The zero waste movement has opened my eyes to many things, but one which I was quite unaware of is that there are actually rules about recycling. Previously I believed that it just came down to the information on the pamphlet that comes with your recycling boxes, such as you can recycle cardboard, but not envelopes. That kind of thing. But obviously life is just never that simple, there are a few more rules you need to know about recycling to ensure what you throw out actually gets recycled. On the other end of the scale there are also things which I thought could not be recycled but actually can. After hours of trawling the internet the below is what I discovered about recycling…..
First up, a scary fact, apparently 80% of what is thrown out in the bin each year in the UK could actually be recycled. How true this is, I am not 100% sure, but that is a crazy number! Imagine if all of that waste actually went to recycling instead of landfill how much better off our planet would be. If you needed more motivation to recycle I think that is it!
Before I share what I discovered, all the below will change by council, but it is super easy to see what rules your council have online. Whatever the product is you want to recycle just Google what it is, your council and the word recycling! And another point which I would hope is already clear, recycling is still not ideal. The amount of energy and resources which go into making and then recycling products is still high so we are always better of not buying things at all, such as coffee cups, straws etc. But as we all have lives these are just hints and tips for what to do with packaging when you have had no option but to buy, because none of us are perfect!
Coffee cups are not recyclable in all councils
This was a bit of a surprise to me as I thought coffee cups were not recyclable anywhere, but it turns out they are. Just double check your area and the cup itself to see if it has the recycling logo. The catch is you will probably have to take them to the recycling facility, not just put them out in your recycling bin. There is a simple solution to this though, bring your own cup it can even save you a bit of money! I love my Corkcikle.
I had no idea that actually a lot of plastic bags can be recycled. This includes bubble wrap, toilet roll wrap, the wrap around magazines delivered to your home (not the shop bought ones randomly!!) and junk mail. Simply take them to your local supermarket, most offer the service.
This one is going to encourage a more healthy me. I genuinley had no idea that pizza boxes cant always be recyled. If they have any grease or product on them, such as a dipping sauce, they have to go staight to landfill. Sadly this means I need to stop ordering take out as all too often there is a bit of grease on the box, but then my waistline will thank me for this. And really it should be an occasional treat so having to eat in is not exactly a hardship!
TetraPak cartons can be recycled
Another one I had no idea of. I always believed TetraPak was the devil, which, well it is, but not quite so bad now. There is a great little map to tell you if it can go in your home recycling right here. In Edinburgh it can go in our normal recycling which is great.
Teabags have plastic in them
Ugh, actual true story. What is wrong with the world. Ever wondered why your teabag does not just disintegrate when it is brewing in your coffee, that would be because it has plastic in it. Obvious really when you actually think about it. Although they actually can be recycled with your other food waste. But that is still totally unecesry plastic, so get yourself a loose leaf tea holder, there are millions on Etsy, and some loose leaf tea.
Glass, aluminium and steel cans can be recycled and reused over and over
Peope often ask why zero wasters concentrate on plastic, to me the simple answer is other products can be recycled over and over again. Glass, aluminium and steel can all be reused. Yes there is obviously still a lot of energy going into this process, but the product is never going to be in an unusable state which ultimalty plastic will. When you are doing your shopping if there is an option to buy something wrapped in plastic or in a tin or glass jar, always go for the latter.
Aerosol cans can be recycled
Just remove the lid or anything easily removable (sadly they need binned) and be sure not to pierce or flatten them.
Recycling which is wet may go to landfill
When cardboard and paper get wet they start to disintegrate and stick to things. As a result many councils will just throw out all of this recycling, they will not take the time to separate it, so please ensure you keep your recycling dry or your efforts will mean nothing!