Did you know that humans have consumed more resources in the last 50 years than in all previous history*? Every year we dump a massive 2.12 billion tons of waste. If all this waste was put on trucks they would go around the world 24 times.*
Our natural resources are dwindling, which is why recycling is becoming more and more important for our planet. Each and every year, the Seventh Resource (recyclables) saves over 700 million tonnes in CO2 emissions.**
Global Recycling Day is March 18, and to celebrate, the Global Recycling Foundation is running events all across the world - from educational talks in schools to beach clean-ups and performances for local communities.
But what can you do as an individual?
The Global Recycling Foundation suggest we ask ourselves these seven questions – and we’ve delved a little deeper to help you take their advice this #GlobalRecyclingDay.
1. Am I disposing of everything properly?
There can be a lot of misconceptions about what can and can’t be recycled. We did a bit of research and were surprised at the following facts from recyclenow.com
- If it's plastic and bottle shaped, it's recyclable - including all those from the bathroom like shampoo and bleach bottles.
- Aerosols are widely recycled in household collection schemes and at recycling points.
- Some councils collect batteries as part of their household collection service, but in most areas you will need to take them to a recycling centre or a collection point in a supermarket, a DIY centre or even your local shop.
- Cling film and plastic film lids, and pre-prepared salad bags aren’t recyclable, whereas bags for fruit and veg and frozen food can be accepted at carrier bag collection points at local supermarkets.
- Crisp packets are not currently recyclable in home recycling collections and should be either recycled via Terracycle's Crisp Packet Recycling Scheme or put in your rubbish bin.
- Clean household foil and aluminium trays are widely recycled in household collection schemes and at recycling points.
- Pizza boxes are recyclable, even when stained or greasy as long as they are empty.
2. Do I know my local council’s policies on recycling?
Every local council in the UK has different facilities for recycling – which means your parents back home might be able to recycle one thing that you and your flatmates can’t at your place. If you’re not sure what can and can’t be recycled, or want further advice on the above items, you can use this handy tool to find out what's recyclable in your specific neighbourhood.
3. What happens to my recyclables after they’re taken away?
Ever wondered what happens after your recycling bins are collected or you drop something off at the recycling centre?
According to Recycle Now, at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) your recyclables are sorted by hand or machine before being sent to manufacturers who make it into new products.
The UK is a successful recycling nation: according to the Guardian, 45.7% of all household waste is classed as recycled. There are many recycling plants in the UK, reprocessing million of tonnes of material every year (230 million tonnes of that is plastic – which equates to 1.1kg per person per day!!). But it's actually too much for us to handle, and after sorting, some of it gets shipped overseas to be recycled.
4. Can I mend, repair or reuse what I’ve got?
Fix it! Most dry cleaners offer a tailoring and mending service - by fixing clothing you can support local businesses and give your clothing new life! for gadgets and appliances, you can try looking on eBay for spare parts to fix your them rather than throwing them away. Sites like freecycle.org also connect people who don't want to throw items away - you can give unwanted items a new home by listing them here.
5. Am I buying low waste where I can?
There are lots of low-waste shops popping up around the place, and stores like M&S are now offering refillable foods. This is great for keeping up your pantry staples like oats, rice and legumes. It’s also a good idea to buy vegetables loose, rather than packaged – bonus that they can sometimes be cheaper and buying only what you need saves food waste!
You can take this waste reduction a step further by bringing your own tupperware containers to the deli section of your local supermarket and even some takeaway restaurants (health regulations allowing) to collect your food.
When you do buy packaged products, try to cut down on packaging – for example, buy in bulk rather than in pre-packed servings (one large tub of yogurt instead of several small ones, or a packet of Oreos rather than individually wrapped two-packs).
6. Am I choosing the brands that are already recycled or make it easy to recycle?
Where you can, support brands that are making an effort to use recycled packaging, and packaging that can be recycled again. For example, Colgate’s outer packaging is 70% recycled and fully recyclable. Always check the packaging for details!
Some brands have even signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, a trailblazing, collaborative initiative that will create a circular economy for plastics. It brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle the scourge of plastic waste. They’re aiming to make 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Check out which companies have joined so you can make an informed decision.
7. Am I aware of my government's recycling legislation, or should I be demanding more?
If you feel like more can be done in your area, write a letter to your local representative to ask what they're doing about recycling! Citizens advice offers a great guide on how to write an effective letter to an organisation or individual.
*Based on a study conducted by the Bureau of International Recycling