To Recycle or not to Recycle
Updated: Mar 30
How to avoid unnecessary landfill by Sarah Lim - Halo Coffee
Over the past ten years, natural disasters, record-breaking temperatures and rising sea levels have brought people and governments around the world face-to-face with the severe consequences of change. As a result, people are now more aware than ever before the negative impact they can have on the environment.
For the majority of us, doing the best thing for the environment means reducing the amount of waste that ends up at landfill.
Research published last year by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs* found that the amount of recycled household rubbish fell from 45.2% in 2017 to 44.7% in 2018, despite an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.That’s where recycling comes in.
We have been told to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, since the 1970s, and most of us will be recycling on a daily basis to reduce our household waste. However, there are still many misconceptions about items that can and cannot be recycled.
Did you know that there are a number of items that you may think you can recycle, but can actually contaminate recycling collections?
We have put together a helpful guide to some of the surprising items you didn’t know can’t be recycled, as well as an expert guide on how to recycle more effectively at home.
Eight common items people wrongly think can be recycled:
Black plastic – Containers made using black plastic cannot be sorted at recycling facilities due to their inability to absorb light and are therefore either incinerated or sent to landfill.
Plastic & aluminium coffee pods – Coffee capsules are often produced from a combination of plastics and aluminium meaning that millions of disposable coffee pods are sent to landfill every day.
Takeaway coffee cups – The majority of recycling facilities cannot recycle takeaway cups due to the plastic lining or wax coating that allows them to contain hot beverages.
Paper receipts – Receipts printed on thermal paper contain BPA and BPS chemicals that are not only toxic to people in large quantities, but to the environment as well.
Used napkins and paper towels – Not only does grease and other contaminants from used napkins make it impossible to recycle them, paper products also cannot be recycled because the fibres are usually too short to be used again.
Photo paper – Although photographs are a paper product, the photographic process uses a mixture of chemicals that pose a potential contamination hazard.
Shredded paper – Shredding may be unavoidable when it comes to private documents, however some recycling centres will reject pieces of paper that are too small, as the length of paper fibres will determine if it can be recycled.
Broken glass – While whole glass items can be recycled, any broken glass in your bin can create a real hazard for anyone handling your recycling and should be put into normal household waste.
Our experts have also put together a list of top tips to help reduce unnecessary landfill waste.
Always check your local recycling guide:
Believe it or not, different areas across the UK have different rules and recycling procedures, so it’s important to know what materials can or can’t be recycled in your local area. Each council website will offer a great deal of information about bins, rubbish and recycling, so it’s important to read up.
Wash containers thoroughly before throwing them away:
Contamination is created when the wrong materials are put into the system and if contamination levels are too high when a load of recycling arrives at a centre for sorting, it can be rejected, diverting the whole truck to landfill. While a single, unwashed tin won’t cause a whole load to be rejected, it’s important to make sure you wash as much of your recycling as possible.
Avoid non-recyclable single use items:
Despite constant calls for a complete ban on single-use plastics, single-use cups and bottles are still so common in our society. Plastic pollution is hugely damaging to our environment but can be reduced with small changes such as purchasing reusable bottles and containers or switching to products made from home compostable materials.
Only shred private documents:
Shredding is unavoidable when it comes to private documents, however you should avoid shredding all your waste paper simply to fit more into your recycling bin. Some recycling centres will reject pieces of paper that are too small, as the length of paper fibre will determine if it can be recycled.
Don’t crush cans before recycling them:
While crushing a can with your hands, feet or even your head may feel rather satisfying, it actually makes them harder to recycle, as machines at recycling facilities may not be able to recognise the shape, pushing them straight into the waste pile.
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