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The 9 R’s are design for you to follow them in order beginning with Rethink and working down to the last one Rot. Today I’m going to focus on the second to last R; Recycle.
When I talk to people about living a sustainable lifestyle they always come back with ‘but I recycle’. Which is great but, (why is there always a but) it’s not the answer to the climate crisis we currently find ourselves in.
Recycling is where we collect up our waste materials and then break them down to create something else. This process uses up a lot of energy! The items also need to be cleaned and then sorted at recycling centres. Again this takes up a lot of energy and time.
The Process of Recycling
- Sorted Items Sent Off To be Recycled
Every minute of every day, an average of 113,200 aluminium cans are recycled (source: thinkcans.net)
The aim for everyone should be firstly to rethink about what we do and don’t use and then reduce what we need to start with. By rethinking and reducing we would all have less things to recycle which is a much better solution.
The Story Of Stuff has a picture which I think sums up this issue perfectly. We should all be aiming towards a circular economy. We simply cannot keep consuming at the rate we are without any regard for what happens to our unwanted items after we ‘throw them away’.
“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.“
Having said all of that though recycling does still form a big part of sustainable living and it’s certainly something that we should all be doing without question. I’m certainly not saying you stop recycling, quite the opposite, but what I am saying is that it should be more of a last resort after you have already actioned the other 7 R’s first.
I’d highly recommend starting with doing a waste audit for your home, which is not as scary as it sounds. You can find more information on that in my post: How To Do A Waste Audit For Your Home
If you do find yourself with items that need to be recycled then below I’ve got 5 tips to help you with the process…
5 Top Tips For Recycling at Home
Research What You Can and Can’t Recycle
A lot of Counties in the UK now have curbside recycling programmes which are fantastic as it makes it easier for us to recycle our unwanted items.
If you go to your local council website they will have a list of everything that can and cannot go into your curbside recycling. It’s worth checking it every now and then as they do change things from time to time. You could even go as far as printing out a list and sticking it on the wall near to your recycling bins to remind you.
If an item can’t go into your curbside recycling then research other places in your area where it could go. A lot of schools and community groups are now taking part in the TerraCycle recycling schemes which include waste such as bread bags, crisp packets, beauty products and even pet food pouches. Visit their website today to find out what schemes are operating in your area.
Set Up A Recycling System
It’s a good idea to have some sort of recycling system in place in your home. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, you just need to make it clear to everyone in the house where the recycling goes. You can buy purpose made recycling bins for your home or just use a box of some sort to store the recycling.
Personally, we just put our recycling on the windowsill and the children then take it out to our outside recycling bins each day as part of their afternoon chores.
The Ritual Of Recycling
I’ve talked about the difference between habits and rituals on my blog before. The difference is a habit is something that you do without thinking about it, biting your nails, grinding your teeth etc. A ritual, however, is something that you do on purpose with meaning behind it.
Starting a new ritual for your recycling is a great way to incorporate it into your daily life so it doesn’t become a chore. It’s best to do a little bit every day rather than let it build up over the week which then becomes a mammoth task.
Sort your recycling as you go along and take it out daily to your outside bins.
Wash Your Recycling
This one is pretty important and a lot of people don’t do it. You need to wash your recycling before you put it into your recycling bin. If you don’t wash it, it can contaminate other bits of recycling during the sorting process. That is not good! Please, please wash it first.
Flatten Your Recycling
To stop your recycling bins overflowing then it’s good practise to flatten your items before you put them into your bins. Break up cardboard boxes so they can lay flat and squash the air out of plastic bottles.
In conclusion, don’t stop recycling and if you’re not already recycling please start doing it. Familiarise yourself with the 9 R’s and perhaps see if there are ways you can reduce your waste before you get to the recycling stage. Buying unwrapped items will help you with this.
About Gina Caro
Gina is a content creator and award-winning blogger. Her aim is to help you live a more sustainable & simple life. Her blog covers zero waste, minimalism, wellbeing & thrift. She currently lives in Cornwall with her partner, two kids and Charles the dog.