We have all thrown something in the trash can at one time or another, not sure if it can be recycled or not. This is not because we do not want to help the environment, but because recycling is not that easy! It’s difficult to know what’s acceptable and what’s not, especially when something as simple as too many food scraps on the packaging can result in the entire load ending up in the trash.
So let us take the guesswork out of recycling by examining these common questions and debunking some common myths…
Why is recycling so important?
An excess of plastic, cardboard and glass waste can have devastating effects on the environment and the planet. Why is that? Because waste dumped in landfills or burned in industrial incinerators can increase air and soil pollution with potentially toxic and life-threatening vapours and microparticles.
Which household packaging can and can not be recycled Unsplash On the other hand, recycling has clear benefits:
- It limits the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
- It creates additional jobs at recycling facilities.
- It reduces the number of raw materials needed to make new products.
- It saves energy when compared to manufacturing, processing and transporting new materials.
If we continue to use non-recyclable or unsustainable materials, we are only contributing to the potential destruction of our planet. So we need to recycle wherever possible to reduce the production of harmful emissions and minimise the need for new, unsustainable materials.
What can you recycle and what can not you?
1. Polystyrene and Styrofoam
Like many plastics, polystyrene is slow to biodegrade and not exactly an environmentally friendly material. It is often used to make food and beverage containers or in the form of pellets to protect items during shipping.
If you have ever ordered fast food or a takeout meal, you are probably familiar with the Styrofoam container. They can be recycled, but usually only at special facilities. So, if possible, use your own container or ask for a cardboard box instead.
2. Aluminium and Aluminium Foil
These are staple foods that you can throw in the designated recycling garbage can. However, you should try to remove all food scraps to avoid contamination and prevent them from being rejected by the recycling centre.
You can recycle most aluminium items, including beverage cans, screw caps and grill trays. Be careful, however – some packaging looks like foil but is plastic. Do the wrinkle test to be sure: If you crush the packaging in your hand and it springs back, it’s not recyclable.
3. Paper and Cardboard
Paper is a widely recycled material. However, there are many paper products that you may think can be recycled but are not. This is especially the case with coated materials such as wrapping paper, wallpaper or wax foils.
Types of paper that you can recycle:
- Brown wrapping paper (uncoated).
- Printer paper
- Phone books
- Envelopes (without plastic windows)
- Magazines and newspapers
Again, try to avoid food contamination and avoid things like greaseproof paper, baking paper, used paper towels or candy wrappers.
Most glass jars and bottles can be recycled. It is best to rinse out any food or liquid residue from the items and replace the lid if it has one.
Which household packaging can and can not be recycled Unsplash However, not all glass items in your household can be recycled. Products like light bulbs or glass cookware have different tempering and melt at higher temperatures, so they must be sent to a separate facility via a special recycling box or garbage can.
5. Bubble Wrap
It’s fun for 30 minutes, but bubble wrap usually can not be recycled. The good news is that many grocery stores have recycling garbage cans where you can safely dispose of plastic bags and bubble wrap.
And if you do not want to throw them away, there are plenty of practical uses for them:
- To wrap mail.
- To wrap and protect delicate items when you move house.
- As insulation for your shed or greenhouse.
- To protect your plants from frost damage.
- To craft a camping or yoga mat.
- To line your car windows to prevent frost.
6. toiletries & diapers
Hygiene items such as tampons and pads or diapers are technically biohazardous materials and therefore cannot be recycled. Diapers or hygiene items left in the recycling bin can even be potentially hazardous, as they are not only unsuitable for recycling, but can also pose a health risk to those who have to handle them.
These products always belong in the residual waste garbage can. As a rule, all products containing human waste or biological materials should be considered non-recyclable.
Should you rinse before you recycle?
If the item is waterproof, the answer is yes, you should. It varies from recycling centre to recycling centre, but a single soiled item can contaminate an entire load of recyclables, which means your entire bin can be incinerated instead.
If you want to make sure your recycling load is safe, do not put containers of food waste in it. When you recycle things like beverage bottles or jars, just rinse them out and they are ready to go again.
World Recycling Day 2022
This year, Global Recycling Day falls on March 18, 2022, an annual event that encourages people around the world to recycle more often and educates the public about why recycling is so important for the environment.
Check out the Global Recycling Day website for more practical resources and information. You can even enter the annual recycling contest.
With a little extra effort and care, we can all ensure that our recycling efforts are effective and beneficial to the environment – and the planet.