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Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

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    Waitrose says I have to bring my own cup – what should I get, and is this a ploy to stop the freebies?

    Every week a Guardian Money reader submits a question, and it’s up to you to help him or her out – a selection of the best answers will appear in next Saturday’s paper.

    My local Waitrose says I have to bring my own coffee cup from next week. Two questions: which is the best reusable cup (some are more than £20!); and is this a ploy so that we don’t go in to get free coffee, as they are a pain to carry around?

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    Recycling alone will never stem the flow of plastics into our ocean. We must address the problem at the source

    Every minute, every single day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. In the name of profit and convenience, corporations are literally choking our planet with a substance that does not just “go away” when we toss it into a bin. Since the 1950s, some 8.3bn tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, and to date, only 9% of that has been recycled. Our oceans bear the brunt of our plastics epidemic – up to 12.7m tons of plastic end up in them every year.

    Just over a decade ago, I launched the Story of Stuff to help shine a light on the ways we produce, use and dispose of the stuff in our lives. The Story of Stuff is inextricably linked to the story of plastics – the packaging that goes along with those endless purchases. We buy a soda, sip it for a few minutes, and toss its permanent packaging “away”. We eat potato chips, finish them, then throw their permanent packaging “away”. We buy produce, take it out of the unnecessary plastic wrap, then throw its permanent packaging “away”.

    Related: I kept all my plastic for a year – the 4,490 items forced me to rethink

    Related: The Guardian view on recycling: throwaway economy is not cost-free | Editorial

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    Circular economy could recycle more plastic and meet industry demand for raw materials, finds Green Alliance research

    Plastic recycled in the UK could supply nearly three-quarters of domestic demand for products and packaging if the government took action to build the industry, a new report said on Thursday.

    The UK consumes 3.3m tonnes of plastic annually, the report says, but exports two-thirds to be recycled. It is only able to recycle 9% domestically.

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    Fast-food chain, which uses 1.8m straws a day, says plastic straws will go by 2019

    McDonald’s will end the use of plastic straws in its British restaurants next year, after nearly half a million people called on the company to ditch them.

    The decision by the US fast-food chain to switch from plastic to paper straws follows a trial at a number of outlets in the past two months. The firm uses around 1.8m straws a day in the UK.

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    Retailer offers incentive to send back worn and unwanted items instead of binning them

    John Lewis is to buy back worn and unwanted clothing from its customers – including underwear and old socks – in a UK industry first that aims to reduce the 300,000 tonnes of fashion waste going into landfill each year.

    Customers can arrange through an app to have any unwanted clothing that they bought from John Lewis collected from their home, and they will be paid for each item regardless of its condition.

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    China’s limits on contamination levels have sparked a recycling industry crisis. What are local and state governments doing to solve the problem?

    “Did you put the recycling out?”

    It’s a phrase regularly recited in millions of households across Australia, followed by a hollow rumble as the yellow-lidded wheelie bin is hauled to the kerb. It’s a ritual that, in one form or another, takes place in more than 90% of Australian homes.

    Related: Recycling crisis: federal government to push states for solution

    Make sure you’re giving your recycler the cleanest possible product you can – now more than ever

    Related: 'Plastic is literally everywhere': the epidemic attacking Australia's oceans

    Related: Recycling row: China's ban stokes trade fears amid concerns councils will follow Ipswich's lead

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    A national container deposit scheme should be established in response to the recycling crisis, the report says

    A Senate inquiry into Australia’s recycling crisis has recommended that all single-use plastics – which could potentially include takeaway containers, chip packets and coffee cups with plastic linings – be banned by 2023.

    The wide-ranging report also recommends the establishment of a national container deposit scheme as a response to an unfolding crisis in Australian recycling that forced some councils to tip their recycling into landfill.

    Related: Waste crisis: where's your recycling going now?

    Related: Record emissions keep Australia on path to missing Paris target

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    According to Andrew Bolt we are deluded if we think banning single-use plastic bags is a good idea. Here’s a look at the facts

    We try to do our bit. Our household has an overflowing cupboard of reusable shopping bags, and sometimes they make it to the car. We have bought those (ludicrously expensive) beeswax food wraps to replace cling wrap. We put newspaper at the bottom of the kitchen bin, and tip it all into the wheelie bin. Look! No bin liners!

