Recycling is good for the environment. It cuts waste to landfill, saves energy and precious resources, and reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
In the UK we only recycle 55% of aluminium cans, 58% of plastic bottles and just 32% of plastic pots, tubs and trays. We throw away nearly 50% of glass bottles and jars (that will never decompose) and £17 billion worth of food is wasted annually. If every person recycled just 10% more paper it could save 5 million trees per year.
When waste from packaging ends up in landfill or is incinerated it produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, while chemicals from the decomposing materials leach into the ground, polluting the environment.
Unrecycled and single use plastics end up in the sea and wreak havoc with our ocean ecosystems, poisoning sea life and ultimately ourselves.
On a positive note, plastic is easier than ever to recycle, and in England a bottle deposit scheme is being proposed to encourage recycling. This has proven very successful in other EU countries, where recycling rates have doubled. We’ll pay a few more pence for soft drinks, juices etc. and then be able to claim the money back if we return the empty bottle to be recycled. This will apply to any single use drinks containers made of plastic, glass or metal.
What can you do?
Firstly, reduce the amount of waste you produce, through buying less and re-using more. Then, recycle recycle recycle!
Once you are finished with your products check the packaging and make sure you recycle all components you can via kerbside local collections or your local recycling centres.
All councils offer kerbside waste collection and recycling schemes that will differ depending on where you live so make sure you are doing the right thing in your area. Kerbside collection is a limited service and your local recycling centre will accept just about everything else so make sure you are visiting your local recycling points too as part of your recycling effort. Check where your nearest one and what they collect here.
Its disappointing that clear recycling instructions are not always provided on pack. However, Giki can help, simply download the Giki app, scan the barcode, and see whether the products you buy can be recycled. Products with recyclable packaging or components will be awarded a recycling badge.
A few useful tips
Don’t worry so much about removing labels and lids from glass jars and bottles. In the recycling process, the items are re-washed. Removing caps and lids from plastic containers is more important because they are made from different plastic materials.
Rinse out your containers before they go in the recycling bin otherwise they may not be accepted for recycling.
Glass can easily be recycled over and over again but it’s always better to re-use than recycle, so if you can repurpose your glass containers, choose to do this before you choose to recycle.
Food waste can be recycled too, even bones and egg shells, it can be converted into compost or electricity. Food waste recycling services are being rolled out across more and more of the UK. Ask your council if they recycle food waste and which food to include.
Aerosols are widely recyclable but toothpaste tubes are much harder (except for the cap!). Switch to pump action toothpaste tubes as an alternative, they are made from a different type of plastic and are easier to recycle.
And here are a few surprises that you can recycle at your local recycling centre: old curtains, used underwear, batteries, light bulbs, plastic toys and TVs!
For your supermarket products, you can check them on Giki to see if they get the Better Packaging badge – which means less plastic, less rubbish and more recycling.
What you can’t recycle
Which of these common items can you cut back on or switch to recyclable alternatives?
- liquid soap pumps – rinse the bottle and recycle this. Buy refills where possible and reuse the pumps
- black bin bags and cling film– but you can buy biodegradable ones now
- greasy pizza boxes – but we’re all allowed a treat every now and again
- Baby wipes, cosmetic wipes, bathroom cleaning wipes and moist toilet tissues (wet wipes do not break down and represent a hefty proportion of non-biodegradable waste in landfills)
Remember, reduce, re-use, recycle – it really does count!