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One Day at a Time: Metals

The material I'm looking at this week is metal. This is an extremely useful resource and is used for many things. I will look at how we can reduce, reuse, recycle or upcycle metals.

Metal can be recycled more easily than plastic, and there are many benefits in recycling metals (as this article explains: Advantages of Recycling Metal), such as:

  • Metal does not biodegrade quickly, so needs to be kept out of landfill

  • Recycling and reusing metal saves huge amounts of energy (e.g. recycled aluminium uses 95% less, and copper 90% less energy than making new).

  • New metals are created by mining for limited natural resources

  • Most metals can be recycled unlimited times without losing quality

Reduce

Some ideas for reducing the metal we use regularly:

  • Buy items second hand (e.g. computers, tablets, kitchen gadgets)

  • Use wax-coated cotton wraps instead of foil for wrapping food

  • Consider what packaging your food comes in, and consider using a refill shop (refilling jars and bags) rather than purchasing items with new packaging.

For example, I bought a packet of white chocolate buttons, which I thought just had a cardboard tube, but there was a metallic-plastic bag inside. Later, when I looked at the tube, I saw that it mentioned there was non-recyclable 'film' in the packaging.


Reuse

  • Wash and reuse foil again and again (but not if it's had raw meat/fish in).

  • Reuse the metallic-plastic bags food comes in - e.g. for refilling in a refill shop, or for putting sandwiches in to take out with you.

  • When you've finished with electronic gadgets that still work, sell them or give them away (e.g. via Freecycle, Olio app, ebay, or Facebook Marketplace).

For tips on doing this, read my previous blog on selling or giving away preloved items.

Recycle
  • Some supermarkets have recycling bins for items like batteries (see photo of the bin at my local Sainsburys).

  • Recycle your preloved tech (e.g. phones, e-readers, smartwatches) via The Spring. Register it to find out its value, and then drop it into your local Pod to recycle it, and you'll receive some money for it.

  • You can recycle your electronic items and batteries at your local recycling centre (check your local Council website for details), or take them to your local B&Q store recycling unit.

  • Superdrug recycles empty medicine blister packs, batteries, and old electrical items. Also, all Pharmacies take back inhalers for recycling.

If you're unsure where to recycle something, the website Recycle Now is really helpful. You can search for local recycling options for any item. Use the Local Search function, or check the 'What to do with' list.

  • Terracycle has many free recycling schemes for all sorts of items you can't recycle through kerbside recycling or local recycling centres (e.g. toys, toothpaste tubes, foil balloons, razors, etc).

  • Kerbside recycling: Cans/tins: squash them so they take up less space. Deodorant and hairspray aerosols: make sure they're empty, and remove cap. Foil: tip out any food, make sure it's dry, and squash it into a large ball or brick (more on this below).

Foil: Due to the way recycling is sorted at recycling centres, small pieces of foil will not get processed, so scrunching it together in larger amounts helps to make sure your foil gets recycled. For example, I recently switched from cat food pouches (made from metal and plastic) to cat food in foil trays (because foil is easier to recycle). To recycle it, I make a pile of foil trays, fill the top tray with foil pieces, and wrap the whole thing in larger foil trays. This makes a solid brick of foil, which can go in my kerbside recycling bin.

Upcycle

Here are some of the things I upcycled from metal items, last Christmas:

  • I had some leftover metallic table sprinkles in plastic bags. I bought some little glass jars with lids, filled them with the sprinkles, and put the plastic bags in my supermarket's soft plastics recycling. These little jars make great gifts.

  • I had lots of pieces of foil saved up, washed and dried, ready for reuse or recycling. I made balls out of them, and used crochet to turn them into Christmas baubles.

  • I had some old Christmas baubles that were past their best. I crocheted covers for them; which turned them into much prettier baubles, and protected them from further damage.


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