It’s down to us!!

The last few generations have made a real pigs ear of looking after this planet so we need to do something about it now.

We can all make a difference by using ideas from Ecofrenzy and other similar organisations, but we have to go further and educate everyone so that we not make the same mistakes in the future.

Our aim in this section is to give you information, ideas, and games to help you teach your kids about handling waste. There is a lot of information here and we hope you will pick and choose the things that you think are most important and / or interesting to help educate your children. Instilling basic principles from an early age may lead to a society which cares and understands more about our environment.

We hope you enjoy the journey, good luck.

Reduce Recycle Reuse

How many of our houses are crammed with things we do not use or have ever used. What we do with them once they are no longer useful is so important as we will see in this section.

Waste is something that we throw away without it ever being reused. Much of this waste is ending up in landfill or goes to huge incinerators to be burnt for energy production. Unfortunately we are dumping a huge amount of potentially useful material. It takes a lot of energy and resources to make these things in the first place, so we need to re-evaluate our whole waste process.

Instead we can learn and practice the three R’s of waste management – Reduce, Recycle and Reuse. We should incorporate these principals into our everyday lives to ensure a healthy environment for ourselves and our kids.

Remember that as well as helping your children to understand the 3 R’s your household will also be saving money. This is the perfect win win.

The environment is our surroundings in which we all live and includes air, water and land. We need to protect all these areas from our dumping of waste if they are to remain healthy. The waste we create has to be carefully controlled to be sure that it does not harm our environment and our health any more than it is now!

REDUCE - we must reduce the stuff we buy and use then we will have less rubbish to throw away.

Reduce Waste

A key part of waste "reduction" is "conservation"—using natural resources wisely, and using less in order to avoid waste.

We are currently stuck in a world of materialism, greed and dumping. Many of us take and take and take, but there is only so much our world can give. Humans are not like any other organism in that we can adapt our environment to suit our needs and no matter what we take from our surroundings we believe we are safe. Increasing population and increasing pressure on the world’s resources means that we are on the brink of major problems. It has been estimated that to maintain our current requirements we need a planet around 1.7 times the size it is now. As the population grows this will increase.

It is imperative that we act now. This is not scare mongering, this is logical deduction.

The simplest way to reduce your consumption is don’t buy as much stuff. Think carefully before you hand over the money or click ‘buy’ on a retail website. Is it really useful or needed? Sometimes the best way to buy is leave it for 24 hours then if you still think it is essential for your life then complete the purchase.

If we took average waste from a family it is made up as follows:

  1. 35% Organic material
  2. 30% Paper
  3. 12% Construction material
  4. 9% Plastics
  5. 6% Metal
  6. 5% Other
  7. 3% Glass

Here we will have a look at a whole range of activities to help you and your children reduce your household waste

Paper
  1. Print on both sides of paper
  2. Think before you print. Do you really need to print it?
  3. If you only need one page of a document, only print that single one.
  4. Use a small font if possible to increase the words on a page
  5. Read stuff on your phone or laptop try not to print them off.
  6. Adjust margins to minimum setting when printing this will maximise the print on a page
  7. Don’t use a bigger piece of paper than you need. If you only need half or a quarter of a page to write down a message from a friend, then only use that amount.
  8. If you need to buy paper, buy recycled when you can. It isn’t perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.
  9. Use cloth napkins.
  10. Use rags instead of paper towels.
  11. Try not to use paper plates. Use durable washable ones if you need something for a BBQ
  12. Use a handkerchief instead of tissues.
  13. Once you have read a book, share it with friends
Plastic

There are so many examples of wasted materials but right now the buzz word is ‘Plastic’. We have to reduce our dependence on plastic, but unfortunately the opposite is happening, we are increasing plastic production by around 4% per year. Yes that’s correct increasing! We are seeing at first hand the appalling damage plastic is causing in every ocean as well as on land.

Shocking Facts
  1. 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year in the UK.
  2. In UK we use about 15 million plastic bottles per day.
  3. Most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.
  4. Plastic can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

For a more comprehensive understanding of plastic, take a look here

Reducing our dependence on plastic will take a huge effort. – here are a few ideas

