We should all be recycling more in our homes. Whether we’re putting plastic in the correct bin or upcycling old furniture, we’re doing out little bit to make a big difference together. Unfortunately, there area few recycling mistakes that not only waste your time — they reverse much of your good work.
Some of these mistakes don’t really matter all that much, and are simply making your life more difficult than it needs to be. But others are causing problems, and they’re negating a lot of the great work that’s being done to reduce waste and the profligate use of materials.
Here are seven common home recycling mistakes that could be counterproductive.
1. Not emptying food and drink containers
You should always remove all of the contents of a tin can, bottle or cardboard box before placing it in the recycling bin. Sauces, dairy products and various other liquids can contaminate recyclable materials and make them unfit for the recycling process. Empty everything first, and out bottles and tins to remove left-over food or drink.
2. Placing recyclables in plastic bin bags
Most recycling centres won’t entertain black bin bags — even if they’re biodegradable. Some are, and some aren’t. Deciding which is which is impossible when there are thousands to sort. If you’re sending black bags to the local refuse centre for recycling, the chances are they won’t even be opened, and nothing in them will actually be recycled.
3. Failing to remove plastic
Plastic often goes hand in hand with cardboard boxes. For example, the box from a deliver is recyclable, but the plastic tape that holds it together isn’t. Before you place card or paper in the recycling bin, remove any plastic or tape. Other examples might include the bags inside cereal boxes and the windows in envelopes. If any of these items arrive at a recycling centre, the chances are they’ll be sent straight to the regular rubbish heap.
4. Recycling small items
As a simple rule of thumb, don’t recycle anything that isn’t larger than a standard post-it note. Recycling centres don’t deal with items this small, so you’re wasting your time — and the time of refuse centres. The most obvious item affected by this common mistake is the plastic bottle top.
5. Recycling coffee cups
While there are now schemes to recycle coffee cups from the major coffee shop companies, they’re limited in scope — and you usually have to take the cups back to a store. Municipal recycling centres don’t have the technology to separate the actual coffee cup from the plastic lining inside it, so they don’t recycle them. However, the lid on your cup might be recyclable. If you’re in any doubt, contact your local council or visit their website.
6. Removing labels from tin cans and jars
While you should take the time to rinse out your used tins and jars, you don’t need to waste time peeling the labels off. Glass and tin recycling facilities are designed to cope with paper labels, so save yourself some time.
7. Throwing all of your recyclables in the same bin
Depending on your local authority, you might be required to separate your recyclables. For example, some councils provide a main recycling bin, along with one or two compartments that sit inside it. One might be for paper and card, one for glass, and the other for recyclable plastics. Take the time to learn what gets recycled where. There is talk of fines being imposed for people who don’t follow the rules, so it’s best to get into good habits now.
It’s great that you’re recycling, but to maximise the effect of your efforts you have to do things properly. If you comply with all the rules, you can take satisfaction from the fact that you’re helping the planet.