Is chucking it all in the right thing? No! When it comes to recycling remember the golden rules: READ, REDUCE & RINSE

In today’s 'environmentally aware’ world, where Blue Planet is top of our watch list and even the royals are campaigning against plastic pollution, surely we all do everything we can to be greener than green. Finding those who simply don’t care what happens to their rubbish is getting harder and harder and as a nation we certainly have an appetite to reverse the negative impact our lifestyles have had on this poor planet. But although we may congratulate ourselves on placing our empty bottle of Pinot in the blue box and everything else that looks like it's made of metal, plastic, paper, or card in our mixed recycling, are we really clued up enough to be confident that our efforts aren’t in vain?
It’s a fact that one of the major problems affecting our planet is discarded plastic and we know that only 9% of the plastic ever produced has been recycled. If we are all taking the time to put our plastics, card and cans in our recycling bags, why aren’t we seeing much of a change? The answer may be closer to home than you think.
Okay, we’re all aware of the benefits of recycling and the devastating impact that not doing it will have on the environment, but are our recycling habits doing more harm than good?
How many of us really know the guidelines inside out?
And although the schools are educating our kids from the bottom up about the importance of sustainability and a circular economy, do we all really have enough information to recycle properly?
As someone who has been happily plodding along ‘doing my bit’ I was shocked to learn that far from making a positive impact, my old recycling habits were doing just the opposite. I was a fully fledged member of the ‘chuck it all in – I’m doing a great thing’ brigade, but I wasn’t.
Number One - Read: Firstly, I was failing to even think about checking what the packaging said – blindly I chucked all plastic card and cans into my recycling bag without a second thought. I have now learnt that this WRONG. A fundamental element to the recycling process is to understand what you’re dealing with. Although it might be a hassle to take the time to read the recycling label, many of us are creatures of habit buying the same items time and time again, it surprising how quickly you get to know, off heart, what can and can’t be recycled.
Number Two – Reduce: So, once you’ve actually found your glasses and taken that split second to read the packaging you’ll be quick to discover that shockingly quite a large quantity of items still can’t be recycled. No matter how different you want this to be, those that clearly state ‘not yet recyclable’ need to be thrown in with the general waste. Yes, we know this feels wrong when you’ve been so used to recycling EVERYTHING, and we do acknowledge the guilt you are likely to feel but trust us, it makes recycling the items that can be recycled much easier for the recycling plants, thus speeding up the process making it more efficient and increasing success rates.
Number Three – Rinse Now here’s the deal breaker. Commonly referred to as ‘waste contamination’, this term doesn’t refer to some sort of nuclear fall-out, it simply refers to rubbish that is dirty. In short, if you’ve chucked unclean recyclable items into your recycling bin without washing them first, then it is not easy for them to be recycled. The solution is to simply rinse your items before you place them in the recycling bags. Yes, we know it will add to the ‘washing-up’ pile but remember you’ve already segregated the items that can’t be recycled and put them in the bin so there will be less to rinse and if you don’t do it the item may not be recyclable and you risk ruining the other recyclable items too.
‘But what about items that you can’t rinse?’ I hear you cry. Sandwich packets with egg mayo smeared on to the side or fish and chip paper dowsed in vinegar? Well the answer yet again is to put them in your general waste.
The key point to this is to understand that as consumers we can only recycle what we can recycle. Trying to fix what we can’t fix will do more harm than good. It’s far better to recycle properly and increase success rates by sticking to the simple rules. Yes, it may feel like you are taking a backwards step by putting more items in your general waste but you’ll be making a positive impact by ensuring your recycling is great quality that can make a real contribution to the circular economy. And in the mean-time, let’s carry on the crusade for manufacturers to use more recyclable materials wherever possible and reduce our waste as much as we can.

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