What is Recycling
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years, you should have a fairly firm understanding of what recycling is.
Recycling is essentially the act of processing used materials (waste) into new, useful products. Recycling uses less energy and is a great way of controlling air, water and land pollution.
This definitive guide looks to firstly inform – and if not educate – you, and society on the benefits of recycling and why we need to start taking it seriously.
Where to Begin?
Effective recycling starts with you, at home.
In many countries, the authorities help households with special bin bags, or bins which are especially designated for recycled waste. Households need to sort the recyclable waste out for themselves and place them in the right bags/bins for collection.
This makes the work less difficult and the process of recycling easier.
In the UK you can be fined for not recycling properly, so you need to know what you can recycle and where it goes.
Some of the key items of recycling are:
Paper waste items include books, newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes and envelopes. This process is actually very interesting and informative!
All glass products like bottles, jars, vases etc. can be recycled.
Items include plastic bags, water bottles, rubber bags and plastic wrappers. Please remember though that not all plastic bags can be recycled. It depends on the type of plastic, and all recyclable plastic will have the ‘Recycle’ logo on it.
Tin / Aluminium recycling
Tin and aliminium can be recycled, and this includes soda cans, tomato, fruit cans and other types of tin/aluminium cans. Did you know: Recycling just 1 ton of aluminium cans conserves more than 207 million Btu, the equivalent of 36 barrels of oil, or 1,665 gallons of gasoline. —EPA
Computer waste comes under the term e-waste (which we will cover in more detail later). Many materials used in computer hardware can be recovered by recycling for use in future production. Reuse of tin, silicon, iron, aluminium, and a variety of plastics that are present in bulk in computers or other electronics can reduce the costs of constructing new systems.
How to Recycle these items
It’s all well and good knowing you have to recycle, and saying you’re going to recycle, but how does the process actually work?
Recycling can actually appear a daunting task for the inexperienced. It can start anywhere, from thinking carefully about what products you buy at the supermarket, to disposing of household waste in an effective and efficient way.
The methods are almost endless.
Let’s start by recycling in and around the home and garden, and how you can help your own community.
Saving The World One Step At A Time
Recycling at Home
Items such as paper, plastic, metal and glass are easily recycled and often we find an abundance of them in our houses. Many of these can be placed inside recycling bins that will be picked up weekly by a rubbish collection service. Other items such as furniture, electronic equipment, computers and vehicles can also be recycled though many people forget this.
*Computers Require Additional Care*
Recycling in the Garden
Composting is where waste degrades into compost, which in turn, can be used in your garden to help it grow. This is an excellent way to recycle garden and kitchen waste such as plant trimmings, leftover food and even manure.
After mowing the lawn, simply leave the fresh grass cuttings on the ground. The cuttings act as a nutrient source for the soil and they become a fantastic fertiliser.
Planting trees is an obvious one. An acre of trees absorbs enough CO2 over one year to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles. Trees also offer homes to animals!
Recycling in the Community
Local recycling facilities
You’re never too far away from a recycling facility in Britain. The facilities are provided for community use and offer great advice on how to optimise your recycling techniques.
Schools and businesses
These contributors play an important role in recycling. Follow the recycling schemes provided by your school or workplace and think about ways to improve them.
Community projects are fantastic ways to meet green thinkers and develop more ways to recycle efficiently.
Cash for cans
This project gives money to people who recycle their aluminium cans. There are more than 500 cash for cans sites around the UK, so get involved and earn a bit of extra cash in the process.
These are just a few examples of the simple ways you can make your mark on recycling.
E-Waste -Why Is It Important?
E-waste is short for electronic waste. The definition can be applied to any outdated or obsolete appliance or electronic device found in offices and homes. TVs, microwaves, computers and cell phones are all common examples of e-waste.
Many materials in e-waste simply can’t be used in a landfill due to increased regulations and our better understandings of the environment. The state law actually requires the safe disposal of e-waste because many of the products/items contain hazardous elements that can cause serious long-term damage to our environment and public health.
From lead to mercury to cadmium to arsenic – e-waste contains a number of toxic elements that must be disposed of safely and kept out of our landfills. Learning about e-waste is important if you’re looking to recycle such items. Click here for information on Recycle Force’s e-waste disposal process.
8 Benefits of Recycling
The benefits of recycling are endless.
- Recycling Saves Resources
- When we recycle, used materials are converted into new products, reducing the need to consume natural resources.
- Recycling Saves Energy
- Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process uses considerably less energy than that required for producing new products from raw materials – even when comparing all associated costs including transport etc.
