Becoming More Eco-friendly: Recycle
Updated: Jan 4
I've left recycling for last because it's the thing most people focus on when trying to be eco-friendly. My previous blogs focused on reducing and reusing items, and once you've done as much of that as you can, you recycle, or throw away, what's left.
There are various ways to recycle:
Kerbside: putting items in the recycling bin that you leave out for the bin collection.
Local recycling centres: taking items that can't be recycled in the standard collection to a local recycling facility (e.g. Tetrapack cartons, electrical items, clothing).
Terracycle: taking less easy to recycle items to collectors who send them to Terracycle for recycling (e.g. crisp packets, chocolate wrappers, refill pouches, coffee pods).
You should have a list of items you can recycle in your home recycling bin - if not, you can ask your local Council to send one to you (or find it on their website). This will usually include standard items such as paper, card, drink cans, food tins, plastic & glass bottles. Some items, like Tetrapack (e.g. drink cartons), can be recycled in some areas, but not everywhere.
Here's an example of what can be recycled in my local area (note: tissues, plastic bags, crisp packets and chocolate wrappers cannot be recycled in any kerbside recycling):
Recycling items should be dry, and as clean as possible (tip out any crumbs or rinse out any wet food/drink, then leave upside down to dry).
When you empty a wet food container (e.g. tin of beans), rinse it out while it's still wet - once it's dried it's much harder to clean.
The greasy/dirty part of cardboard food containers (e.g. pizza boxes) can't be recycled - you can recycle the clean parts of the cardboard.
Wet or dirty paper (e.g. kitchen roll, tissues, paper with paint on) can't be recycled.
Local Recycling Centres
If an item can't go in your kerbside recycling, you can find where to take it by searching here: 'Recycle Now' website: Local recycling
For example, tablet blister packs can be taken to Superdrug stores for recycling, and many supermarkets now take plastic bags, and other non-standard recycling.
And anything else you're not sure what to do with, you can search here: What to do with...
Terracycle is an organisation that recycles the normally "non-recyclable" (e.g. items made of multiple materials). Each recycling scheme is funded by different companies. For example, Walkers funds a scheme to recycle all brands of crisp packets, and the cheese company 'Cathedral City' funds a scheme to recycle all flexible plastic cheese packaging.
People who register as a public drop-off location receive a financial donation for their school or charity, for every box they collect. Members of the public can drop items off at these locations and once the collector has a certain amount of each item they send a boxful to Terracycle for recycling.
Lots of collectors have a Facebook page where you can find out what they collect, and how to prepare items for dropping off. For example, here are my local ones in Surrey:
Tadworth Terracycle (drop off points in several places including Headley, Tadworth, Banstead, and Leatherhead - raising money for various charities).
Here's a video of the best way to pack crisp packets before dropping them off:
Recycling for Terracycle should be separated into the relevant streams (e.g. crisp packets, confectionary, etc). You can use plastic bags, multi-pack bags, or other containers, to separate them.
Make sure you haven't included anything that is not on the collector's list.
Remove all labels and tags.
Do not tie packets up, or fold - best to keep flat.
When items are dirty (e.g. cheese packets), wash them, then leave upside down to dry. I peg items to a string in my kitchen to drain, then I keep them dry in a box until ready to drop off.
You can include a nice card and/or gift to thank the collector for their hard work managing a shed-full of recycling (much of which doesn't arrive in the best state).
Update: January 2022: The Terracycle Pet Food scheme has now closed (these can be recycled with soft plastics at most supermarkets), and the Pringles scheme is largely reduced (many local recycling units will take these now). Use the 'Recycle Now' website to find out where you can take items near where you live.
I hope you have found this blog helpful. Please let me know if there's anything else I should add. Thanks for reading.