Top tips to cut your recycling

Joanna’s recent blog  ‘The Great Packaging Debate’ touched a nerve with me.  Don’t get me wrong I’m all in favour of recycling. Too much so, if you ask my kids, as I’m rather fond of picking up bottles and cans whilst walking our dog and bringing home the spoils to add to our kerb-it box. Perhaps it’s the way that I then record my results on the calendar (21 cans is my personal best) which prompts their accusations that I’m obsessive. But I’m also firmly of the opinion that recycling shouldn’t be viewed as the first option when dealing with our waste.

So here’s my top 5 ideas for cutting down recycling without adding anything to landfill.

1 – Plan ahead.

One of the biggest improvements we’ve made to reducing waste in our home is by taking time before starting shopping to decide what we’d like to eat in the coming week. Then we simply buy what we need for these meals.  Deciding before reaching the shops has the distinct advantage of enabling us to have a check of what we already have in the cupboards to avoid duplication.
Shopping for food on-line has helped this even more, as we’re less likely to be tempted by more random purchases or promotions which seduce us into buying more than we can use.
With an estimated one third of all food purchased in the UK being thrown away unused (and with its’ packaging too) getting organised is a really effective way to avoid falling into this trap.

2 – Use it all up.
However well we plan our menus, life has a way of interfering with our plans. I for one am not going to turn down an unexpected dinner invitation because I have some turnips and sprouts that I had plans for. What I can do is find other ways of using them. Previous visitors to the blog will realise that I’ve developed a liking for making soup, and I’m beginning to dip my toe (not literally my family will be relieved to hear) into jam and chutney making. This provides a double win, not only do I get to use up food which might otherwise spoil, but it’s given me an opportunity to re-use glass jars which may otherwise have ended up being recycled.

3 – Give it a new purpose.
Saving jars and using them to store delicious homemade preserves, or as storage for screws / nuts and bolts, paper clips or spare buttons is a good place to start, but what else can be done? There are some really inspirational companies finding creative ways of re-purposing surplus packaging and product. We’re incredibly proud to feature Doy Bags, Vinylux, Worn Again, Little Earth and Electrickery products in our range at Ethical Superstore and we hope that they’ll help get the creative juices flowing. If you’ve any old textiles taking over the cupboards why not put them to work de-cluttering the planet by Guerilla Bagging and ‘bag’ yourself some more storage space to boot.  An art attack is another option – if a cereal box and yoghurt pot robot isn’t for you, it could be worth checking with local playgroups and schools to see if they can use anything for junk modelling projects.

4 – Love it a little bit longer , or give someone else the chance to.
‘Fast Fashion’ has become almost a national obsession. Cheap garments, often made from manmade materials which cannot be recycled easily, are being worn just a few times and then binned, the Government’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee found. As a result the proportion of textile waste at council tips has risen from 7 per cent to 30 per cent in just five years.
Breathe new life into something you thought you would never wear again with some accessorisation or customisation.  If that’s not for you, why not give someone else the chance to love it. Charity shops are a positive option or you could delve into the emerging world of ‘Swishing’ – for those unfamiliar with the term that’s clothes swapping events – and incredible adrenaline rush they are too I’m reliably informed.
If you still love it but it’s seen better days can it be repaired? My wife recently visited the cobblers for the first time, a little over £20 restored her favourite boots to full fitness, saving significantly more on the cost of a new pair. Much to the dismay of my teenagers, I do know the number of a decent TV repair man – I’m not quite HD ready just yet.

5 – Nourish the earth rather than poison it.
Start composting. Recent estimates indicate that 38% of domestic refuse produced in the UK each year is compostable material, such as vegetable peelings, tea bags and food scraps. That’s roughly 105 kg of botanical waste per head of population per year. Quite a bit of packaging can add to the compost blend too – egg and cereal boxes are good candidates as well as some compostable ‘plastic’ bags.
For those with little or no garden, worm composting is worth investigating. Systems such as Can-o-Worms produce only a small quantity of compost and a liquid, which forms a concentrated plant food.
If you have no outside space at all, community composting schemes are increasing in popularity, look out for one near you.

Please let us know your tips, leave a reply below.

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  • Jane

    It sounds clichéd to say ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ but that’s what used to happen with me and my wardrobe. Plenty of decent clothes from last summer but I got so used to seeing them every time I opened the wardrobe / drawers that I was bored of them when it got warm enough to wear them again.
    Then a friend told me how she packed away her off season clothes in a box and tucked them away until the time was right to wear them again. I can heartily recommend this – I’d forgotten just how cool lots of my stuff is! I still need to freshen things up with some new stuff but much less so than in the days when I got sick of the sight of them 🙂