  1. Try and avoid buying things made of plastic if there is an alternative.
  2. It is too easy to walk into any shop and buy a product wrapped in plastic packaging, it takes more effort to find a similar product which is free of packaging.
    Perhaps the best method to reduce plastic packaging is regularly complain to retailers and manufacturers that we do not want as much packaging on the products we buy. If they see this as a possible reduction in sales, they will soon start to press their suppliers to change things. Give it a go.
  3. It’s already happening after UK introduced payment for single use carrier bags, it has resulted in a reduction of up to 80%. It was estimated the reduction in the first 6 months was in the order of 6 billion bags. If you have any spare bags hanging around use them as bin liners.
  4. In the last year Delhi has made a drastic decision in an attempt to reduce the unsustainable growth of plastic, the local government has banned the use of single use plastic containers. It will be interesting to see how this progresses. Encourage our councils to do the same.
  5. If you have a look at the nightmare of micro-plastic fibres, you may want to stop buying clothes made of synthetic materials such as polyester.
  6. Don’t use plastic straws
  7. Don’t buy bottled water – use a refillable bottle
  8. Food waste also creates extra packaging waste - Did you know the average family wastes £700 worth of food per year. Buy what you need, try to avoid over spending and wasting loads of food plus all the packaging. Take a list and stick to it!
  9. Ignore sweets and crisps - Go for a healthier, cheaper and less polluting option, such as an apple without packaging.
  10. If you can afford it, bulk buy, ask your kids to find the largest pack size when out shopping - Reduced packaging for bulk buying works as follows. The surface area to volume ratio reduces as items become larger, so relatively speaking a larger pack requires less packaging per item. We hope that makes sense!
  11. Buy loose fruit and veg products - Just pile them into your trolley or basket, take them to the checkout and then put them straight into your carrier bag. No plastic is used, and you can save money.
  12. Try going to a local market, take your own bags and the stall holder will pour the fruit and veg straight in. ​
  13. Avoid pre-prepared, pre-packaged vegetables?!
  14. Avoid plastic cutlery, dishes and plates.
  15. ​Ask your kids to help you clean your windows. Show them that undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle is perfect for the job - Refill your 1 litre spray bottle every month and reduce your plastic imprint by at least 12 bottles a year.
  16. If your kids want to buy your other half a beautiful bunch of flowers – try and avoid those wrapped in plastic.
  17. Show your children how to protect seedlings with a plastic bottle cloche - ask your friends and family for old plastic drinks bottles, cut off the bottom, secure them over your plants and hey presto you have a ready made cloche to help young plants.
  18. Use a ‘Paper Potter’ to make plant pots from old newspapers
Water
In the kitchen
  1. Running a tap until the water is cold wastes about 4 litres each time. Why not fill a covered jug and put it in the fridge for later use.
  2. Ask your children to keep an eye out for dripping taps, they can lose 90 litres of water a day, that’s a lot if it carries on for weeks or even months. Over a year that will cost you around £65 and as the saying goes ‘it’s pouring money down the drain’.
  3. Save water when washing vegetables and dishes by using a bowl of cold water rather than a running tap. This saves about 5 litres of water every time, then recycle the water by using it to water your household plants.
  4. Using a sink of water to wash crockery and cutlery twice a day rather than leaving the hot tap running could save money on your gas bill and about £30 on your water bill (if you have a water meter). 
  5. Involve your children in cooking and show them that by keeping the lid on saucepans reduces the amount of water lost as steam. This means you do not have to put so much in and so saves water and energy as it takes less time for the water to heat up and cook your lovely veggies.
  6. A standard dishwasher programme uses 10 litres of water, dishwashers on an eco-setting only use 7 litres.
  7. Run your dishwasher only when full to capacity. Washing a half load simply uses and wastes twice the water, detergent and energy.
  8. Use fewer plates, utensils and dishes to reduce washing up and water usage.
  9. Do not worry about pre-rinsing before putting stuff in the dishwasher, most machines can handle all but the most stubborn residue.
  10. Reduce the number of clothes washes you do per day by always making sure you have a full load. This will save water, energy, detergent and your money.
  11. Run your washing machine only when full to capacity. Washing a half load simply uses and wastes twice the water, detergent and energy.
In the bathroom and toilet
  1. Reduce your time under the power shower. If you reduce an 8 minute shower to a 4 minute shower you save around 68 litres of water and at the same time save up to £110 from water and energy use reduction.
  2. A £30 aerated shower head can reduce water flow but won’t compromise on shower pressure. They maintain the pressure by mixing air with water to produce a steady even spray. An 8 minute power shower will use 41 litres less hot water and save you 18p per shower on water and energy.
  3. The average bath uses 80 litres of water. Try reducing the depth of water or even sharing it with someone else!
  4. Remember to turn off the tap whilst you are actually brushing your teeth, this could save 3.5 litres of water disappearing down the plughole. Alternatively use a glass of water for rinsing your mouth and you could save up to 4 litres each time you brush your teeth. This only saves about £6 per year (per person), but it all counts.
  5. Toilet flushing accounts for 30% of our daily water use. Don’t flush the toilet as frequently (you can wee 2 or 3 times before flushing), to save water and money. 
  6. If you have an old style toilet this could be using up to 13 litres of water for each flush. Put a 3 litre container full of water in the cistern and it will reduce water usage immediately and save a family of 4 around £44 per year.
In the garden
  1. Include your little ones when washing the car but avoid using the hose pipe. Hose pipes can deliver 1,000 litres of water per hour, so if you washed your car for just 6 minutes every week you would send 5,200 litres (or around £10 of water) down the drain. Use a bucket and cloth or sponge instead.
  2. As water prices rise, what better way to save money and beat any hosepipe bans than collecting rain water from your roof in a tank, barrel or bin. Encourage your little ones to help you water the garden from the butts. You can save thousands of litres of water a year and use it to water your vegetables, flowers or lawn, saving you money at the same time.
  3. If you have to use tap water to irrigate your garden ask your little ones to help fill watering cans, this can significantly reduce the amount of water used whilst delivering the desired amount to your plants. However if you insist on using a hosepipe to water your garden, attach a trigger nozzle which will halve the amount of water used and help direct the flow to the roots of your plants. Just keep it out of the hands of a youngster, you may end up as wet as the plants.
  4. If you are passionate about saving water there is no better way to show your dedication than shifting to a more plant-based diet. Estimates suggest it takes 25,000 litres of water to produce just 1kg of beef!!!!
Glass

