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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.