With climate change awareness on the rise, it’s quickly becoming cool to be conscious about the world around us. If you want to do your part, but feel like switching your diet or swapping your diesel car for electric seems too daunting, recycling is a great first step, and one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. This article will help you learn to recycle efficiently and, for those who already do, highlight some common mistakes that you might be making.
Before you chuck any bits and bobs in the recycling bin, it’s important to check what items and materials your local council accept. Look out for the type of plastics accepted in household recycling as this can differ a lot from area to area.
Your council may send out leaflets with information about waste collection dates and what materials are or aren’t accepted. You can usually find this info on your council’s website as well, along with the locations and opening times of recycling banks and centres in your area for larger items that won’t fit in your household waste bins. Some communal bins, such as those for blocks of flats, clearly display what can and can’t be disposed of them so keep an eye out for these labels.
Still stumped? Check out recyclenow.com to find out all the info you need on what and where you can recycle.
You should clean your items, especially food packaging, before discarding them. This might seem like an obvious one, but many people often forget to rinse their tins and punnets under the tap before tossing them. Food residue is a form of contamination and contaminated waste cannot be recycled.
Check the on-pack recycling label to see what parts can and can’t be recycled as you may need to remove lids or external wrapping if only certain parts can be given a new life.
If you often visit recycling banks, such as the bottle banks that are usually found in supermarket carparks, it’s a great idea to separate your recycling by material. Not everyone has the space for multiple full-size bins in their home so divided bins with separate compartments or drawers are a great solution. stickers or colour-coded lids will help you remember what items go in which bin. For a fun alternative, try these Trash Head Stickers with novelty faces.
Plastic bags aren’t usually recycled by local authorities and their contents are often discarded. This is because bagged items are deemed unsafe or too time-consuming for human sorters to rip open, so they end up at the landfill. Most major supermarkets offer in-store recycling facilities for plastic bags so drop them off or re-use them next time you grab groceries.
There are a few things we can do to further the chances of our discarded items being recycled and help the planet a little bit more:
- Squash down bottles and keep the lids ON: It’s a common theory that bottle lids should be put in the recycling separately, and for good reason. Bottles and their caps tend to be made of different materials and melt at different rates. The caps of air-filled bottles can also fly off when compressed, creating a hazard to workers. However, material recovery facilities have advanced in recent years and it’s now advised to compress your bottles and replace the caps so they can be located during sorting.
- Keep cardboard and paper clean: When paper gets wet or soiled, it damages the fibres and lowers the grade of what it can be turned into. The same thing happens when you shred your paper so, while shredding confidential files is sometimes essential, you shouldn’t be doing this with all your paperwork.
- Cut plastic loops: This practice should be adopted with any material that creates a loop, whether it’s discarded in the recycling or general waste. Once in a landfill, animals can get entangled in these which can cause a lot of distress, injury, or death to local wildlife. Cutting any loops in your waste items may prevent this.
- Reduce the amount of plastic packaging you buy: The less plastic you bring into your house, the less plastic you discard. One of the easiest ways to do this is through your food shop, so try browsing the fresh and unpackaged items instead. Check out our article on splitting up with single-use plastics for more tips on this.
Some local councils include Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in the list of items they accept in household waste collection, but not all. Dispose of your WEEE in an environmentally friendly manner by taking them to your local recycling centre or to a supermarket/retailer. You can find battery collection tubs in most supermarkets and retailer stores, usually by the tills or customer services, where you can drop batteries off free of charge.
Recycling means more than just getting items to our local recycling centre. Re-purposing, fixing, and re-using items are all conscious methods of recycling and may help to save your wallet as well as the planet. Sure you want to get rid of it? Find it a second home by selling it cheap or for ‘spares & repairs’ or dropping it off at a charity shop. What is trash to you may be treasure to someone else. You can also consider upcycling to bring a new lease of life to anything you think might have reached its end.
Shop our collection of waste bins to become a master recycler while keeping your kitchen or utility room stylish. And make sure you take a look at some of our other climate-friendly articles, such as tips on cleaning green.