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 writing because I’ve had it with recycling. I know I should recycle, and I try my best, but it feels like the rules are always changing. I have no idea what I can and can’t put in my recycling bin, whether I really need to spend time religiously washing out jars and tins before I recycle them, why I need to recycle food waste, and above all, if recycling makes any difference at all.
I really want to help the planet but I just want to know whether it’s worth me doing my bit.
P.S. I already use a refillable water bottle and run the odd half-marathon for Greenpeace - is that not enough?!
A confused householder.
Dear confused householder,
First of all, congratulations on having a refillable water bottle and on the half marathons - I’m sure Greenpeace appreciate your hard work.
Recycling can be confusing, and of course, different local authorities set their own rules, but there are some recycling rules that apply just about everywhere.
You say you have no idea what you can and can’t put in your recycling bin. Well putting the wrong items in your recycling bin can lead to contamination. Recycling is usually checked for contamination, including anything non-recyclable, anything that might cause harm or injury to staff at the recycling plant, or anything that’s inside plastic bags. If the recycling is very contaminated, the entire load can be rejected and sent to landfill. Of course, if you’ve put the wrong items in your recycling bin, it might not be emptied at all. Harsh I know, but recycling contamination is costly for the council and for the planet. In most cases, the label on packaging will tell you whether it can be recycled or not. For example, most recyclables will have ‘widely recycled’ or ‘not currently recycled’ on the label. If in doubt, check the recycling section of your local authority’s website.
Next, you ask whether you really need to wash out tins and jars before you recycle them. Well the answer is yes, so don’t put away the marigolds just yet. Tins, jars, and any other packaging that is contaminated with food makes recycling much more difficult. And yes, that also means those greasy pizza boxes.
As for food waste, when it goes into your general waste bin then to landfill, it just rots which releases the greenhouse gas methane into the air. Greenhouse gases are the main cause of global warming. If you recycle your food waste it can be turned into energy or natural fertiliser so it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.
And finally, you ask does it make a difference if you recycle? Yes it does, without a doubt. Many people think a small action makes no difference but on the contrary, a lot of small actions can make a huge difference. When you recycle glass bottles and jars, they can be recycled into new items within a matter of weeks and they can be recycled again and again. Plastic bottles you recycle can be turned into insulation, fleece jackets, and garden furniture, and food tins can become car parts - the possibilities are endless. Reusing and recycling preserves energy, water, and our precious natural resources which makes the future of our planet look that bit brighter. What better reason could you have to keep on recycling?