A matter of waste
Should you recycle the box from your takeaway pizza or throw it away? Can you recycle aerosol cans? Is all plastic recyclable? How clued up about recycling are you?
We probably all know that recycling is good for the environment. It saves energy and limits the drain on Earth's resources. But do you know which items you should or shouldn't recycle?
In the UK, we have a well-established system of kerbside recycling. Most people expect to separate recyclable material from general refuse. A typical household recycles paper, cardboard, plastic and glass bottles, foil and drinks cans. Food and garden waste is now also collected. But in the last four years, the number of items rejected for recycling in England has gone up by 84%, mainly as a result of contamination. Many items end up in landfill or being incinerated when, with more care, they could be recycled. The problem often stems from confusion over what and how to recycle.
Across the UK the system of recycling differs between local authorities, and multiple containers are used for different types of recyclables. In one area there may be one large wheelie bin for recycling all household items, another for garden waste, and yet another for general waste. There are also composting food caddies - a small one for the kitchen and a larger one for the kerbside. These use compostable bags for food waste, including tea bags, coffee grindings and egg shells. A few streets away, another council may use a separate container just for glass bottles. Waste collection times vary - either weekly or fortnightly. Each week, you have to remember which bin has to go out. It's all highly confusing.
One of the biggest problems recycling firms face is food contamination. If your plastic milk bottle is empty, it's ok to recycle it, but if it contains a small amount of milk, it could result in contamination of the plastic recycling process. Likewise, paper fibres cannot be recycled if they are contaminated with food, so a cheesy pizza box shouldn't be recycled.
Conscientious consumers are constantly faced with recycling conundrums. You've just finished a carton of juice. Should you remove the plastic cap before recycling the carton? You feel the fate of the planet lies in your hands. My advice:stop worrying and crack open a bottle of beer! …Hang on!…. what should you do with the bottle top?!