Over the past few years we’ve become accustomed to the variety of recycling bins that we are asked to separate our waste out into. The coloured bins have become a feature of our kerbsides up and down the country… and, quite rightly, many people think that by separating out their rubbish in this way, they are doing their bit. But is it enough? And what more can we do?
In the UK we are still only recycling 45.7% of our household waste1, leaving much room for improvement. So here are five ways that we can all do our bit to improve that statistic, and take small steps towards reducing our impact on our planet.
What’s your exit strategy?
If we are to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill every year, we need to start thinking about our exit strategy from the start. When making any purchase, consider what you are going to do with it once you have finished with it? This will help us to make more informed choices as consumers by seeking out more easily recyclable clothing and products. Or you may decide to forego the purchase all together, and instead hire, borrow or go without.
Recycle back into the circular economy
Once you have finished with an item, the simple way to keep it out of landfill is to prolong its useful life. It may be easy to take it to the tip, but you may be missing opportunities to donate to local organisations and keep it in the “circular economy.”
Community centres, libraries, women’s refuges, family centres and Citizens Advice Bureaus can all help signpost you to organisations that would love to accept your donation, getting it to those in need at a grassroots level. Clothing, toys, baby equipment and household goods are categories that community organisations are on the look-out for. And this way, you know that the item will be used again quickly, rather than languishing in a charity shop and potentially being sent to rags or landfill if not sold.
Set your home up for success
It will be easier to recycle your unwanted items if you have a system. At a basic level, this can be a simple box where you put clothing for to your local shelter, unwearable textiles for the textile bank, or toys for the community centre. Or go a step further and share the load… set up a number of different “recycling stations” amongst your friends, with each of you collecting different items for different organisations.
Know your recycling
525,000 tonnes of recycling collected from UK households was rejected at the point of sorting in 2019/202. At best, a tonne of waste collected for recycling that can’t, in fact, be recycled can cost an extra £93 to dispose of. At worst, putting rubbish in the wrong bin could contaminate a whole collection.
The point here is that we have a responsibility to know what can, and can’t, be recycled. If in doubt, your local authority should have resources available to help you. Don’t be a “wish-cycler” by throwing something in the recycling bin with the hope that it can be recycled… take the time to find out. Expand your recycling by finding out what other materials your local authority recycles too. It’s a learning curve, but after a while you’ll know what’s what, and be confident that your recycling is making a difference.
You don’t need to recycle what you don’t buy!
Finally, it may sound obvious, but we won’t even need to worry about recycling if we don’t buy it in the first place.
Written by Mel Carruthers of More Organised