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The World’s First Kerbside Recyclable Water Ice Pack

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The term ‘Conscious Recycling’ is becoming ever more prevalent in today’s society and one aspect of this is the challenge of ensuring everyone in the household recycles correctly. Whilst many people have the best of intentions, it can be confusing as to what can be recycled, and what can’t.

We have covered this topic previously in our “What Can I Recycle?” post, so here we want to focus on the importance of promoting conscious recycling for all the family.

What does ‘Conscious Recycling’ mean?

The term ‘Conscious Recycling’ simply means the act of being aware of the importance of recycling, and the limitations surrounding what can and can’t be recycled in normal household / domestic collections. There is no one size fits all at present when it comes to local council recycling centres, so it’s always best to check, however as a general rule of thumb there are certain items that can’t be recycled even though you may think they can. These include:

  • Black plastics
  • Embellished wrapping papers
  • Plastic bottle tops or caps that are under 40mm in diameter.
  • Kitchen roll
  • Drinking glasses
  • Soiled pizza boxes
  • Paper receipts

The majority of the time, the issues lie in the fact that the equipment at normal recycling centres can’t handle this type of item – this could be for a number of reasons, such as size (too small to be handled by the machinery), thickness (again, too thin to be handled) or the fact that the machinery can’t “see” the item properly (in the case of black plastic).

With this in mind, conscious recycling comes in when you actively think about whether the item you need to dispose of can be recycled or not, rather than putting it in the recycling bin and hoping for the best. Even if something like a black plastic container ends up in the recycling bin, there still is a high chance that the automatic recognition camera systems (aka “magic eyes”) won’t spot it, and therefore won’t separate it out for recycling. Instead, it will be sent to landfill, which not only adds to the landfill burden and all the associated issues there, but also has an extra carbon footprint in that it’s already been on one journey to the recycling plant, and then has to go on another to the landfill site. With that in mind, just because something has a recycling symbol on it doesn’t mean your local authority will recycle it – it’s not a given unfortunately. That’s why it’s best to check first if you’re unsure. Examples also include Polystyrene, Wool or Denim, which all advocate themselves as environmentally friendly, but they cannot be recycled kerbside, forcing the consumer to travel to the community recycling centre, or like most, will end up in our general waste bins.

What else do you need to be aware of?

As well as being aware of what can and can’t be recycled, there are also certain conditions that items that can be recycled have to meet. For example:

  • If an item is ‘contaminated’, that is, still dirty, it will not produce as high a quality recycled item. You should be cleaned all jars, tins and bottles before putting them in the recycling, or at least giving them a rinse out. Some recycling plants do wash the waste, but others don’t.
  • Just because something has a recycling symbol on it doesn’t mean your local authority will recycle it – it’s not a given unfortunately. That’s why it’s best to check first if you’re unsure.
  • Similarly, a lot of products do have specific recycling instructions if you look at the label – some items say you can recycle with a cap on, for example, but to remove the sleeve – so if you leave the sleeve on, the whole thing will be taken to landfill. Part of conscious recycling is to look at these instructions before putting anything in the recycling bin.
  • Some items that can’t be handled by domestic recycling plants do have specialist schemes set up, including crisp packets, coffee capsules and pens.
  • Some companies have also set up their own dedicated recycling schemes; an example of this would be Nespresso’s Podback scheme which is free to customers. They will not accept pods from other companies, however.

Whilst making sure you recycle properly can initially a daunting prospect, once you get into the groove with it then it becomes easier and eventually just a normal part of family life.

If you need a bit more inspiration, just remember, recycling saves the energy and power used in manufacturing new items. Depending on what it is you’re recycling:

  • One glass bottle saves enough energy to power a laptop for 30 mins
  • One plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a lightbulb for 3+ hours
  • If you throw batteries away instead of making sure they are recycled, bear in mind that it takes up to 50 times more energy to make a new battery than the output the finished battery will give out.
  • When you pay for a new product in new packaging, most of the packaging itself ends up being disposed of.