Recycling can be confusing, so we thought we would get some recycling tips from Cathy Mears from Simply Sustainable Ideas to offer some quick tips would help you better navigate this at home and in the office.
Cathy says “Whilst there needs to be a lot the government and councils should do to streamline this, there are some easy tips we can incorporate into our lives in the meantime, to ensure we are recycling as effectively as we can“.
Please take a look at these tips and also check out recyclenow – it is a site where you can put your postcode in and it will give you a list of what is recyclable in your area curb side and also where you can recycle other items.
Know your numbers. Firstly, Test Valley asks for only plastic bottle shapes to be recycled, which makes it easy to remember. But did you know that on the bottom of all plastic, there is a number in a triangle? While this may seem insignificant, this is actually the most important thing to know. There may also be letters accompanying it.
For successful recycling in Test Valley, the most important numbers are 1 (PET) and 2 (HDPE or PE HD). These are the most consistently recycled across the country and are found on the bottoms of clear hard plastic trays, drinks bottles, cleaning products, hand wash, shampoos.
If you find the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 at the bottom of the item, please throw these into the general waste. There are ways to recycle some of these items but not through curb side. So whilst it may pain you, please pop these in the general waste bin.
Squash those bottles and screw the lids back on. Not only does this save space in your recycling bin, but it means valuable hard plastic in the lids is more likely to be recovered in the recycling process. If you throw them in, they are more likely to drop through the gaps in the recycling process. Please remember to make sure all liquid is drained out before you squash it and pop it into the recycling bin. So drain it, squash it, lid it and recycle it!
Rinse it out. Food contamination is a big problem in recycling so please try to get into the habit of giving the item – whether it is a tin can, bottle of plonk, fizzy drink, milk bottle, vegetable tray – anything that fits within tip 1s recycling symbols – it needs to be pretty clean. We are lucky that labels can stay on as they will come off in the process but we do need to rinse everything out and leave it out to dry before popping it in the bin. If it is wet, it can contaminate other items such as cardboard or paper.
Don’t bag it! Black bags and any bags are a top item within the recycling bin. Items should be loose in the bin though, because we cannot recycle plastic bags, particularly black bags. Also the recycling crews going round and collecting the rubbish can’t see into the bin bags and see what is being thrown away so will likely refuse it. You may be the best recycler on the block but if you use a black bag, your efforts are wasted. So please remember to bin black bags and leave the recycling to be free!
Damp, grease or food contaminated cardboard is a no no. When recycling card, it needs to be clean and dry. This is because it is harder to find a market for wet / greasy paper as it reduces the quality of the material. If you have a home compost or know someone that does, the wet or greasy cardboard is great to add to that. But please keep it away from our recycling bins.
Recycle those bathroom items – while 90% of kitchen recycling is done, Brits only recycle 50% of bathroom waste. Toilet rolls, cleaning products, shampoo and conditioner products along with body wash and hand soap bottles can all be recycled. Try having a special recycling bin in the bathroom or just remember to take the empties to the sink, rinse them and leave them to dry, squash anything you can and pop them into the recycling bin. Remember, anything bottle shaped in Test Valley is good to go and you will see that those are usually a 1 or a 2 type plastic.
Buy easy to recycle options and opt for less packaging. For a start, it means less to worry about what item goes in what bin! The average person in the UK throws out 400kg of waste per year* – that is about the weight of 4 giant panda bears**.
Prevention of waste is the best cure to reduce it, and our money is our power and how we spend it on our weekly shop says a lot. Reuse a container for chocolate cake, bring your reusable mug for that caffeine fix – most coffee shops give you money off when you do this too. Forgo clingfilm and opt for reusable items such as beeswax or soy wax wraps. It there was one item I would ask you to give up it would be cling film. There are so many wonderful alternatives out there.
Save those bottles! If mixed recycling is not available, save the glass bottles. In Test Valley it isn’t available curb side so remember to separate them and pop them in a local glass recycling bank. Why not do this for your neighbours and take turns? Glass doesn’t break down in landfill or out on the streets and it takes less energy to reuse the glass than it does to make new glass bottles and glass is 100% recyclable – in fact, every tonne of glass recycled saves 246 kg of CO2 emissions*
Just remember to put the lids back on them and to rinse and dry out before plonking in your box or bag for the local recycling bank.
If in doubt, throw it out! In 2018, 500,00 tonnes of recycled waste was sent to landfill or to be burnt because it contained items that shouldn’t have been there**. To put that into context, a blue whale weighs about 140 tonnes* – so we are sending about the weight of 3,571 blue whales to landfill or incineration.
So please stick to the following:
- bottle-shaped plastic
- food tins
- drinks cans
- newspaper (including junk mail)
Everything else must go in the general waste bin please.
Know what means no! Following on from Tip 9, let’s also learn what definitely cannot go into the recycling bin.
In Test Valley (and many councils), please do not throw textiles/DIY materials, glass, plastic yoghurt pots or plastic trays, garden waste, food waste and containers with food waste, gift wrap, kitchen paper, snotty tissues, napkins, used nappies and period products, plastic bags such as salad bags and black bags, batteries and electronic waste such as that old Walkman or cd player, coffee cups, polystyrene, crisp packets, chocolate bar packaging, sun glasses, old knickers or socks, into the recycling bin. Whilst it would be great to find somewhere for these, at the moment they are not recyclable so adding these in will impact the rest of the items being recycled and will lead to a contaminated load.
Bilbo BagOUT not Baggins – LoTR joke, sorry! Plastic bags or stretchy plastic like cling film are not recyclable. With the best will in the world, unfortunately we cannot recycle it curbside. There are some options at certain supermarkets (Tesco is trialling a scheme for this*) where you can drop off plastic bags and bread bags for example, but items like cling film or salad bags need to go into general waste.
Food not so glorious food: Food waste is definitely not recyclable. Ideally if you have a home compost or a nearby allotment where you can drop your food waste off, that would be great. It has been worked out by some very clever people, that if all the food waste (growing, packaging, transporting etc) was grouped together to form a country, it would be the 3rd highest emitter of greenhouse gasses*. It is estimated that we waste 68kgs of food every year per person – that is about the same weight as 68 meerkats. So try to reduce any waste at all but if you are throwing it away, please avoid the recycling bin. Food waste is one of the biggest reasons we have to send recycling to either landfill or to be burnt.
The bigger, the better! Small bits of paper, plastic or foil will drop through the cracks in the process so just remember the bigger it is, the better chance it has at being recycled.
So to recap, plastic numbers 1 and 2 should be recycled for a win. A bottle shape plastic is also destined for the recycling bin. The lids are good to go back on and paper and card are great to throw (into the recycling bin!). Please remember no food waste though, or stretchy plastic – to the general waste bin those should go