main question is whether the scheme has been successful or not in reducing waste in Finland. Return rates in 2020 were 94% of all aluminium cans sold, 92% of plastic bottles and 87% of all glass bottles sold. These figures, much to my surprise, are extremely positive. This indicates that the scheme is successful.


Could we use this in other countries?


Finland is said to have the best recycling scheme for beverage materials in the world. The UK and Russia are among some countries that have shown interest in the scheme but are yet to adopt it. The UK is recycling about 44% of its overall waste and 82% of its aluminium cans which is a stark difference to what we are seeing in Finland. This suggests that the UK's recycling scheme could use some updates and it should look into adopting a reward based programme to increase this percentage. Overall, there has never been a better time for countries to get involved with these kinds of schemes as climate change is proving to be an ever-growing threat to our planet.