Your definitive guide to recycling

Your definitive guide to recycling

While most of us do our bit to help the environment, we could all do so much more. Try these easy tips to help make a difference.

While most of us do our bit to help the environment, we could all do so much more. Try these easy tips to help make a difference.

We can all remember a time when recycling was almost unheard of. Now it is part of our daily lives. We all know to set aside that empty wine bottle or old newspaper for pick up, but could we be doing more?

Often our good intentions are thwarted by recycling incorrectly, or not converting as much of our waste as possible. According to the European Environment Agency, recycling rates across Europe are steadily on the rise, which is great. However, the difference in recycling rates varies dramatically, ranging from 64% municipal waste recycled in Germany to 1% in Serbia, and no one is at 100%.

So how could we be doing better?

Start in the supermarket

In order to really benefit the environment, we need to be more conscious of our shopping habits and try to limit the amount of waste we are producing in the first place. Start with your shopping – particularly when it comes to food in unnecessary plastic wrap or products in needlessly excessive packaging. Be more mindful and decide if there is an eco-friendlier way to purchase what you need, such as loose fruit and vegetables, for example.

Bags of rubbish

Shoppers worldwide use 500 billion single-use plastic bags each year, which often become part of the estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in our oceans today.

Because they take so long to break down, they repeatedly contribute to the 100,000+ marine creatures that die each year after getting tangled in plastic or accidentally eating it. Avoid using plastic bags whenever possible, keeping a foldable shopping bag in your handbag to use instead.

If you use bags to separate out your tins and bottles for recycling, stop. Plastic bags can rarely be processed by regular recycling plants and actually slow down the process, as they need to be hand sorted before sending them to landfill. There are now dedicated bag recycling schemes and most large supermarkets have bag recycling points.

Wake up to your morning coffee

We are very conscious of everyday recycling at home, but that often stops when we’re on the move. Most disposable coffee cups, for example, are lined with polyethylene, which makes them non-recyclable. Indeed, it is estimated that every minute more than one million disposable cups are discarded to landfill. Invest in a reusable coffee cup instead, and use a drop of Fairy Liquid to clean out your cup when you finish your drink so it’s ready to go again.

Repair, share and reuse

When it comes to recycling, Sweden is leading the way, having sent only 1% of its waste to landfill since 2011. But much of this comes from the Swedish ethos of miljönär-vänlig – a play on the words ‘environment’ and ‘millionaire’, suggesting that people can save cash as well as the environment by making, borrowing and recycling.

Internalise this idea yourself and repair any damaged clothes, or have a dress swap party with your friends so your unwanted garments can find a new wearer. Use your waste in crafty ways, such as turning your jam jars into candle holders or utilising old tights to store onions.

Wash and squash

By cleaning your recycling before it goes in the bin, you reduce contamination and improve recycling efficiency. Scrape out any food remains or liquid and give it a clean with those Fairy Liquid suds that are left after you wash up. There is no need to put items in the dishwasher. Crush metal cans and squash plastic bottles to squeeze out any excess air, and flatten any cardboard boxes.

Go beyond paper, tin and glass

What about other household items? Did you know it’s not only the wine bottle that can be recycled, but its cork, too? You could also put it in your garden compost.

Mattresses are full of valuable materials, and can be dropped off at your local recycling centre, as can many small electrical appliances. Look out for battery recycling boxes and ask at your local opticians about recycling old reading glasses.

Wrapping paper can be recycled as long as you remove the sticky tape and it doesn’t have foil or glitter on it. Unfortunately, broken drinking glasses can’t be processed with your empty jars as the glass melts at a different temperature, and mixing in broken glass can cause the whole container to be rejected. Instead, check with your local recycling centre.

Do you go above and beyond when it comes to doing your bit to save the environment? Let us know your best recycling tip in the comments section below.

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Holiday brochures used

Karen 29/04/2018

I was putting last year's unused holiday brochures in the recycling bin, when I realised I could use the pictures out of them to line the pan cupboard in the kitchen. So the pans are now sitting on pictures of China, Singapore and Italy to remind me what food I like to cook and eat!

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