Do you remember hearing about the recycling target set for the UK? The aim is to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020. Wales has managed to meet that target, but the rest of the UK is lagging behind at 44-46%. You could probably name a variety of reasons for this, from unclear information to lack of space. Maybe there’s a suspicion that in spite of your efforts to sort and put out your recycling, it still ends up in a landfill.
Here we are going to make your recycling life easier. There are some space saving ideas, ‘hidden’ recyclables we often miss, and why your recycling does sometimes go to landfill. At the end of the post, you’ll find some links and ideas to start building your recycling toolkit; fortunately, there is loads of information out there and a number of ways to make your recycling process more effective.
It’s a small, small world (when it comes to recycling)
Many of us in the UK live in small houses and flats, in purpose-built buildings or converted properties. In these situations, a lack of space and inconvenient access to rubbish removal points are often cited as key reasons why recycling isn’t happening more often. To help combat this, an interesting concept from Sainsbury’s will be trialled later in 2019, called ‘pre-cycling’. Customers will be able to remove the packaging and leave it in-store to be recycled, ensuring it is disposed of properly and avoiding having to deal with it at home.
But what to do in the meantime? Get creative with your storage solutions and think about what you’re buying – be careful of over-purchasing and consider how you’ll deal with the packaging responsibly. When it comes to storing your recycling, be realistic. It has to be accessible and obvious, without getting in the way. Maybe the tumble of shoes under the stairs can be organised and space made for some stacking boxes or hanging bags. Bags can sometimes work better than boxes for paper and cardboard; both storage and transport, they also take up less space when empty. Put a bucket under the sink for the glass and tins; rinsed quickly after you’ve done the dishes, you don’t even have to go anywhere to get them out of sight. Another option is to use vertical space in the bin area and stop the dreaded ‘bin accumulation’ – corral it with those stacked boxes or hanging bags.
Top tips for recycling in a small space:
- Rinse: combat smells by rinsing containers (this also prevents contamination)
- Flatten: flattening plastic, tins and card means they take up less space in your property and on the lorry
- Find storage that works for you: stacking boxes, hanging bags, a rodent-proof box outside, trolleys for transporting it – find a strategy that works for the whole family
If a management company arranges your rubbish removal and you feel they could be doing more to help you and your neighbours recycle, see if they hold resident’s meetings. Discuss what you would like to see, and find out what your local council is doing to support recycling initiatives. When everyone is able to play their part, the result will be more waste diverted from landfill and better use of council resources.
The ‘hidden’ recyclables
Most of us are recycling when we’re in the kitchen – but what about the bathroom? The sitting room? Office?
Some things that get missed include:
- Toilet roll tubes
- Shower gel/shampoo/cleaning bottles
- Printer cartridges
Try putting a basket or box in each room you feel produces recyclable waste; make it a part of your cleaning routine to collect the containers and add them to the main recycling. Keep them accessible, and encourage kids to get involved by letting them choose the containers or decorate them. Check any items you may not be sure about – councils have different arrangements and may not be able to take everything that claims to be recyclable. Things like clothes and printer cartridges may need a different route to recycling such as donation, but it is still worth doing. For some more ideas on how to deal with your rubbish and recycling, check out 5 ways to get rid of your rubbish and minimise costs.
How well do you know your recyclables?
While we all want our lives to be easier, it’s also worth considering how we can make it easier for waste services to process our rubbish. A common issue, known as ‘wishcycling’ in America, is making things harder for the services and increasing the volume of waste sent to landfill. It manifests when you’re keen to contribute as a recycling member of society, but are not entirely certain if what you have is actually recyclable. You really want it to be because it appears to be recyclable – so you put it in and wish for the best. However, when too many people do this, it adds to the issue of contamination and results in a waste of time and money for yourself and the council.
