Recycling & Re-use

How to recycle better: Part 1 (symbols and preparation)

I hope everyone is keeping safe and well during this difficult time. As hard as it is to be positive in the face of this horrible virus, it helps to focus on the good things. Even if they seem insignificant or hard to see. These small things really can make a difference.

This post is Part 1 of 3 all about UK kerbside recycling and how to do it better.

Are you a mindful recycler or do you do it in a daze? Sometimes life’s so busy it’s easy to just chuck things in the box without too much thought and hope for the best.

Thankfully, it’s not too late to embrace and master this dark art.

As mentioned in my January post about TerraCycle, while recycling has its place, it’s not the full answer to saving our planet. Plastic especially poses a huge recycling problem. To read more about how to navigate plastics recycling watch out for Part 2.

Global Recycling Day

Did you know today is Global Recycling Day? Started by The Global Recycling Foundation in 2018, we are encouraged to see recycling as a key part of the circular economy and recognise “…the people, places and activities that showcase what an important role recycling plays in contributing to an environmentally stable planet and a greener future which will benefit all.”

Cheesy as it sounds, we can all become recycling heroes in record time. In fact, #RecyclingHeroes is the theme of Global Recycling Day 2020. But, as Superman and Batman show us, being a true hero must be a long-term commitment. It’s not something just for today.

Packaging signage

In the UK, for most mainstream products and brands, recycling signage on packaging is pretty useless. In many cases, I think it even adds to greenwashing.

Of course, some items do have clear and helpful symbols on them to confirm what parts of the packaging can be recycled (or not).  

But without those symbols, things can get messy. A key bugbear that causes confusion is the very common green and white double arrow symbol. The so-called “green dot”:

Recognise it? It’s on so many items.

Arrows? Circular? With green in there? Of course that must mean it’s recyclable! Right? Er, no.

Turns out, the green dot logo is a licensing symbol of a European network of industry-funded systems for recycling. The network came into being in the early 1990s as a result of the EU Packaging Waste Directive. The logo came from Germany’s system for compliance with the Directive. Its use in the UK is voluntary these days but most German distributors require it.

All the green dot means is that the producer has donated money towards the recycling of packaging somewhere in the world. It means zilch in terms of that particular product and the recyclability of any packaging on which it appears.  

So please beware of the green dot. Sometimes it appears in other colours too. Best to ignore it when making any recycling decisions.

Does an item have to be clean for it to be put in your kerbside box?

Have you ever walked past collection boxes full of filthy tins, greasy paper and manky meat trays? Summer’s worse for this as there are so many empty barbecue packs everywhere with various marinades all over them.

Empty containers and packaging can’t be recycled in their dirty state because they would contaminate the clean items. Even something simple like a dirty paper wrapper could destroy a whole bale.

It’s easy to just give empty items a quick rinse in washing up water and then leave on the side to dry. You can then pop in the recycling box the next morning. 

So that’s it for Part 1.  As mentioned, Part 2 in a few weeks’ time, I’ll be looking at how to navigate plastics recycling. Because it’s not at all obvious.

For now, I’d love to hear about any recycling tips you might have or how you’re being a recycling hero. Do feel free to share in the comments below or drop me a line. I’m also happy to hear any recycling rants!


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