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How to recycle 101

How to recycle 101

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Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. If we’re looking to limit our impact on the planet, then the first two of those three Rs are key.

Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. If we’re looking to limit our impact on the planet, then the first two of those three Rs are key.

How to recycle 101
Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. If we’re looking to limit our impact on the planet, then the first two of those three Rs are key as you limit the amount of packaging you consume and then throw away. But if you've ever tried to go completely waste-free — that's no cardboard, plastics or other packaging — you'll know it's pretty hard. (Although, if you'd like to give it a go, do check out this 31-day challenge here.)

And while it's still important to reduce and re-use, the realities of everyday life mean that you’re likely to have some waste going into the bin. And here’s where the final R comes in.

How much is going to waste?

It is estimated that around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enter the UK economy each year, of which only 115 million tonnes gets recycled. And of the 30 million tonnes of household waste that is generated each year, 5.9 million tonnes of it is packaging. Interestingly, recycling our packaging doesn’t just redirect waste away from landfill, it also saves a huge amount of energy. For example, the energy saved by recycling a single aluminum can is enough to run a television for 3 hours, and 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared to making it from raw materials.

So, here's how to get started:

What can be recycled

Often the most confusing part of the recycling process is knowing what can and can’t be recycled. For example, not all plastics and paper can be used again. You should be able to locate recycling symbols on most packaging, and an easy symbol explainer can be found here. You’ll also find a useful guide on what types of plastic can be recycled here.

Sorting & storing your recycling

Wherever you live in the UK, you’ll be able to recycle a good deal of waste through your local bin collections. However, what you can recycle and how does vary. Your first port of call is to check your local authority website for a comprehensive list of what you can and can’t recycle in your local area, as well as the types of bags to use and how often recycling will be collected. You’ll also find that most local authorities have specific schemes for providing discounted or free compost bins, as well as disposing of larger items at local recycling depots or by arranging for their collection.  

Getting into the recycling habit

Once you’ve decided which, or all, of these categories you are going to start recycling, identify a space and container to store them in. Most importantly, you need to find an easy way to integrate sorting and storing into your daily routine to get into the habit of recycling at home.

Recycling etiquette

Most of us know that we should wash out our recycled plastic, but not necessarily why. As well as helping to keep our bin fresh, emptying and rinsing your recycled containers ensures that they won’t risk contaminating porous materials such as paper and card and making them un-recyclable. Also make sure to screw lids back on bottles and push straws back into cartons before you recycle them, as most recycling machines won’t sort objects narrower than 40mm. Lastly, squashing plastic bottles before putting them in the bin saves space, ultimately reducing their carbon footprint, as well as ensuring that they won’t roll off of the sorting machine conveyor belts.

What about those items not included in your local collection?

Even after bin day, you’ll likely find yourself with items that you need to find a way to recycle. Here’s some tips:

E-waste: Some electronic waste is collected by your local authority, and you can also take it to your local recycling centre. Many supermarkets and electronic shops have drop off points for items such as used batteries and printer cartridges, and you can check waste recycling options in your local area on the Recycle Now website. If the item still works, they are also accepted by some charity shops.

Water filters: Water filters can’t be recycled as part of your local recycling collection scheme, or at household waste recycling centres. You can contact the manufacturer for recycling solutions, however if you use BRITA filters, they can be dropped off in designated boxes at most Argos, Robert Dyas and Homebase stores.

Clothes: Just under 336,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in the bin across the UK every year. The easiest way to re-direct textiles from landfill is to take it to your local charity shop, however those that are too worn to be re-sold can be recycled and made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets. These items can be dropped off at a local textiles bank, and you can locate your nearest one on the Recycle Now website. Finally, multiple shops on the highstreet- most famously H&M- will give you vouchers to use in store in exchange for a bag of used clothes, and you can check participating stores here.

Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. If we’re looking to limit our impact on the planet, then the first two of those three Rs are key as you limit the amount of packaging you consume and then throw away. But if you've ever tried to go completely waste-free — that's no cardboard, plastics or other packaging — you'll know it's pretty hard. (Although, if you'd like to give it a go, do check out this 31-day challenge here.)

And while it's still important to reduce and re-use, the realities of everyday life mean that you’re likely to have some waste going into the bin. And here’s where the final R comes in.

How much is going to waste?

It is estimated that around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enter the UK economy each year, of which only 115 million tonnes gets recycled. And of the 30 million tonnes of household waste that is generated each year, 5.9 million tonnes of it is packaging. Interestingly, recycling our packaging doesn’t just redirect waste away from landfill, it also saves a huge amount of energy. For example, the energy saved by recycling a single aluminum can is enough to run a television for 3 hours, and 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared to making it from raw materials.

So, here's how to get started:

What can be recycled

Often the most confusing part of the recycling process is knowing what can and can’t be recycled. For example, not all plastics and paper can be used again. You should be able to locate recycling symbols on most packaging, and an easy symbol explainer can be found here. You’ll also find a useful guide on what types of plastic can be recycled here.

Sorting & storing your recycling

Wherever you live in the UK, you’ll be able to recycle a good deal of waste through your local bin collections. However, what you can recycle and how does vary. Your first port of call is to check your local authority website for a comprehensive list of what you can and can’t recycle in your local area, as well as the types of bags to use and how often recycling will be collected. You’ll also find that most local authorities have specific schemes for providing discounted or free compost bins, as well as disposing of larger items at local recycling depots or by arranging for their collection.  

Getting into the recycling habit

Once you’ve decided which, or all, of these categories you are going to start recycling, identify a space and container to store them in. Most importantly, you need to find an easy way to integrate sorting and storing into your daily routine to get into the habit of recycling at home.

Recycling etiquette

Most of us know that we should wash out our recycled plastic, but not necessarily why. As well as helping to keep our bin fresh, emptying and rinsing your recycled containers ensures that they won’t risk contaminating porous materials such as paper and card and making them un-recyclable. Also make sure to screw lids back on bottles and push straws back into cartons before you recycle them, as most recycling machines won’t sort objects narrower than 40mm. Lastly, squashing plastic bottles before putting them in the bin saves space, ultimately reducing their carbon footprint, as well as ensuring that they won’t roll off of the sorting machine conveyor belts.

What about those items not included in your local collection?

Even after bin day, you’ll likely find yourself with items that you need to find a way to recycle. Here’s some tips:

E-waste: Some electronic waste is collected by your local authority, and you can also take it to your local recycling centre. Many supermarkets and electronic shops have drop off points for items such as used batteries and printer cartridges, and you can check waste recycling options in your local area on the Recycle Now website. If the item still works, they are also accepted by some charity shops.

Water filters: Water filters can’t be recycled as part of your local recycling collection scheme, or at household waste recycling centres. You can contact the manufacturer for recycling solutions, however if you use BRITA filters, they can be dropped off in designated boxes at most Argos, Robert Dyas and Homebase stores.

Clothes: Just under 336,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in the bin across the UK every year. The easiest way to re-direct textiles from landfill is to take it to your local charity shop, however those that are too worn to be re-sold can be recycled and made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets. These items can be dropped off at a local textiles bank, and you can locate your nearest one on the Recycle Now website. Finally, multiple shops on the highstreet- most famously H&M- will give you vouchers to use in store in exchange for a bag of used clothes, and you can check participating stores here.

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