The UK has a colossal national wastage but as Recycle Now – the organisation that encourages us to think before we bin – is keen to stress, this could easily be reduced: ‘Whether it’s vegetable peelings, coffee jars, shampoo bottles or food waste, there are lots of items we can recycle.’ In fact nearly two-thirds of all household rubbish can be recycled which would save energy and raw materials and avoid waste going to landfill.
Most councils run kerbside collections for paper, glass, plastics and cardboard. Civic amenity sites (your local tip) can also accept many other materials for recycling. ‘If you’re not sure what your council offers, go to their website and tap in your postcode to see what, when and where you can recycle in your area,’ says Recycle Now.
Of course while recycling can help save materials and energy, cutting down on waste in the first place is even better. That’s why the big supermarkets are working with the government and manufacturers to strip away the layers of unnecessary packaging. They’re doing an aisle-by-aisle, product-by-product review of their ranges. And it’s working. In 2008, one supermarket in particular cut own-label food packaging by 25 per cent, removing 47,000 tonnes of excess packaging. ‘In 2009, they’ve committed to reduce this by a further five per cent’. Good news for the environment and our purses – this mega retailer is reinvesting the ?10 million saved on packaging into lowering prices.
‘Recycling is a success story,’ stresses Recycle Now. ‘In the UK, recycling rates are increasing and it’s making a real difference, so let’s keep a good thing going.’
It’s easy being green
Put a bin in your bathroom to collect (rinsed-out) shower gel and shampoo bottles as well as cardboard tubes from inside the loo rolls. If you’ve got a garden, get a compost bin! Teabags, eggshells, vegetable peelings and shredded paper can all go in with your grass cuttings. About one third of the food we buy gets thrown away and most of this could have been eaten. For tips on storage and tasty, money-saving recipes for leftovers, visit the Love Food Hate Waste website. Choose reusable shopping bags and keep them by the front door so you remember to take them to the shops. By keeping a cotton bag folded up in your handbag or coat pocket, you’ll always have a bag when you need one. Could you refill rather than replace? Laundry detergents, coffee and hand wash are all available as refills, which cuts back on packaging and saves you money. Editing your wardrobe? More than half of the clothing that’s thrown away could be recycled. Charity-shop the good stuff and put the rest in a textile recycling bank – log on to the Recycle Now website to find your nearest one.