- Recycling Helps Protect the Environment
- Recycling reduces the need for extracting (mining, quarrying and logging), refining and processing raw materials. All of these create substantial air and water pollution.
- Recycling Reduces Incineration
- When we recycle, recyclable materials are reprocessed into new products, and as a result the amount of rubbish sent for incineration reduces. Burning your rubbish creates ash which is difficult to dispose of and gases which are released into the atmosphere.
What can I take to the Recycling Centre?
Generally all recycling centres follow the same principal guide. Normal household items such as: paper, glass, cans cardboard and plastic bottles are accepted.
Other household items may include vegetable oil, DVDs & CDs, books, clothes and mattresses are also widely accepted. You can even select to donate these items to charity. Electrical items can also be sent, everything from TVs to washing machines will usually be accepted.
Recycling Breeds Dogs!
Mobile phone recycling has a quirky feature in that for each phone that you recycle, Guide Dogs UK receive a donation! Every 1500 phones is enough to buy a new guide dog puppy!
Some items that recycling centres may not accept:
Fireworks – Please note that you cannot take unused fireworks to the recycling centres. Unused fireworks should be returned to where you brought them from.
(Used fireworks are safe to dispose of in with your normal refuse but we would advise you to soak them in water overnight to ensure there is no chance of them re-igniting.)
Petrol and Diesel – Please note that you cannot take petrol and diesel to the recycling centres. Petrol and diesel should be taken to a garage for reuse or disposal.
Ceramics – You would think that your old coffeee mug would find a home in your recycling bin. Alas, they are not accepted at most recycling centres. Consider giving them a second life with a houseplant or in your garden.
Styrofoam – Another one that kills me, because how many times do we get handed Styrofoam containers we don’t want? But Styrofoam is a petroleum product and, more importantly, highly flammable. It’s considered a danger to most recycling centres.
Landfill – What is Landfill and How Does it Work?
- Dump – pretty self-explanatory. It’s an open hole in the ground where waste is buried.
- Landfill – far more sophisticated (as far was waste management goes). Landfill is a carefully designed structure built into or on top of the ground in where rubbish is isolated from the surrounding environment (groundwater, air, rain).
So, what is the purpose of landfill?
The purpose is to bury the waste so that it will not disturb or come into contact with groundwater, will be kept dry and will not be in contact with air. Under these conditions, trash will not decompose much. A landfill is not like a compost pile. The difference is that a compost pile’s purpose is to bury waste in such a way that it will decompose quickly.
Cities Tackling Recycling
Hamburg is planning to ban all cars from its centre over the next 20 years and put thousands of commuters on bikes.
Strange is it not?
The country which gave the world the Mercedes and the Autobahn is now making an ironic U-turn by drastically reducing the amount of cars on their roads. The long-term plan is that by 2034 thousands of commuters will opt to travel via bicycles.
The development scheme aptly named the ‘Green Network’ will see many if not all vehicles banned by 2034. People will instead move about the city via buses, trams, on foot or bicycle. Plans to create a series of idyllic thoroughfares are also being built, further persuading commuters to explore and breath in their new greener surroundings.
Other city recycling ideas include Sweden’s ‘Recycling Revolution.’ Sweden separates their newspapers, metals, plastics, electric appliances, light bulbs and batteries. The newspapers are turned into paper mass, bottles are melted down or reused to create new items and their food is composted, becoming soil or biogas through a chemical process. Many of the trucks that collect these items run on recycled electricity, biogas or reused cooking oil.
London too seeks to improve their ecological standing by creating a ‘cycling utopia’. Foster and Partners revealed a scheme in 2014 that sought to transform London’s railways into cycling freeways. The futuristic concept would connect more than six million residents to an elevated network of car-free bicycle paths built above London’s existing railway lines if approved.
Waste Management – The Little Things Do Help!
It’s the little things that make this world go round. Without certain insects such as bees and wasps, we wouldn’t have beer or wine! Without spiders and frogs we’d be living in world infested in flies! And without humans, well, the world would actually prosper…
Alas, we are here, and here to stay. So we might as well make the most of it!
If anything, the most important and arguably the easiest deed we can do to reduce our carbon footprint is to utilise our recycle bins. A recycle bin should be an essential part of your home. Separating your cardboard, paper, tins, metals and glass isn’t that difficult and the impact you will be making is huge!
You can find them at any recycle bin website, and they come in many shapes and sizes!
So whether you’re an avid recycler, or someone simply wanting some more information to get you started, know that you are helping, no matter how small your work may seem! If you’re still unconvinced by climate change or the benefits of recycling, take a look at ‘Before the Flood‘ a documentary focusing on the effects global warming has had upon our planet.