Households produce around 30 million tonnes of waste each year, with only 17 per cent of it actually recycled.
It is easier than ever before to recycle household waste and local councils have invested heavily in raising awareness, providing households with the receptacles for storing recyclable material and offering door-to-door collection services. So, if you are looking to do your bit and recycle more of your household rubbish, where do you start?
The importance of recycling
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on the environment by reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill sites. An increasing population and rising household wealth have driven the rapid rise in consumer goods that leads to an increase in the accumulation of rubbish. There is an increased demand for convenience foods and ready meals, which are often over-packed and produce an increase in the volume of waste ending up in our dustbins.
The impact of landfill sites on the environment is increasing. Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases are released from rubbish in landfill sites and are contributing to the overall impact of global warming. With landfill site space running out, demand for more space is eating into the natural habitat of the countryside and placing ever greater pressure on the eco system.
But the good news is there is something you can do about it. Start to recycle as much of your household rubbish as you can. The more you recycle, the more you can reduce the rubbish that ends up in landfill sites and the more recycled material can be used again to reduce the impact on the world's natural resources.
Starting to recycle
If you have never recycled material before, you should contact your local council to find out how it can help you. Does it offer a recycled rubbish collection service? Does it provide you with the appropriate bags and bins to store the recycling? Most local councils will have details of its recycling policy on its website, with the relevant contact details to get the ball rolling.
The majority of councils will provide you with recycling bags for paper and card and plastic containers for storing tins, glass and plastic. Other councils expect you to sort out your own glass, paper, etc., into different receptacles. Some authorities may not recycle certain items, so you should check before you start recycling what is accepted and what isn't.
If your council doesn't offer a door-to-door collection service, try and locate recycling facilities in the local area. For example, some supermarkets and local tips have large recycling bins for items such as old clothes, glass bottles, wood, shoes and textiles. In many cases, the local tip will also allow you to leave goods such as electrical equipment, white goods, TVs and garden refuse for recycling.
If you are unsure about what you can recycle, visit the Recycle Now website, which contains an A-Z list of everything you can recycle, and how you can go about recycling it. You will be surprised at the number of items that are eligible.
Reduce the waste you produce
Also think about ways of reducing the volume of waste in the first place. Make a conscious effort not to buy goods that are over-packaged and avoid items with non-biodegradable packaging. Re-use carrier bags, and if you can, buy special carrier bags at the supermarket that you can take back with you each time you visit to avoid using and disposing of countless plastic bags every time you shop. Another option is to purchase goods that you can re-use, such as razors, instead of buying the disposable version every week.
If you have babies or very young children, and if you are brave enough, think about buying re-usable, washable nappies as an alternative to disposable nappies, to reduce the amount that enters landfill sites. As a compromise, you can also buy special disposable nappies that biodegrade more quickly and are safer for the environment.
You can also do a lot with your kitchen waste. Some local councils will collect old vegetable peelings and organic matter. You can also put this waste into a compost heap. Even if you have a small garden, you can buy small compost containers to store organic matter, which over time can be used as fertiliser for the plants in your garden.
Repairing and re-using items
Often items in the home may only require a simple repair to be almost as good as new and to save simply throwing them away.
If you do decide you no longer require a particular item, there may be other people or organisations that will be able to put them to good use. Consider taking old clothes, CDs and electrical items that still function to a charity shop. Alternatively, there are a number of local community schemes such as Freecycle, which works to keep useful items out of landfill sites. Another option is to sell the items. Think about holding a car boot sale to get rid of unwanted junk. Advertise goods for sale in the local press, or on internet auction sites. Not only will you get rid of any unwanted items, you can earn money for the privilege.
What should you do with hazardous waste?
Hazardous waste needs to be disposed of responsibly and carefully in order to avoid contaminating the environment. Oil, paint, electrical equipment, fridges, batteries, pesticides and fluorescent tubes all need to be disposed of safely at a properly managed facility. Many local dumps do provide these facilities. However, it is often best to talk to your local council for more information.
Purchase recycled goods
Goods and packaging made from recycled material save on the use of raw materials. Most recycled products are labelled as such and you will be able to see what percentage of an item has been made from recycled material. Glass, paper and plastic are recycled many times over and in many different ways. For example, plastic supermarket shopping bags can be recycled back into plastic bags, or they can be used in creating the synthetic material for fleeces.
Recycling is rewarding
Recycling plays a very important part in reducing the impact our consumer-driven society has on the environment. Making a few positive changes is your responsibility, and recycling is one of the easiest ways we can all make a contribution. If you have children, get them involved too. It can be fun, educational, rewarding, and above all it can make a big difference to the future of our planet.
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