Dear Recycling Bins: Our Weekly Recycling Advice Column
Welcome to our weekly advice column where we look at all things recycling and give you the answers you’re desperately seeking.
Dear Recycling Bins,
I’m sure that I speak for a lot of people when I say that recycling is so confusing! Even though I want to recycle more, learning all the rules is so exhausting that I often feel like just throwing everything in my bin.
I often have to relocate to different parts of the country for work temporarily, and I’m often exasperated that when I move, I have to get used to a whole different set of rules set by a different local authority.
Then when it comes to actually washing and separating my recycling, should I even bother? Do the people and machinery at the plants just do it anyway?
I really want to do my bit, so is there anything I can do to improve the way I recycle, regardless?
One exasperated recycler
Dear Exasperated Recycler,
Recycling confusion is one of the main reasons that people give for not recycling more, and it seems that one of the main reasons for the confusion is that recycling services and rules vary so much across the UK.
The government sets recycling targets for local authorities, but it doesn’t expressly say how the targets should be met, so local authorities get the final say on what happens in their area.
So if you move from one area where you have a designated recycling bin to another where you only have a box, it all comes to down a few key factors.
- Recycling is costly so councils with tight budgets might forgo plastic recycling and stick with tried and tested paper and glass recycling.
- The targets that the government sets for recycling are based on total weight, so councils have a vested interest in recycling heavier types of waste like glass and metal, rather than plastics which are much lighter.
- Recycling collections can be much more difficult in rural and built up areas.
- The government doesn’t offer any sort of guidelines on best practice for recycling as yet, hence the variation in service provision in different areas of the UK.
When it comes to separating your waste or not, this is another thing that can vary depending on where you are in the UK.
Mixing your recyclables together in one bin has actually been shown to have some benefits. It obviously makes recycling easier for people, and it appears to increase recycling rates overall.
It’s not that straightforward though, as you might have expected. Not separating your recycling can make the whole recycling process more costly as it still needs to be sorted at the facility, and entire loads of recycling can be rejected if there’s too much contamination. This can reduce the amount of waste that is being recycled considerably.
What you can do to avoid the ‘do I separate the recycling or not?’ conundrum is to invest in a 2 compartment recycling bin for your kitchen which makes separation of recyclables much easier.
Our Brabantia 2 Compartment Recycling Bin is manufactured by one of the market leaders Brabantia, and it’s available in either a mirror or a matt finish, so you’ll find the perfect model to suit your kitchen. The bin has a soft touch opening and a handy grip on the rear of the bin so you can easily move it around, even when it’s full. One of the biggest bonuses is that you can change the liners without bending-no mess, no fuss, and easier recycling!
As far as what else you can do to improve the way you recycle, wash your recyclables so you remove any food or liquid, and squash any cans and plastic bottles so you can fit more into your recycling bin.
If possible, try to remove labels and lids from glass jars and bottles, remove caps and lids from plastic bottles and containers, remove paper clips, staples, and any plastic windows from paper, and try to remove tape and labels from cardboard.
You might think paper is universally recyclable but it’s not. Some types of paper can’t be recycled, like greasy pizza boxes and food wrappers (put them into your general waste bin or compost them) and tissues (compost them).
Plastic recycling can be especially confusing, and while most local authorities accept plastics in recycling collections, not all of them do, and there are some plastics that are made from a blend of different polymers, so they’re actually not recyclable or very difficult to recycle (items like yoghurt pots are a good example of this).
So how do you know what you can and can’t recycle? To find out more about what you can and can’t recycle in your area, Recycle Now has a handy postcode checker so you can find out exactly what is allowed in your recycling bin or box. Otherwise, check your local authority’s website for information.
We hope this has helped and that you’ll keep on doing your bit!