Waste Series Article 6


Here we are going to talk about all the little tips and tricks you can implement to reduce your waste’s impact and to ensure it actually gets recycled. We’ll also go over things to be mindful of and other practices for waste management, aside from recycling. If you want to learn more about recycling check out Article 5: Relearning How To Recycle – Facts And Stats.


Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for the different areas of waste to make sure they make it through the process and can have a second life as something useful.

  1. Plastic
  • Rinse it. Wash off residual food. It doesn’t need to be squeaky clean but lots of food remnants risks contaminating other recyclables (e.g., paper). Plus, it’ll help stop your bin from smelling.
  • Squash your bottles. This saves space in your bin, maximising the amount you can recycle and minimising their carbon footprint. It also prevents the bottles from rolling off the conveyor belt in the sorting facility.
  • Put the lids on. Screwing the lids back onto bottles and pushing straws back into cartons means they will make it through the sorting process. Many facilities reject anything narrower than 40mm, meaning the lids and straws would be rejected on their own.
  • Recycle dark plastics. Being unable to recycle black plastics is now a thing of the past as most manufacturers now use pigments that can be detected by the optical sorters.
  • Return to the supermarket. Supermarkets now host a variety of recycling stations for items like carrier bags and plastic films that you otherwise would not be able to recycle.
  • Remove batteries. They cause fires at recycling facilities, leading to closures and risking lives.
  • Throw away compostable bags. Biodegradable and compostable bags cannot be recycled so put them in your general rubbish.
  • Don’t recycle PVC clingfilm. Some supermarkets sell LDPE clingfilm instead.
  • Check the plastic. Toys and rigid plastics cannot go in your recycling bin.


  1. Metal
  • Ball up foil. If your council accepts foil, scrunch it up so that it is tennis ball sized or larger. Also, make sure it’s clean.
  • Collect caps. Put metal bottle caps into a steel can and squash it closed before recycling to ensure they are not lost during transportation and sorting.


  1. Glass
  • Leave lids on. Unless you are told otherwise, recycle jars and bottles with their lids on. If you’re unsure, leave them on as they can be removed at the material recovery factory.
  • Don’t include broken glass. It is dangerous for collectors. Broken glass is ok at bottle banks though as it is handled carefully.
  • No drinking glasses, lightbulbs, flat glass or Pyrex. These items usually won’t melt in a furnace, leading to expensive damage and/or ruining the final product. Instead, take lightbulbs to dedicated recycling centres.
  • Reuse. It is better to reuse the glass if you can than to recycling it because of the energy required to transport, melt and reform it.


  1. Food
  • Compostable liners. Unless your council says not to, line your food waste bins with compostable bags (the seedling logo lets you know it is truly compostable). This stops any plastic fragments from contaminating the compost or fertiliser.
  • For more food waste tips and tricks, check out Article 2: Far Too Much Food – How You Can Help.


  1. Paper and Card
  • Remove tape. If you can, peel off the tape from wrapping paper before recycling it. A little bit is ok but too much causes problems during sorting.
  • Greasy pizza boxes are ok. The general consensus is that as long as it’s just marking or staining you can recycle them. If there is visible food, however, it needs to be removed and contaminated sections need to be thrown away, not recycled.
  • Recycle envelopes with plastic windows. The plastic is easily removed during the pulping process, so they are fine to recycle.


Recyclable vs Recycled

It may seem obvious, but the difference between recycled and recyclable has been catching a lot of people out recently. “Recycled” products are those made from the items you have discarded. “Recyclable” refers to products which can be put into a recycling scheme. These two terms are not mutually exclusive – recycled products can be recyclable, but not all are.

Many companies have (thankfully) started selling their items in recycled packaging which is fantastic. In some cases they are making a big deal of advertising it, printing things like “recycled packaging” all over it. This is where the confusion starts. We don’t always pay proper attention to what that actually means, only registering that it has something to do with recycling, so we just pop it in our recycling bins. Please take the time to remember that recycled does not translate to recyclable and still take the time to check for the recycling label as you may find it can only be recycled in specialised bins or that it can’t be recycled again.


The five Rs

Recycling is not your only option when it comes to minimising your waste and its impact. There are five Rs to choose from – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle. And no, the order is no coincidence or a mistake, recycling your waste should be the last resort. You should attempt all the other Rs before contemplating recycling, so let’s go through them and talk about what they mean.

  1. Refuse

Put simply, just don’t buy it. Refuse items that come in single-use or excessive packaging. Ask cafes to fill up your water bottle or thermos, take a bag for life when you’re shopping. Don’t just buy packaging just because it’s ‘easier’ for the supermarkets – take your business to independent shops which offer their products without packaging, placing them directly into your reusable containers instead.

  1. Reduce

Limit the amount of waste you produce. This is easy to think about in terms of food – plan ahead and only buy those ingredients you need, use them before they go off, only make as much food as you need. But you can also think of it in terms of plastic waste, by opting to buy items that come in more environmentally friendly packaging, e.g., recycled paper, cans or biodegradable bags. You can also reduce your waste by investing in high-quality items that don’t need to be replaced. While it feels like you’re saving money by buying cheap clothes, shoes, appliances, etc., you end up having to replace them more often than the more expensive, high-quality items, increasing your waste (and potentially costing you more in the long run).

  1. Reuse

Keep using what you do have. Reusable items save you waste (and a lot of the time money too). Plastic or glass containers replace clingfilm, metal straws replace plastic ones, beeswax wraps replace sandwich bags, flasks and water bottles replace disposable coffee cups and bottles, and so on. Also, in a lot of cases you can reuse the unavoidable or leftover ‘disposable’ items you have. Use your judgement, sometimes things do need to be thrown away after the first use, but in many cases sandwich bags, foil, greaseproof paper, disposable bottles, kitchen roll, etc. can all be used multiple times.

  1. Repurpose

It is next to impossible to cut all waste out of your life so upcycle it instead. Takeaway containers and ice cream tubs can become storage containers, wine bottles double up as vases and candle holders. And you know what they say, one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure – if you don’t have a use for those old clothes, toys, shoes or appliances anymore, sell (or give) them to someone else!


Refusing and reducing brings less into your home, while reusing and repurposing stops new items being bought and old items being wasted. Recycling helps deal with (the greatly reduced amount of) what is left and keeps it in a closed loop system, all in all helping less new things to be produced, reducing the impact on the planet.


What can you do?

So, in summary, what can you do to help minimise your wastes impact?

Remember there are four Rs that you should consider before you should recycle. Refuse and reduce waste as much as you can, then reuse and repurpose what you do have.

If you’re unsure, throw it away; don’t contaminate a whole batch.

Some waste is easier and less harmful to the environment to deal with than others – if it comes in metal take that option over plastic or glass.

Take the tricky bits back to the supermarket (or manufacturer). Don’t be discouraged by the extra step and just put it in the bin. Store it in one of your bags for life and take it with you when you next go shopping.

And finally, actively opt for recycled options. If you are recycling your waste but continually buying virgin items, then you are kind of missing the point. Make sure there is a market for recycled items to make sure the recycling industry continues to grow while the creation of new products decreases.


Hopefully you have learnt some new information during the course of this blog. Attempt to incorporate what you can to reduce your waste and carbon footprint. Share the information with others and encourage them to make some changes. Remember not to be too hard on yourself if you do waste something though, it’s hard and life is already tricky. Just do your best.


If you are interested in reading more about the problems the world is facing regarding waste and what can be done, we have other blogs in the waste series – Articles 1 and 2: Far Too Much Food, and Articles 3 and 4: The Plastic Problem.

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