Household items we should all be recycling (and probably aren’t)
We all want to do our best for the planet and recycling is right up there.
But what can you do beyond filling up your usual recycling bags or bins, and putting them out on collection days?
Tim Duret, director of sustainable technology for Veolia UK, the country’s leading resource management company, says they are a great number of recycling avenues available to the public for all manner of items – from hedge trimmings to laptops.
“It’s just knowing where and how best to dispose of your recycling, so we can keep as many materials as possible in a loop of use, via reuse and recycling,” he says.
As Duret points out, there aren’t yet national rules for households, so make sure you double check your local council’s website for any specific guidelines in your area.
Let’s take a look at the items that can and can’t be recycled from around your home, room by room…
“The kitchen is where we find most of our recycling. Whether it’s vegetable peelings, coffee pods or a washing machine that has come to the end of its life, there are so many opportunities to make a sustainable choice – and recover precious resources from our consumer goods,” says Duret.
Plastic: “This can sometimes be a confusing subject, as many councils have specific rules for this material,” notes Duret. “Always check locally, but remember that all local authorities accept plastic bottles, so these must go in your recycling bin.”
Empty your containers, rinse and keep the lids on as these can often be recycled too – as long as they’re attached to the bottle.
Kettles: “A kettle that’s boiled too many times and no longer makes a good cup of tea can be recycled to recover precious metals and electronics.” He continues. “The best recycling option is to take the item to a household recycling centre, where all kettles will be bundled together and sent to a re-processor to extract the materials.”
Washing machines: Similarly to kettles, Duret says washing machines, cookers, fridges and dishwashers can all be taken to recycling centres if they can’t be used anymore.
“If you can’t get to the recycling centre yourself with a large item, check to see if your council offers a bulky waste collection service, or ask your new appliance installation company if they offer a recycling service for your old one,” adds Duret.
Coffee pods: “Wherever you buy your coffee pods, the company should offer a Podback scheme so you can send your used pods back to be recycled.” He says these capsules are usually made of aluminium, but due to their size and composition, they aren’t suitable for your household recycling bins.
“There are a lot of bathroom recyclables that aren’t finding their way into the right bin,” suggests Duret. “Every item we can recycle, rather than put in the rubbish, makes a huge difference to the environment – and stops us from depleting our natural resources to make new items.”
Shampoo bottles: Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, liquid soap… as Duret points out, they all tend to come in plastic bottles, which are perfect for recycling and can go through the recycling system again and again. He says to keep the lids on unless there’s a pump system.
Toilet rolls: “We have a great record when it comes to recycling paper and card in the UK, but there’re still some items we forget can be recycled,” suggests Duret. “The small cardboard toilet roll should not be overlooked, as it’s an easy win to be more sustainable at home.”
Toothpaste tubes: He says progress is being made with these tubes – but it’s not yet universal that manufacturers make this packaging recyclable. “It’s best to check the label and your council’s website, or look for a takeback scheme with the brand.”
“In this room, we tend to find bigger items often go in the bin, rather than recycling. But the bigger the item, the more resources we could mine from them!” enthuses Duret.
TVs: “It’s estimated that less than 40% of the electronics and electrical equipment thrown away every year is recycled – but we have facilities that can recycle them.
“For example, Veolia’s TV recycling centre in Bridgnorth recycles 350,000 screens every year. Drop off your old TV at a household recycling centre and our robots and staff can recover gold, plastic and glass,” says Duret.
Batteries: Duret says these contain valuable resources, but they need to be recycled in the right way to avoid any fire risks that can occur when they’re put in household bins.
“You can recycle batteries in supermarkets, some electronics stores, household recycling centres and some councils even offer this service from the kerbside, so check online,” he urges.
Irons: Like kettles, Duret says irons contain valuable electronics, as well as metals that can be recycled and used to create new products. “Take them to your local recycling centre and we’ll transform them back into consumer goods.”
Old furniture: If you’re re-doing the living room and have a cupboard that doesn’t fit anymore, he says to sell it, donate it, or recycle it, so it can have a second life. Furniture dropped off at recycling centres is either donated, repaired or recycled, so they can salvage as much of it as possible.
Clothes: Textile banks can be found on the street, as well as sometimes in supermarket car parks and recycling centres. Duret says clothes that can’t be re-worn or donated can be dropped off at banks where the fibres will be recycled.
“Don’t put clothes in your household recycling bins, as they can get tangled in the recycling equipment,” he urges.
Mobile phones: “Up to 80% of your phone is recyclable, so resist throwing it in the bin, as it could be really valuable – plus, it’s a fire risk,” he warns.
“Instead, it could be a good opportunity to recycle your phone through the mobile phone provider or online.”
Aerosols: Empty hairspray and deodorant aerosols can be recycled in most local authorities, says Duret. Check if they can go in your recycling bin on your council’s website.
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