    We are far from perfect (I bought a takeaway coffee in a disposable cup the other day – the guilt!), but once you start, you see plastic everywhere. The use of plastic has been widespread since the 1950s and it is a wonderful product. But its ubiquity, especially single-use plastic, has a high price: the litter of shopping bags, takeaway containers, plastic bottles and straws. We pay millions to clean it up, and our oceans have become a plastic tip.

    Related: All single-use plastics should be banned by 2023 Senate inquiry recommends

    Throwing a cotton bag in the washing machine, or wiping down a green one is something we’ll get used to

    The idea that widespread use of reusable bags may cause gastrointestinal infections if they are not regularly cleaned is plausible. However, the hypothesis that there is a significant increase in gastrointestinal foodborne illnesses and deaths due to reusable bags has not been tested, much less demonstrated in this study.”

    It’s part of a culture change, with more and more people asking questions about the cost of convenience

    Related: Waste crisis: where's your recycling going now?

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    If waste is burned for energy, recyclable material is lost forever. There are better solutions

    The vast recycling problem facing communities right around Australia has been a ticking time bomb.

    With China’s restriction of imports of foreign waste now in place and responsible for increased stockpiling around the nation, prices for waste streams such as glass are at a low point. It is now cheaper to import than recycle glass.

    Related: Waste crisis: where's your recycling going now?

    Related: 'Plastic is literally everywhere': the epidemic attacking Australia's oceans

    Related: The planet is on edge of a global plastic calamity | Erik Solheim

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    Thailand has been swamped by waste from the west after Chinese ban on imports

    At a deserted factory outside Bangkok, skyscrapers made from vast blocks of crushed printers, Xbox components and TVs tower over black rivers of smashed-up computer screens.

    This is a tiny fraction of the estimated 50m tonnes of electronic waste created just in the EU every year, a tide of toxic rubbish that is flooding into south-east Asia from the EU, US and Japan.

    Related: Whale dies from eating more than 80 plastic bags

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    Obviously I don’t go to the supermarket myself but I’m told people who do are furious. How out of touch are these plastic banning idiots?

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    What goes in the blue bin, what goes in the yellow bin, and what do you do with pizza boxes?

    Recycling should be straightforward: paper goes in the blue bin; plastics, glass and metal in the yellow bin; dead plants in the green bin and everything else in the red bin – right?

    Except it’s not always quite that easy. What do you do with mixed packaging? How do you deal with neighbours doing the wrong thing? And what to do with pizza boxes?

    You forgot your reusable coffee cup at home. Can you recycle disposable coffee cups at all?

    Yes

    No

    You’ve been clothes shopping. Can you recycle those shopping bags?

    Yes.

    No

    Do plastic drink bottles go straight in the yellow bin?

    Yes

    No.

    Are nappies recyclable?

    Yes

    No.

    Should soft plastic bags like bread bags, wrapping and other scrunchable plastics go in the yellow bin?

    Yes

    No.

    Can an aerosol be recycled?

    Yes

    No

    Do pizza boxes go in the paper bin?

    Yes

    No

    Should you put polystyrene in the recycling bin?

    Yes

    No.

    You’re getting rid of old glasses or ceramic plates. Do they go in the recycling bin?

    Yes

    No.

    The top recycling mistake is...

    Placing recycling in plastic bags and then putting them in the recycling bin.

    Putting recyclable items in the general rubbish bin.

    Putting pizza boxes in the recycling.

    Can you recycle computers,tyres, mobile phones, toners and paint?

    Yes.

    No

    Can you recycle Pringles containers?

    Yes

    No.

    Can you recycle household batteries?

    Yes.

    No

    A box of chocolates has this label on the side. What on earth does it mean?

    Toss the whole box into any of the bins

    Separate the plastic from the paper and bin accordingly

    11 and above.

    Well done! You’re practically a recycling legend. Now don’t forget your green bags next time you go shopping.

    6 and above.

    You’re like most of us - almost there. With a bit more effort, you can make a greater impact on Australia’s waste recycling crisis.

    0 and above.

    Okay, so that was a learning exercise. Find out even more at Planet Ark.

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    Reducing plastics when shopping for food, toiletries and travel products should be easy – so why is it so difficult?

    A few months ago, my partner and I went snorkelling off the coast of Indonesia. We dove off tiny deserted islands and swam in the deep with giant manta rays, but what I remember most vividly about that trip was not the stunning coral or dazzling array of colourful, curious fish; it was the sheer amount of garbage in the water.

