The head of the organisation behind Global Recycling Day, talks about a few issues pertinent to the UAE
Ranjit S Baxi on the steps to take towards the cause of recycling
Today marks the world’s first-ever Global Recycling Day, launched by the Bureau of International Recycling. Ranjit S Baxi, president of BIR, has managed to get the support of a number people who are at the forefront of recycling innovation and the circular economy, such as Rolph Poyet, executive secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions; Nikhil Seth, UN assistant secretary general; Stephan Sicars, director of environment at the he United Nations Industrial Development Organisation; and Veena Sahajwalla, scientia professor at the University of New South Wales. However, Baxi says there are a number of steps everyone needs to take towards the cause of recycling.
What first steps do you recommend be taken by newcomers to recycling?
There are seven steps, or golden rules, of recycling. First, be aware of single-use plastics [such as shopping bags] and reduce their use, recycling when unavoidable. Second, learn about and follow your local recycling regulations. Third, thoroughly rinse and dry your materials before adding them to the recycling stream, to avoid contamination. Fourth, reduce waste by mending and repairing items if possible, instead of buying new ones. Fifth, be a recycling-ware shopper [look for the recycling logo on packaging, for instance]. Six, make the effort to recycle electronic goods. And finally, reduce your individual waste footprints by being conscious of [food and drink] packaging.
Are there still misgivings surrounding the benefits to the planet from recycling?
Many people are aware that recycling “is good” for the planet, but not too many know the specific and immense benefits it offers. The industry provides two million jobs, it saves 700 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually, reduces waste, thus saving landfills, and promotes health and hygiene. By 2025, recycling is projected to add US$400 billion (Dh1.5 trillion) to the global GDP. It also supplies 40 per cent of the world’s raw material needs, reducing the drain on resources, of which humans have consumed more in the past 50 years than in all of previous history.
Why is there, after decades of awareness, a need for Global Recycling Day?
While a great deal of work has been done over the decades, the fact remains that we need to take a “whole-earth” approach to recycling. We need world leaders to realise that recycling is too important to not be a global issue; we cannot have excellence in some countries and not in others. We need everyone – individuals, communities and businesses – to think resource, not waste, when it comes to using and reusing stuff. Until we do, we will not truly harness the power of the seventh resource.
Can you explain the principle behind the seventh resource?
There are six major natural resources on Earth: water, air, coal, oil, natural gas and minerals. At the Bureau of International Recycling, we believe recyclables should be recognised and celebrated as the seventh resource, one that furthers the resource, not waste principle.
Is there progress being made in the UAE? What areas do we need to improve upon here?
The UAE is one of the most responsible and active countries in the Middle East when it comes to recycling. Each of the emirates has taken initiatives to ensure the UAE remains clean and green. Government organisations, such as Tadweer in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and Beeah in Sharjah, are leading the way, providing the services and facilities, including the building of a new recycling plant in Dubai Industrial Park. Through partnerships, there are now many recycling bins in public places, and we encourage everyone to keep an eye out for them and use them appropriately. Through our collaboration with the Emirates Environmental Group, we will soon be visiting schools to educate children about the importance of recycling to empower the next generation.
How do you measure the effectiveness of a country’s success with recycling? Is it auditable?
One of the most common ways is to measure the percentage of recyclable materials recovered from the waste streams in any particular country or region. In the UAE, the majority of metals are recycled, while fewer than 50 per cent of non-metallics are recycled. Additionally, it is possible to measure the quantities by weight, of glass, metal, aluminium, paper, tyres, steel, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and plastic that is recycled every year. Annual weights of each material give us a good yardstick to monitor recycling adoption and process.
What is the core message you’d like to get across on the day, here in the UAE?
We encourage people to learn and do. Learn about the recycling industry and the power of the seventh resource. Do something good for the planet by joining in with people around the world today, sharing best recycling practices on your social-media channels. It is also important for people to change their behaviour. For example, use sturdy reusable bags in the supermarket rather than plastic ones, or purchase and use refillable water bottles. Ultimately, we ask people in the UAE and elsewhere to be more aware of the things they use every day.