2022-12-03 NEW ZEALAND

Ecology: re-using or re-purposing where we can

In line with the fifth call of the XXII General Chapter, which asks us to “awaken in ourselves and those around us an ecological awareness “, Br. Chris, from New Zealand, address below the issue of recycling.

Many countries like to boast about their progressive waste management and high recycling rates. Sweden, South Korea, and Germany are among them, and Germany is often celebrated as a world champion for recycling. However, the high recycling rates for plastic waste could be misleading. This number is taken from the volume of waste that arrives at the recycling plants, but not everything is recycled through material recovery. This number is the amount of waste at the beginning of the lengthy sorting process, at the end only a fraction of that waste is reused. What remains is incinerated, i.e., “recycled” through energy recovery.

Environmental organizations such as the Friends of the Earth Germany estimate that less than 16% of the recyclable waste earmarked for recycling in Germany can be reused. The biggest problem is caused by mixtures of recyclable materials in items such as a yogurt pot with a cardboard sleeve and aluminium lid. If these are not separated before arrival, there is a high probability it will be registered at the recycling plant but will still end up being incinerated.

Small, very thin materials and some food packaging are difficult to recycle, as their reprocessing needs sophisticated technologies that are not easily available. The challenging recycling process is subsequently reflected in the price of secondary raw materials making these highly uncompetitive on the market.

So, even recycling isn’t as good as we are led to believe – we’ll have to look more towards re-using or re-purposing where we can, recognising that recycling is very limited! That’s a challenge, very suitable for young people (and even more mature ones) to offer ideas.


Br Chris P – New Zealand


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