By now, we all know the importance of taking steps to help the environment. From taking public transport to using more energy-efficient appliances, everyone contributes in their own way. But could you be doing more when it comes to recycling?
This year’s Recycle Week will take place between 20 and 26 of September. Recycle Week is a national celebration of recycling designed to raise awareness and encourage more effective recycling.
This year’s theme is “step it up,” which sends the clear message to the British public that we could all be doing more. In the UK as a whole in 2019, just 46.2% of household waste was recycled, according to a government report.
In 2020, NS Packaging reported that Germany had led the world in recycling rates since 2016, recycling a total of 56.1% of the country’s waste.
So, what can you do to honour Recycle Week and up your recycling game? From double checking your recyclable materials to composting your food scraps, there are plenty of ways to help reduce how much of your waste ends up in a landfill.
Read on to find out more.
1. Know what you can recycle
Unfortunately, recycling isn’t quite as simple as “plastic good, food waste bad.” Different types of plastic film have different rules for recycling – for example, Tetra Pak milk cartons can’t always be recycled with your regular cardboard. So, firstly, always check the packaging to ensure which bits can and can’t be recycled.
Next, you need to check the recycling policies of your local council. What could be marked as “widely recycled” on the packaging may not be accepted by your council, so you will need to find other ways to deal with it. The opposite can happen too, where you think something that typically isn’t recyclable will turn out to be accepted locally!
These rules differ across the country so, whenever you move or if your local policies change, be sure to check the rules. Lastly, make sure that anything you put into the recycling has been properly washed and dried, as a single contaminated item could ruin a whole recycling batch.
2. Consider “recycling potential” when shopping
The recycling potential of an item is essentially how much of the item and packaging you could recycle later. For example, the products that often have the best recycling potential are those already made from recycled goods, as they will almost always be fully recyclable again.
If you’re unsure which packet of tomatoes to buy at the supermarket, consider going for the one stored in cardboard packaging as opposed to the one stored in non-recyclable plastic film. When shopping for clothes and other household essentials, look for those that can be used again and again, rather than the single use alternatives.
3. Reduce the amount of waste you create
We are all guilty of throwing something away unnecessarily, whether that’s faulty electrics or an unwanted gift. The truth is most of the things we bin without thinking could have found a use elsewhere.
Consider fixing appropriate household items or electrics if they break instead of replacing them. Try sewing up any holes in clothes at home or donating them to someone who can. Repairing will often work out cheaper than replacing, even if you hire someone to do it!
If anything is truly beyond repair and they cannot be recycled by your local council, consider going to your local recycling centre and disposing of them there instead.
Also, find new ways to use certain items. Reuse your takeaway containers when taking lunch to work. Give away your unwanted gifts to other friends and family who may want them (but preferably not to the people who gifted them to you!).
Lastly, never forget about the possibility of donating and handing down your unwanted items. Charity shops, friends, and children could all be the recipients of items you no longer need.
4. Compost your food waste
Composting your food waste is always useful for someone, whether or not you have a garden yourself. Collecting your food waste, such as vegetable extras or leftovers, along with any garden waste you might have in a compost bin creates fertile, useful soil for gardeners.
Even if you aren’t a gardener, perhaps your friends and family, neighbours, or a local community garden could put it to good use. Plus, taking the time to create a compost bin prevents your internal bins from smelling, since all your decomposing waste is kept separately.
5. Don’t forget to recycle when out and about
Whether you’re at work, on a long walk, or on a day trip to the theme park, don’t let your good habits slip just because you aren’t at home! Remembering to recycle no matter where you are is just as important.
Not knowing the exact location of a recycling bin is no excuse to just put all your rubbish into a standard bin. Most places have multiple recycling bins on site, sometimes directly next to regular bins. Even if it means holding on to your rubbish until you’re home, it saves more rubbish heading to a landfill or, worse still, littering.
Reflect on your recycling habits for Recycle Week
There are so many ways to improve the way you recycle. From buying more recyclable products to hunting down public recycling bins, every step you take helps the environment and helps reduce your personal waste production.
This year, Recycle Week has been backed by a number of large sponsors, including Amazon, Coca Cola, and the Co-op. Take the time to reflect on your own recycling habits and figure out some ways that you could be doing more to help!