If we get any message across clearly, it must surely be that recycling is extremely important. How much your local authority and the UK as a whole recycles per year is all down to individual homes, offices, workplaces, schools, hospitals, shops, restaurants, churches and anywhere else you can think of, as it’s your unwanted materials that make the difference.
When we say “recycle” we mean materials sent for reprocessing, such as plastic melted down and paper pulped to create new plastic and paper. It also applies to food, as composting is essentially taking unwanted organic materials and scraps and turning them into mulch for use on private gardens, allotments and public parks. However, before you recycle, you should ask yourself a question: Can it be reused?
Reusing is very important because it means that the item’s functional lifespan is implemented to the full before finally being sent off for recycling. If an item isn’t reused, such as clothing donated to charity shops and magazines given to waiting rooms, it isn’t making the most of its primary function, which squanders its potential and therefore wastes resources. This applies to very basic and seemingly defunct items too, such as cereal packages and egg boxes that can be used by schools for arts and crafts, envelopes that can be turned into scrap paper, and glass jars, which make excellent containers for bits and bobs or even stylish plant pots.
Almost everything can be reused in some way or other, and below are a few examples.
- Newspapers, magazines, cardboard and bubble wrap can be used as packaging for everything from posting items to moving house.
- Carrier bags can be reused multiple times. Once they’ve reached their useful limit, they can then be used as bin bags for recyclable items or general waste before being disposed of in the appropriate bin.
- Old clothes that are too tatty to be donated to charity can be cut up and turned into cushion covers, handkerchiefs, tea cosies, pocket squares, headbands and all manner of fashion accessories.
- Car tyres can be given to a petrol station, where they will be properly recycled. Or if you’re feeling creative, you could build a tyre swing, use some as a rugged form of garden decoration, or donate them to a local arts scrap store for use in community initiatives.
- Wood can be used for DIY projects, upcycled into attractive home décor, or simply burnt on fires and inside chimineas rather than buying wood specially.
- Grass cuttings can be left on your lawn for a while so that all of the nutrients soak into the ground. You can also use fresh grass cuttings in your compost heap for separating layers. Unwanted grass can then be added to your organic bin.
- Old electrical equipment can sometimes be used by schools, hostels and small businesses. If not, make sure to send it to your local recycling centre.
Image: Kevin Dooley