Reduce - Since we do not generate very much glass waste, reduction isn't a big priority. Of course, though, there is always room for improvement. Unfortunately for most of the products that come in glass containers the only alternative is plastic, which is certainly less desirable than glass.

  1. Only buy new jars of food ​when old ones are nearly empty

How many unused jars are in your cupboards or fridge? Only buy jams, marmalades, pickles, mustards, etc when you are running out.

Food

On average, 30% (8.3 million tonnes) of food is thrown away in the UK every year, a massive £840 per household. If we all help stop this outrageous waste, the CO₂ reduction would be the equivalent to taking 1 in 4 cars off the road. In comparison, the USA throws out food to the value of $161 billion each year, that’s more than the GDP of many small countries. EcoFrenzy give ideas on how to cut food bills and waste, helping you save money and the environment.

Teach your kids the meaning of food labels to help reduce what you throw out. These are the most important ones to understand.

‘Use by’ date

You will see "Use by" dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads, and mainly refer to safety.

This label is aimed at consumers as a directive of the date by which the product should be eaten. Don't use any food or drink after the end of the "use by" date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk.

For the "Use by" date to be a valid guide, you must follow storage instructions such as "Keep in a refrigerator". If you don't follow these instructions, the food will spoil more quickly and you may risk food poisoning.

Once a food with a "Use by" date on it has been opened, you also need to follow any instructions such as "Eat within three days of opening".

But remember, if the "Use by" is tomorrow, then you must use the food by the end of tomorrow, even if the label says "eat within a week of opening" and you have only opened the food today.

If a food can be frozen its life can be extended beyond the "Use by" date. But make sure you follow any instructions on the pack, such as "Cook from frozen" or "defrost thoroughly before use and use within 24 hours".

"Use by" dates are the most important date to consider, as these relate to food safety and your health.

‘Best before’ date

‘Best before’ dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.

‘Best before’ dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn't mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.

Every year in the UK we throw away 8.3m tonnes of food and drink, most of which could have been eaten. So think carefully before throwing away food past its ‘Best before’ date.

Remember, the ‘Best before’ date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label, such as ‘Store in a cool dry place’ or ‘Keep in the fridge once opened’.

‘Display until’ and ‘Sell by’ dates

Retailers often use ‘Sell by’ and ‘Display until’ dates on their shelves, mainly for stock control purposes. These aren't required by law and are instructions for shop staff, not for shoppers.

