You may have seen in the news recently that China has tightened its restrictions on the import of various recycled materials – particularly mixed plastics and paper. Your first question might be: Why is any material that’s collected for recycling in the UK going to China? The simple answer is that these materials (like plastics and paper) are global commodities and are sold all over the world where there is a demand for them. China has a huge manufacturing industry that needs raw materials to produce many of the products that we then buy, which is why we sell some of it to Chinese markets. China has introduced these restrictions because it wants to improve the quality of the material that it imports, but also to develop and strengthen its own domestic supply. Material collected for recycling in the UK is still being recycled and is being sent to other markets – a lot of it gets sent much closer to home both in the UK and across Europe – but improving the quality of the material we collect is something we can all help with. For instance by putting out the right things for recycling and making sure that they’re clean. We have lots of information on what you can recycle at https://www.recycleforlondon.com/what-can-i-recycle Finally, why do we sell our recycling at all? Well, it costs money to process all our waste – and councils are the ones who pick up a lot of those costs at the front end when they collect and send it for processing. So the money that UK waste businesses get paid for recycled material essentially helps councils keep their costs down – and that benefits us all by ensuring that councils can spend the money they save on other essential services.
The Restart Project is a people-powered platform for change, working with communities, schools and companies to help people value and use their electronics for longer. Their aim is to drive a global movement away from throw-away culture.
They take action to prevent electronic waste through hands-on, learning events where they help people fix their own electronics and build a better relationship with their stuff
Kathryn Packer of Restart is our guest blogger this week, talking to us about how Restart came about and what it has achieved. If you'd like to get involved in the project, check out the website and find an event local to you.
"The Restart Project was born out of trying to find a better way to channel the combination of frustration and apathy we often feel in the face of broken electrical items. The approach takes inspiration from the way people in poorer countries fix and make use of technology, extending the life of scarce resources. In wealthier countries, electrical items are a growing part of the waste we chuck out. Whilst extracting the precious metals from electronics and reusing them is a positive, with a little help many of the items thrown away can be fixed.
Restart Parties bring together people who have broken gadgets, and a fantastic group of volunteers who look to tinker, repair and fix. The focus of the events is on skill-sharing and participants with broken electronic equipment take an active part in the repair.
We call them parties because they have a fun, ad-hoc spirit, where participants bring food and music, and people often meet and mingle. Parties can occur in different types of venues: pubs, churches, community centers, art galleries and typically last three hours. The types of equipment that can be brought for repair are: mobile phones, cameras, music players, headphones and so on.
Here are some of the reasons our volunteers give for why they keep coming back to do repairs:
“I love helping people, I love learning and I love solving a puzzle. At Restart Parties I can do all three at the same time." Faraz
“When I was little I used to dismantle things (even if they were working) to see how they worked (sometimes I never managed to put them back together). I attend Restart Parties because I believe that we have to repair everything we have and not constantly buy new." Orsetta
“I’ve maintained an interest in electronics ever since my first repair, probably around 50 years ago, which is long since lost in the mists of time! Perhaps best of all [when repairing] is the smile on someone’s face when an old piece of equipment and a trusty friend to the owner is brought back to life.” Philip
Our 'Restart the Capital' tour of London, supported by Recycle for London, is taking us to new places, as well as to old friends who regularly run Restart Parties in their community. We would love to hear from people who would like to share their technical skills (you can volunteer here) or get the party started in their neighbourhood, or workplace. We have a guide which you can download on how to set up your own Restart Party, and in London there is a strong network of people already involved and ready to help.
So, come along to an event near you or if you like to tinker, look into hosting a party of your own. It's great fun and worthwhile!