We all should be doing our bit in the fight against pollution and the scourge of plastic. Recycling is one of the easiest things we can do at home to help the environment. But many of us are only scratching the surface.
You might be surprised to discover that there’s very little in the average home that can’t be recycled. While you might need to make special arrangements for certain items, there’s probably a lot more you can do.
The next time you go to throw something out, check whether or not it can be recycled in some way. The chances are… it can.
Not all batteries can be recycled. Even if you can’t recycle them, you should dispose of them responsibly according to your local authority’s instructions.
Generally speaking, rechargeable nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium and nickel-zinc batteries can all be recycled. However, it’s important to check whether or not your local recycling centre can take them. While it’s possible to recycle alkaline batteries, you might have to pay for the privilege.
CDs are made from polycarbonate and aluminium. Search your area for e-waste recycling facilities. Alternatively, contact your local authority for details of your nearest facility. While CDs are difficult to recycle, they can be with the right facilities.
Now that tights are made from nylon, they’re a little more difficult to recycle than they once were. They used to be made from silk, which is relatively easy to recycle. But there are companies out there that will take old nylon tights and stockings for recycling. In fact, these everyday garments are turned into everything from park benches to running tracks.
Did you know that it takes around 450 years for the average baby’s diaper to break down. There’s now a way to strip away the plastic in a nappy from the other materials. These substances can be turned into roof tiles, recycled paper and plastic components.
Cigarette litter is rife around the world. Sadly, parts of the average cigarette butt take several years to decompose. But there are now a few companies that take discarded cigarettes and turn them into their component parts: tobacco, paper and plastic. The paper and tobacco are both composted, while the plastic is turned into pellets for manufacturing.
6. Plastic cups
Never throw away your plastic party cups after just one use. If possible, try to avoid them in the first place. But if you must use them, make sure you place them in your plastic recycling bin. They aren’t always easy to recycle, however. But companies such as TerraCycle have developed methods of turning them into plastic pellets for resale.
7. Your plastic Christmas tree
When you decide to replace your old artificial Christmas tree, don’t just throw it in general waste section of the local refuse centre. Several companies can turn trees into a range of recycled products. Some will even collect them from your door.
The average pair of trainers is made from a range of fabrics, plastics and rubber compounds — all of which can be recycled in the right circumstances. If you’re out of recycling options in your area, place your trainers in the clothing recycling bins at the local refuse centre. However, there are companies (Running Wild, Nike and More Foundation) that accept used trainers for reuse or recycling.
Crayons are made with wax and a range of environmentally unfriendly dyes. They’re not good for the environment, so dispose of them responsibly. Even better, look for local recycling programmes that accept them. Three billion crayons are manufactured every year, so this is a serious issue around the world.
10. Compact fluorescent lights
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are energy savers, but they’re not good for the environment. They contain mercury, which can wreak havoc on ecosystems if discarded in the wrong way. Contact your local authority to find out how to responsibly dispose of your light bulbs.
11. Porcelain products
Whether it’s an old toilet or some old wall tiles, check with your local refuse centre about how they can be recycled. Some private recycling companies accept these porcelain products and use them to build roads and pavements.
When you pop the cork on a bottle of champagne or wine, don’t just throw it straight in your bin. There are private recycling organisations that collect them from homes to repurpose. Save your corks, and when you have a bagful, a company such as ReCORK might take them off your hands.
13. Mobile phones
Never throw an old mobile phone or tablet into the bin. These gadgets contain a range of substances that can be harmful to human health and the ecosystem.
A lot of companies take phones in any condition. They’re often resold or refurbished. Some are broken down for use as spares. While you can sell your old mobile, there are charities that sell them to raise funds for good causes.
Approximately 73 million inhalers are used in the UK every year. While they’re a medical necessity for some, they contain metals, plastics and potentially damaging substances — all of which can do harm to local ecosystems. Check with your local pharmacy about any recycling programmes they are running. The average inhaler can be broken down into plastics and metals for recycling.
Makeup and other cosmetic products can contain a range of potentially harmful substances. And there’s also the packaging to think about. It might surprise you to know that some of the more environmentally responsible manufacturers out there run their own recycling schemes. The likes of Lush, Origins and MAC all take used cosmetics for safe and responsible recycling.
A lot of people throw away their unused medications — either in the rubbish or down the drain. Both ways of disposing medication can cause untold harm to local ecosystems. Check with your local pharmacy about any recycling schemes they’re running.
Thousands of mattresses end up in landfill sites every day in the UK. They take hundreds of years to decompose, harming the environment for generations. Fortunately, there are several specialist organisations that now recycle these items for free. Each mattress is broken down into its component parts and turned into a range of products, including scrap metal, clothing and foam items.
Always think twice before you throw anything away in your home. You never know what the recycling possibilities are.