    Shopping bags, plastic cups, toothpaste tubes, orange peel, all manner of human debris followed the currents; waves and waves of junk pooling in the shallow waters. In these parts of the reef, the water was cloudy and full of so much microscopic debris that it stung the skin. I remember watching a majestic giant turtle swim through the gloom as my head bumped against an old Coke bottle bobbing on the surface of the water.

    Related: Think you know how to recycle? Take the quiz

    Related: You don't use so much plastic, do you? How to ditch plastics for July – and beyond

    Related: Plastic free July: cutting down single use plastics is easier than it seems

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    Commingled bins cause contamination. Is it time to go for separate bins for glass and paper?

    It was supposed to be the more efficient solution. Now as governments and local councils search for answers to Australia’s unfolding recycling crisis, the household yellow bin has emerged as both the prime culprit and a potential remedy.

    The recycling industry has been in crisis mode since the beginning of the year. On 1 January, China stopped accepting 99% of Australia’s exported recycling due, in part, to their strict new rules on contamination.

    Related: The politics of quitting plastic: is it only a lifestyle option for the lucky few? | Stephanie Convery

    Related: Think you know how to recycle? Take the quiz

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    The recycling industry is in crisis, yet for most Australians it’s out of mind beyond the rattle of the recycling bin pickups each week. So what does this crisis really look like? Guardian Australia visited three processing sites to find out what happens to bins once they leave the kerb

    The recycling industry has been in crisis mode in Australia since January when China, which previously bought 50% of the recycling we collect, implemented a ban that cut out 99% of what we used to sell.

    Recycling companies had relied on this export revenue stream to stay afloat – the amount of waste recycling we create exceeds the demand we have to buy and use within Australia. Without an outlet, some companies began stockpiling recycling or sending it straight to landfill.

    Related: Is this the end of the yellow all-in-one recycling bin?

    More than 200 tonnes of material is tipped into the receivers hall daily

    Glass is processed back to sand, which is used in civil projects such as road construction and concrete

    This facility receives more than 800 tonnes of waste a day, around 12-15% of Sydney’s household mixed waste

    The workers hand sort the material to ensure that all products that don't belong in the compost are removed

    Up to 300 tonnes of decontaminated and shredded organic material is loaded into one of three 30m-long concrete tunnels

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    Reducing and recycling our plastic waste will help the plastic crisis, but it won’t solve the problem. Corporations must take responsibility for the problems they are creating

    Australia’s oceans, beaches and nature reserves are drowning in plastic pollution and excessive packaging is one of the culprits. While reducing our plastic consumption and recycling the waste will help, it won’t solve the problem. Corporations must take responsibility for the problem they are creating.

    So this weekend we want to invite readers to snap and send us pictures of excessive plastic packaging. Apples in tubes, bananas in bags, and plastic in plastic in plastic. Send it through and we’ll publish the worst examples next week.

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    Australia is drowning in a tsunami of plastic pollution and excessive packaging is one of the culprits. Boomerang Alliance asked supporters to send in pictures of the worst examples

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    Coffee giant first in UK to add charge in bid to cut overuse of 2.5bn disposable cups a year

    Starbucks is the first UK coffee chain to introduce a national “latte levy” - a 5p charge on single-use paper coffee cups - in a bid to reduce the overuse and waste of 2.5bn disposable cups every year.

    Following the success of a three-month trial in London, the chain said it would roll out the charge to all of its 950 stores in the UK from 26 July.

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    A bottle deposit hub on the outskirts of Oslo has had a stream of high-level international visitors. Can its success be replicated worldwide?

    Tens of thousands of brightly coloured plastic drinks bottles tumble from the back of a truck on to a conveyor belt before disappearing slowly inside a warehouse on the outskirts of Oslo.

    As a workman picks up a few Coke bottles that have escaped, Kjell Olav Maldum looks on. “It is a system that works,” he says as another truck rumbles past. “It could be used in the UK, I think lots of countries could learn from it.”

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    Difficult to coordinate, yes. But it could ameliorate Australia’s waste and recycling woes

    In June, a wide-ranging Senate inquiry into the state of Australia’s recycling system recommended a national container deposit scheme (CDS) be rolled out across the country.

    Of all 18 inquiry recommendations, a national scheme is one that is at least part way there, all states except Tasmania and Victoria with an existing scheme or one soon to be implemented.

    Related: Hidden in plain sight: what the recycling crisis really looks like

    Related: Is this the end of the yellow all-in-one recycling bin?

    Related: Waste crisis: where's your recycling going now?

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