Recycling can do wonders for the environment – providing you’re doing it correctly, that is.
The UK currently has a target to recycle a minimum of 50 percent of its household waste by the end of 2020 but unfortunately, it’s just falling short of its target.
To help, Rich Quelch at eco-packaging specialists Lifestyle Packaging explains 10 common recycling mistakes you may be making and how to avoid them…
1. Clean off food leftovers
Jars, bottles and carton boxes can all be recycled, but the problem lies in their contents. Leftover sauces, food or liquids can leak onto other items in your recycling bin such as paper or cardboard and contaminate them.
To stop recyclable food packaging ending up in landfill, fully empty your containers and give them a quick wash.
2. Beware of small items
If it’s smaller than a post-it-note, it can’t be recycled.
All recycling must be sorted. Anything very small in size can go under the radar and may end up contaminating correctly-sorted recycling. If you’re unsure, put the small item in with your general waste to avoid cross contamination.
3. Remove tape and plastic
Online retail transactions saw a 200 percent increase during lockdown, meaning a lot more parcels to dispose of. It’s tempting to throw your packaging straight into the recycling bin, but this can do more harm than good.
Plastic tape cannot be recycled, so always remove it from cardboard boxes. Plastic windows in paper envelopes or food packaging also need to be removed before you recycle the paper part.
4. Skip the bag
Plastic shopping and bin bags are not recyclable!
Due to safety reasons, bags aren’t often opened at recycling-sorting facilities. So, if your recycling is in a black bin bag, it will go to landfill. Instead, use clear eco-friendly bags for your recyclables.
If you have plastic bags in the house, try to reuse them as many times as possible when you shop or return them to supermarket recycling centres.
5. Avoid black plastic
Black plastic packaging is not recyclable. Recycling facilities sort plastics by bouncing a beam of light off them and since black plastic absorbs lights, it can’t be sorted and goes straight to landfill.
Try to avoid dark coloured plastic and remember not to put it in with your recycling. Some supermarkets are phasing out black plastic food packaging so this should become less of a problem.
6. Follow the rules
Many councils have their own recycling schemes such as ‘kerbside sort schemes’ which involve residents themselves sorting recycling themselves into the correct bins. There are also ‘two-stream’ and ‘co-mingled’ systems.
Check your local councils website to see what scheme they follow, so you don’t run the risk of receiving a fixed penalty.
7. The problem of broken glass
The only glass items you can recycle are bottles and jars. Anything else, such as glass from a broken window, mirror or drinking glass does not belong in your recycling bin.
Always wrap broken glass in old newspaper or a tea towel before putting in your general bin to prevent injury or take it down to your local tip.
8. Look closely at bathroom products
Aerosols like deodorants and hairsprays can be recycled along with the cap. Just make sure they are completely empty – they shouldn’t make a hiss noise. So too can makeup containers and shampoo bottles if they’re empty.
Soap dispensers do belong in your plastic recycling bin, but unfortunately the tops don’t. Be sure to remove them before recycling the bottle.
9. Items you didn’t know can be recycled
Some things, like kitchen foil and trays, can confuse people but as long as you remove any excess food, these can go in the recycling bin.
Plastic household cleaning bottles, even bleach, can be recycled despite the harsh chemicals, but they need to be rinsed first.
10. Some items require a little extra effort
There are many items you’re not able to put in your recycling bins for kerbside pickup, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be recycled.
Most supermarkets offer recycling collections points for used batteries,. You can also take your old electrical items, clothing and garden waste to household waste centres. Opticians will also take old glasses and contact lenses too for recycling.