We all need to do our bit if we’re going to tackle the growing problem of waste in the UK. We live in a throw-away society that is harmful to the planet. It increases our carbon footprint and leads to huge landfill sites across the world. But the more we recycle everyday products, the more we can improve the situation.
There is no doubt that recycling rates have increased significantly across Europe during the last three decades. But we can still do more. If we redouble our efforts, we can protect the environment and save money.
It’s never too late to start recycling. If you’re not sure about how to get started, here are a few simple hacks that make the process quick, simple and hassle-free.
1. Buy recycling bins
If you haven’t done much recycling in your home in recent years, you should start with the quick wins. Changing the habit of a lifetime isn’t always easy. Anything that you can do to make the transition easier for the people in your home can make a difference. The simplest way to start is to buy dedicated recycling bins. These receptacles have the unmistakable recycling “arrows” printed on them – leaving no one in any doubt what they’re for.
2. Decorate your recycling bins
One of the biggest challenges parents face when trying to recycle more is getting their children on board. Let’s face it: young children don’t always want to play by the rules. And they aren’t always too concerned about protecting the environment. To make the process more fun, sit down with your children and create an eye-catching cover for your recycling bins. Get them to paint and draw suitable illustrations.
For example, if you’re creating a cover for a paper bin, ask your children to draw pictures of trees. This is a fun way to educate little minds about the importance of recycling and protecting the world in which we all live.
3. Create a recycling station
You may not want to store recycling bins around your home. You might decide that keeping everything in one place looks better and makes the process easier. If that’s the case, hide away your recycling bins in a draw — or on the back of a cupboard. You can even invest in a set of used drawers. This is a great way of making a potentially dirty area something of a focal point.
4. Post cheat sheets around your home
Knowing what has to be recycled — and how — isn’t always easy. If you and your family are new to recycling, the whole process might be a little bewildering at first. And that’s fine. Your local authority’s website should contain all the information you need.
Create your own cheat sheets, and post them around your home. Include details of what has to be recycled, and what you need to do. For example, you might have to remove labels or plastic. You might also have to wash items before you place them in official recycling bins.
5. Always pop the lid
You only have to watch a David Attenborough nature show to understand the damage plastic is doing to our oceans and ecosystems. The use of plastic bottles has soared in recent years. And despite efforts to curb it, the problem is still a global emergency. Always recycle your plastic bottles. But remember: you MUST pop the lid and place it in a general refuse bin. Most recycling centres don’t have the option of recycling these hard, plastic tops.
6. Recycle everywhere
You probably use recyclable items in every room in your home. So why limit your recycling efforts to just your kitchen? Buy a bin that’s appropriate for the space, and use it exclusively for recycling. At the end of every day (or the beginning), consolidate your recyclable waste into one large container. This may be easier if you line each bin with a reusable bag.
7. Flatten everything
Most councils in the UK have cut back on refuse collections over the last few years. This means a lot of people struggle to get rid of all their rubbish. And, more worryingly, a lot of people simply don’t have the capacity to recycle as much as they’d like.
But this issue is often avoidable. Take the time to flatten as much of your cardboard and plastic as you can. This way, you’ll be able to pack more into your recycling bin every week.
8. Keep a container near your front door for mail
We all receive unsolicited mail from time to time. And all too often, these unwanted communications end up in the bin without being opened. To make sure all of those takeaway leaflets and marketing mailouts end up in recycling, position a recycling bag or box near your front door — and empty it once a week.
9. Get to know your local refuse centre
Not having enough space in your recycling bin doesn’t have to signal the end of your recycling efforts for that week. Local refuse centres are open to local residents. Schedule a family trip to your local centre once a month to take the pressure off your bin. And remember: there are often recycling containers in supermarket car parks.
10. Set a recurring alarm
Recycling bins are now emptied just once every two or three weeks in many areas. Forget to take the bin out the night before a collection, and you could be left with your recyclables for another few weeks — leaving you no space for anything else. Make sure this never happens to you by setting a recurring alarm on your phone. Always take your bin out last thing at night… in case you sleep in. And if you’re away, ask a neighbour to do it for you.
11. Take extra care with electricals and appliances
Never throw electrical goods into a standard refuse bin. And this applies to batteries, too. These items can do untold damage to the environment. Fridge, for example, can leak gas. And the same goes for plasma TVs. Always take these items to your local authority’s refuse processing centre. Speak to an employee, and they’ll tell you exactly where it needs to go.
12. Upcycle and donate
Always think twice before you throw anything away. Could those vegetable trimmings be used on your garden as compost? Could someone else make use of your old sofa? Might a charity shop be able to sell that old shirt you no longer wear? And always consider alternative uses for things. For example, you can paint an old, wooden ladder and turn it into a freestanding bookshelf.
Recycling in the home is easier than you might think. But you have to be organised and committed to make it work.