Published Wednesday, 21st December 2016
If every single person in Sutton right now recycled one more jar, or one more can, or one more newspaper, then it would make an enormous difference that none of us could make individually."
On 24 October, I and a few others were invited to tour the recycling plant that all of Sutton’s recyclable waste is sent to. For me, the visit put what happens to all of our waste into perspective, and how each and every one of us can truly make a difference and help preserve our world for future generations.
When we first walked through the bays where all of the materials are stored before sorting, we saw mountains upon mountains of trash – everything from aluminium cans and glass bottles to newspapers and milk cartons. All of this is used to make sure that our world’s natural resources aren’t depleted; that we don’t cut down more trees to make paper; and that we don’t use up more oil to make plastics. This helps ensure that my generation, our children and our children’s children will be able to live on this planet in the same comfort that we enjoy now.
During the tour we were shown how all of this material is sorted. The way this happens ranges from separating items by weight (different types of items have different weights) to using an infrared scanner to detect items of different densities and using jets of air to separate them into the correct containers. At the plant we also saw one of the ways that glass is recycled: it is ground up into sand to be taken away and used to make roads, or to mix cement, or to make bricks to build buildings. This showed me recycling in action: how one material is transformed into a more reusable version of itself.
Near the end of our tour we were shown how the recycled materials are stored post-sorting, ready to be picked up and transported to the next stage of the process. We saw compacted stacks of cans, paper, cardboard and milk cartons all around us, and were told that maybe this aluminium would be turned into a car, or maybe this newspaper would be turned into a book, or maybe that milk carton would be turned into a children’s toy. This inspired me to try and recycle as much as possible: although we may not notice the benefits in our day-to-day lives, I would bet that more of the day-to-day items you use are made from recycled materials than you may think.
Seeing everything at the plant put recycling into perspective for me. Although what my family and I recycle is minuscule compared to all of the waste in the plant, all of the recycling that many families do does add up. Seeing all of this waste, and knowing that it would all be reused, showed me how many people doing relatively small things can truly make the world a better place. If every single person in Sutton right now recycled one more jar, or one more can, or one more newspaper, then it would make an enormous difference that none of us could make individually.