My simple solutions to managing your household waste in the most productive ways!
A little history…
Would you agree that recycling has lost direction over the past few years, as bigger, more pressing problems have been infiltrating the limelight? Recycling was introduced into UK law in 2003, after years of campaigning by NGOs such as Friends of the Earth. Before that, only 12% of our municipal waste was recycled, when an average of 60% could actually be reused or composted (One of the worst in Western Europe!).
Recycling is a common part of our daily lives here in the UK, and most people try and do their bit to stick with the rules.
However, the rules are a bit complex and do’s and don’ts have become blurred as different regulations apply to different parts of the country. This is the result of the government not providing enough overarching guidance, so local authorities and councils have to take it into their own hands. Therefore the approach to recycling depends on money and the infrastructure of the area.
Why do we recycle?
This may seem like a stupid question, but I have found that our reason for recycling has been somewhat lost, and now it feels more like a burden than something practical.
First of all, recycling stops a lot of our waste going to landfill. So to some extent it aims to directly protect the planet from littering and reduces the numbers of big nasty piles of rubbish. I think we can all agree that sounds like a positive plan, right?
Recycling also helps us reduce the quantity of resources that we take from the earth, as we try and reuse the materials we have already extracted. The earth has only a limited supply of resources that we can and have exploited for our consumer habits, but also it must be remembered that the earth is not here to fulfill the needs of human shopping habits. Meanwhile, sustainable behaviour does not have to be treated as burdensome, and when executed correctly, can provide jobs to a newly skilled labour fore.
How can we recycle better?
Despite there being a great deal of disparity between different recycling schemes in different areas, there are some overriding rules that you can follow to make sure that your recycling isn’t going to waste.
- Wash – If there is food waste on a recycled it’s not going to be recycled – EVER- NO EXCEPTIONS. Easy solution, give those cans a little rinse. Doesn’t have to be squeaky clean, so no need to put in the dishwasher.
- Squash – Once you’ve rinsed your precious piece of recycling, if it’s a tin can or a plastic bottle, or cardboard box, squash it. This will reduce the volume of recycling and also the risk of contamination.
- Caps, Lids and Rings– Remove and throw away ANY PLASTIC CAPS and LIDS. (Plastic rings around the top of bottles can stay if you CBA.)
- Paperclips, Staples, Plastic Envelope Windows- REMOVE THESE TOO, and THROW AWAY! (Inc. Tape from cardboard boxes)
- PIZZA BOXES- If they have food/ grease stains on them… THEY CANT BE RECYCLED.
Doesn’t this process seem unnecessarily complex?
This is because it’s actually the least effective of the three R’s that we all heard constantly during the early 2000s- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (in that order).
We should start this process with reducing the amount of single use materials and products, so that we don’t have to decide whether or not they are recyclable. The best example of this is obviously buying fresh, loose fruit and veg and trying to shop seasonally. Often seasonal and local produce is easier to source plastic free! We can also try and find alternatives that mean we don’t have to throw so much crap away in the first place!!
- Own a water bottle
- Own a coffee cup
- Buy locally – support local butcher, green grocer and zero waste shop (if there is one near you)
- Composting – Check council composting
- Eco bricks
- Taking your own Tupperware to the supermarket – so if you buy meat, fish or cheese or bread from the different areas you can have it straight in your own box/bag.
The point that always gets overlooked is that recycling isn’t the only, best or easiest option to reduce waste/ impact on the planet.
But without us all trying to recycle properly or later on buying things that are made from the recycled resources the effort that we make can become futile. To make your domestic efforts and the efforts of the council worthwhile, a conscious effort needs to be made to purchase recycled products…e.g. Loo Roll made from recycled paper (Who Gives a Crap Loo Roll).
By Lucy Browne-Swinburne