Whilst recycling is common place in modern society, the statistics show not much improvement has been made in the last decade. UK Government statistics for household waste show that between 2010 – 2020, the recycling rate increased by 3.9%. This means less than 50% of households are recycling! The benefits of recycling can be extensive, both for the planet and the economy.
Benefit 1: Reducing demands on the planet
Benefit 2: Saving energy
Benefit 3: The economy
Always do your research when it comes to recycling as every council has different rules and regulations. Councils usually have dedicated bins for your recycling which makes it so much easier! It’s also worth noting that if recycled waste contains food remnants the entire bin collected can be contaminated and rejected, being redirected to landfill. Make sure you rinse containers before putting them in the recycling bin.
Some materials are better for recycling than others. This is due to the processes used, and the life span each material has, so whilst many items are recyclable, it may be better to opt for a complete alternative where possible:
Whilst not all plastics can be recycled, there are several methods for recycling depending on the material. Milk bottles are recycled using a closed loop system within the UK, meaning they are made directly into new plastic milk bottles. Recycling plastic involves sorting the materials, separating and shredding, washing and finally melting into new pellets. An issue with plastics is that they break down slightly through this process, meaning materials must be ‘down-cycled‘ or have virgin plastic added.
Paper can be broken down but the need to remove the ink for new products can use harmful products such as bleach. Recycling paper uses water, energy and pollutants compared to raw paper-making processes, and paper at the end of it’s life is usually compostable, making it much more sustainable than plastic.
Recycled aluminium drinks cans can be made back as a new product in just 60 days! Aluminium is a great example of closed loop recycling.
Glass is another material that involves almost no down-cycling, and is much more efficient compared to creating new glass. Glass can be recycled 3 ways, the most common is to sort the glass by colour, ground, and sifted before melting and reformed into the new product. Some places do not have the infrastructure to reform, so have instead recycled glass into sand. Finally, some companies may collect and clean their products, before re-using them directly!
Terracycle is a global recycling company, with a non-for-profit charity sector, they are creating partnerships with brands and companies to make recycling easy and accessible. The Terracycle website has a map function on each of their different programmes to help find your local drop offs. For example these are just some of the items you can recycle through them:
1. The Cheese Packaging Programme accepts all brands of flexible plastic cheese packaging and nets.
2. The Confectionary Programme accepts all brands of plastic chocolate and sweet bags and pouches, multipack outer packaging, individual and block chocolate wrappers.
3. The Crisp Packet Programme recycles any brand of crisp packet and multi packets outer packaging, you just have to make sure the packet is empty!
4. The Personal Care and Beauty Programme will recycle any brand, and is currently accepting flexible single use mask packaging and blue plastic film, personal care and beauty product packaging caps, pumps, trigger sprays (rigid plastic bottles not accepted) plastic pots and flexible tubes, hair colourant kits, and plastic roll on deodorants.
5. The Medicine Packet Programme means you can recycle any empty blister packet, whether it’s an occasional paracetamol or a daily prescription, it is worth recycling if you can!
I hope you have learnt a little about recycling, as recycling is SO IMPORTANT, but also that it isn’t a perfect solution, and reducing your consumption is the best way to be more sustainable. Remember as individuals it’s the little things we can do to save our planet.