It has been estimated that UK households recycle less than 20% of their rubbish, a figure that is shockingly low compared with other European nations believed to recycle approximately 50% of their waste. This translates to millions, if not billions of tonnes of UK rubbish that could easily be avoided if each household would make it a priority to recycle every product possible. Often a lack of recycling is down to a lack of knowledge about products which can be recycled. Check with your local authorities or private recycling company to find out their specific recycling services, but be aware that often there are many more products that can be recycled than are catered for by these general agencies. Use this handy guide to separate the fact from the fiction of what products can be recycled.
Asbestos was a type of insulation used for many buildings before the 1970s. Asbestos removal should only be undertaken by a professional and should be transported to recycling centres covered by a plastic (recyclable) bag. Many councils will accept asbestos in their recycling centres, but check with your local authorities before undertaking this type of removal.
Many schools, offices, charities and local councils run battery recycling programmes so be sure to check what is available in your area. If you can not find an adequate battery recycling option, contact the battery manufacturer for further instructions. When it is time to change batteries, consider investing in environmentally friendly rechargeable batteries to cut down on future waste.
Many building materials such as bricks and wood can be reused, while used materials such as metal, plastics and glass can easily be recycled. Recycling centres and salvage yards are both options for these materials.
Cars are a rich source of recyclable products, so be sure to contact your local authority for instructions on donating or recycling your used cars.
Most bring centres, and many home recycling bins, accept used clothing for recycling. If this is not the case in your area donate re-usable items to a charity shop or homeless shelter, or even consider schools or theatre troupes who might accept items for costumes.
Computers and Cameras
Computers and cameras are covered by waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) legislation which dictates that these items must either be returned to the manufacturer, taken to a professional waste disposal facility or donated to a charity/non-profit. You must keep proof that you have disposed of these items by one of these avenues. The same applies to all other electrical items.
Old and unused glasses may be accepted by local recycling centres, but if they are not, many schools, religious organisations and charities accept these items as donations.
Glass is usually sorted by colour into green, brown and clear. Almost all home recycling bins and bring centres accept glass. Reusing glass jars and bottles in the home is also an option.
Metal can usually be sorted into two groups, aluminium and steel. If you are unsure of which metal you have, conduct a simple magnet test – steel is magnetic while aluminium is not. Most home recycling bins and bring centres accept both metals. “Cash for cans” schemes may also operate in your area.
Before you toss out your old mobile phone, remember that you can return it to the manufacturer or donate it to charity if your local recycling centre won’t accept it. Even if it is no longer in working order it is better to make a donation than a rubbish heap.
Paints and Other Art Supplies
Paints and other art supplies can be harmful to the environment if disposed of improperly. If there is still a useful amount left, consider donating the paints and supplies to needy organisations. If there is little left, look on the packing for recycling instructions or contact the manufacturer.
Paper is often divided by type into magazines, newspapers, office paper, home stationary, cardboard and catalogues/directories. Almost all home recycling bins and bring centres accept all types of paper. When it is time to refill your supply, try to buy recycled paper for even greater environmental benefits.
Over fifty types of plastic exist, and almost all of the most common consumer types are accepted by recycling bring centres if not your home recycling bin.
Few bring centres accept printer cartridges, but often charities, schools and religious organisations collect these items for recycling. If you cannot find any option in your area, contact the Recycling Appeal who will be more than happy to accept your donation.
Though this guide is not exhaustive, recycling these most common household items each and every time will go a long way towards reducing rubbish in the UK. Do your part so that we all may benefit.