Recycling & Re-use

How to recycle better: Part 3 (receipts glass, foil and train tickets)

As a mark of respect I did not post earlier this week given the shocking and brutal death of George Floyd in Minnesota on 25 May. I’ve been shocked by what I’ve been learning about the extent of racism. I’m also sad and embarrassed that I haven’t thought about this issue deeply enough or taken enough positive steps to contribute to change. We all have the power to stand together and do our bit to improve this world for everyone.

This is the third and final part of the series on how to recycle better. Ever wondered what to do with that stash of old receipts or train tickets shoved in your handbag or in a disused drawer somewhere? Or those random bits of foil? Or have you ever cracked kitchen glassware or needed to dispose of it for other reasons? Have you ever thought about whether these items can go in your kerbside collection bin?

First up is receipts. Thankfully it’s becoming more normal in the UK to decline generating these for day-to-day shopping e.g. on self scan tills. And even if a receipt is created and offered, many of us are less keen to take it. Especially in these challenging, hyper hygienic COVID-19 times.

Have you noticed that many clothes and electrical shops have been offering email receipts for a while now? Mainly for environmental reasons (but also to get your email address!). Perhaps you might find it a bit unnerving to not take a receipt without an email option for higher value purchases? But once you start to say no to the dockets of doom, it becomes second nature. 

You might already know the vast majority of receipts aren’t recyclable. You might wonder why. Well, most are made of smooth, shiny thermal paper to allow instant and clear printing. But unfortunately this type of paper contains two nasty chemicals: Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS), both of which, in high enough amounts, are known endocrine disrupters.

As I mentioned in a previous post, even touching thermal receipts can transfer BPA and BPS into your body. It’s a wonder thermal receipts are legal, really. Of course, the presence of these chemicals is the reason recycling receipts is a no-no. If you’d like to learn more about this, check out this interesting article from Wired magazine.

Let’s move on to item two for some slightly better news. When did you last get a train? Perhaps you were commuting pre-COVID days or maybe you still are. If so you might have a collection of old rail tickets – the iconic orange and pale green ones with the magnetic strip on the back. 

Have you ever thought about whether these can be recycled kerbside?  The good news is that, if you don’t want to save them up to use for artistic purposes then, YES! They can be put in your recycling collection.

Next up is kitchen glassware. Things like drinking glasses and pyrex dishes. Hands up if you think cracked drinking glasses or glass cookware can be put in your recycling collection as long as they aren’t  jaggedly and dangerous for the collectors? Yes? After all, glass drinks bottles and jars are recyclable. It’s all the same, right?  Er, sadly not.

Glass cookware, jugs and drinking glasses cannot be recycled whether they’re damaged or not because they’ve all been heat-treated. So, if such items are beyond use, they have to be put in the bin (AKA landfill). Who knew?

The final item I’d like to flag is aluminium foil – the type used for cooking and also things like  chocolate packaging. This is another YES. I’d always thought previously that the shiny stuff should be flattened out and popped in the kerbside bin as flat sheets. But no, the best way to get your foil ready for recycling is to scrunch it into a ball and keep adding to it until it’s big enough to be spotted by the collection peeps. 

Word of caution: dirty foil cannot be recycled but I’m sure you knew that already! If you give used foil a gentle scrub on a worktop with some soapy water, this is a great way of removing light food debris or grease. Usually that has the added bonus of making it clean enough to allow a few re-uses. You can also recycle clean foil trays. Definitely something to bear in mind if you plan to entertain e.g. at Christmas.

So, that’s it on recycling-themed posts for a little while. It’s been a real eye-opener to learn more about how to recycle properly. I hope it’s helped demystify kerbside recycling for you too. 

Why not make some changes and see what you can do differently to be a recycling pro? Although it does take a little more thought and time, it’s fun and also quite compelling to know you’re doing it well. And, I guarantee, your recycling collectors will love you for it!

Please do let me know how you get on and if you have any other recycling tips or tricks, please do share in the comments below.

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