Contamination occurs when the wrong things are put in, or the right things are poorly prepared (e.g., are dirty and/or have other types of material attached, like plastic film). Recycling loads with too high a percentage of contamination are sent to landfill or incinerated, and are a waste of time and resources. To give you an idea of how many of us are confused, in the UK 46% of respondents to a 2018 WRAP survey assumed that if the packaging indicated it was recyclable, their local service would accept it. 22% said they put in items they hoped would be recyclable – without finding out for sure. Common contaminants are plastic bags/wrapping, toothpaste tubes, pizza boxes and carrier bags.
A lot of the confusion comes from the range of symbols used on packaging to indicate its recyclable components and the variable capabilities of collection and disposal across the UK. Just because it has two or three circling arrows does not mean your service will accept it, or that it is even recyclable. Some variations on the symbol actually indicate that the item is composed of recycled materials, rather than being recyclable itself, but this isn’t clear unless you look it up.
Tips for cutting down on ‘wishcycling’:
- Research your waste and help the family by making a list of what you can put in your recycling – keep it somewhere visible like the fridge or on the wall above the bin
- Clean it: remove plastic films, rinse, remove plastic lids from plastic items and keep on metal lids for glass items
- Separate as advised by your council
It’s understandable why this is happening – we’re all busy, and it’s difficult to find clear and easy-access information that sticks with you. However, the consequences of poor recycling habits are becoming clearer. By finding out about your recyclables, you will save yourself time deciding what is recyclable and help the services deliver an efficient and effective service.
So what about the stuff that can’t be recycled?
Not everything is appropriate for recycling, but when as much as possible is diverted from landfill into more suitable channels, the remaining waste can be managed more appropriately. Licensed rubbish removal companies and council waste services complement each other, working to manage waste removal responsibly. Both private rubbish removal companies and councils benefit from the active participation of the public with their waste management.
To help the council and any private companies you may hire:
- Confirm what they will and won’t take – the council collection will differ from DIY or private company allowances (see our FAQ to get an idea of what a rubbish removal company may take).
- Avoid overfilling the bins – if you have excess rubbish (like after moving home), don’t try and sneak it in the bin. The council may not take it, or if you have hired a rubbish removal service or skip you may get charged extra or be left with the rubbish until it is reduced to the agreed volume.
- Make use of the food waste services – reduce the volume and smell of your rubbish further by getting in the habit of putting it in its respective bin. If your council offers food waste collection, you have the opportunity to reduce the smell, volume, and rodent attraction of your rubbish as well as diverting more waste from the landfill.
Local councils ensure that everyone is provided with basic, responsible waste management, and private rubbish removal companies are available to businesses and the public for more voluminous or specialist services. Illegitimate companies pose an environmental and human risk due to improper disposal, lack of accountability and contribute to excess waste as they don’t tend to recycle what they can. On the other hand, reputable rubbish removal companies hold appropriate licenses and insurance and recycle as much as possible to reduce the amount going to landfill. They use responsible disposal sites and help safely clean up after fly tippers. Cheap rubbish removal hurts the environment and your wallet, so make sure to do your research. Together, these entities help manage the UK’s waste needs – but to become more efficient and proactive about rubbish and recycling, the general public has an important role to play on the front line of waste management.
We hope this has been useful and given you some ideas on how to make recycling easier. We may not be willing or able to make extreme changes to our lifestyles and habits, but this is one way to support the environment that is accessible to everyone and easy to do once you have found out the details. Give it a try and don’t be afraid to ask questions and get informed. The links below are a good place to start building your recycling knowledge.
Your recycling toolkit
- Recycle Now provides comprehensive guides to types of recycling, how to prepare it, a handy locator to get area-specific information, and suggestions on reducing your household waste.
- You can find your local council’s website through the government site, and find out collection days, register for garden waste collection, order new bins, and report missed collections. You can also find out about voting, elections and local council events.
- A measuring tape and a little time – find out what space you have, shop around for containers, and make lists of your common household recyclables to keep on the fridge or wall – you can update it as you learn more.
Any Clearance is a professional rubbish removal service operating in Bristol, Bath, Taunton, Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater and across the remainder of Somerset. Our highly trained staff are happy to answer any of your questions and ready and willing to help you get your rubbish removed.