Ideas to help you save food
  1. Make a list and stick to it
    Large stores are a minefield for the unwary shopper. Supermarkets spend a fortune on marketing campaigns to lure you into spending more than you want or can afford.
  2. Pre-plan meals
    Pre-planning is a good way to shop efficiently to reduce possible waste, save money and free up precious leisure time.
  3. What's running out?
    Keep a list of foodstuffs noting what you run out of to save doubling up on ingredients. If you are in a rush, take a photo of your fridge or cupboard.
  4. Only buy new jars of food ​when old ones are nearly empty
    How many unused jars are in your cupboards or fridge? Only buy jams, marmalades, pickles, mustards, etc when you are running out.
  5. Avoid tempting treats
    ​Avoid the tasty (but often expensive) tempting treats dotted around supermarkets. ​Try not to be seduced by the end of aisle bargains, you probably don’t need them.
  6. Do not always be seduced by special offers
    In February 2013, Which? investigated the price of 700,000 items on sale at the five big supermarkets and found some special offers were more expensive than products not on offer.
  7. Stop preparing oversize portions
  8. If you are regularly throwing food away, avoid buying, preparing and serving food in volumes that make over size portions which no-one can finish.
    Try to cook only what is needed for a meal
    It is so easy to overestimate portion size. Count out each part of the meal e.g. how many potatoes does each person need, a 6’8” rugby player probably needs more than your nan! If you are not happy to trust yourself take out the guesswork with the portion tool at lovefoodhatewaste.com.
  9. Use leftovers to make another meal
    Don't waste leftovers, there are many suggestions online to help you produce a hearty meal e.g. lovefoodhatewaste.com.
  10. Freeze leftovers
    If you have made too much food for one meal, don’t throw it away, that's just throwing away money. Instead bag it and freeze it. For ease of use, freeze in portions, then label and date the bags or airtight containers.
  11. Store food in the right place to reduce waste
    ​Many of us don’t store our food in the best place to keep it fresh for longer. Store bread in a cupboard or bread bin, keep fruit in the fridge (but not bananas), and always store potatoes in a cool dark place.
Other ideas to reduce waste

Many hazardous products cannot be recycled as they contain harmful chemicals so buy non-toxic products whenever possible Many toxic products such as motor oil and pesticides cannot be reused so try and keep your usage to a minimum.

Find safer alternatives to hazardous household products. - You can even make your own household cleaners using products such as baking soda and vinegar. Olive oil with lemon juice is a good alternative to furniture polish and using scented candles are a good alternative to air fresheners.

For more ideas about cleaning take a look at - ecofrenzy cleaning section

Recycling

Recycling is a way of extending the usefulness of something that has already fulfilled its initial purpose. Recycling means taking rubbish and making it into something new. Every time we recycle we save our environment a little more, we cut down fewer trees, use less water and use less energy. Every time you throw something away it is sent to a landfill site or burnt in an incinerator to make electricity. Our landfill sites are filling up so what do we do with the mountain of rubbish, we need to recycle it.

The great thing is that most things can be recycled. Every day, clever scientists come up with new ways to make use of things we usually consider rubbish. But what exactly do they do with the recycling? We will investigate this very question throughout this section.

How much do we currently recycle in UK

Britain has a pitiful record when it comes to recycling: "only 18 per cent of municipal waste is recycled in Britain, compared to 28 per cent in France, 58 per cent in Germany and 65 per cent in the Netherlands". Councils would claim that it is far higher, but their figures are skewed. They send much of the waste overseas for so called recycling. Unfortunately it turns out that much of this waste is unfit for recycling in these other countries due to cross contamination with other materials and the general filthy state of the raw materials. Instead it is often dumped or incinerated. This means although councils claim it is being recycled, the opposite is happening. Recently China has refused to take any more of our plastic, textiles and mixed paper, so rather than finding a proper solution in UK and recycle our own waste, we are simply looking for another country such as Indonesia to act as our rubbish tip. It’s time for UK to step up and make sure we take responsibility for our actions.

Shocking facts
  1. On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish.
  2. As much as 50% of waste in the average dustbin could be composted.
  3. Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.
  4. 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made easier.
  5. The unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours.
  6. The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with rubbish from the UK in 8 months.
  7. Some products such as plastic can hang around and cause trouble for up to 1,000 years. How many of you saw ‘Blue Planet’ and the horrible things that happen to some of our favourite animals such as whales and turtles when they eat or are caught in plastic. We want to see all these animals living a carefree life so we have to take action!
Why do we need to re-cycle?

Recycling saves materials and natural resources (trees, oil, water, minerals etc.), reduces the need to landfill and incinerate, cuts down pollution, and helps to make the environment more attractive. Recycling doesn't just save materials: it saves energy too.

If you recycle a single aluminium can you save about 95 percent of the energy it would take to make a brand new can. That's enough energy saved to power your television for about 3 hours!  Just imagine if everyone were recycling most of their rubbish: together, we'd make a tremendous reduction in the use of raw materials and energy—and help our planet at the same time.

These days it is recognised that it is important that children know how to help the environment by recycling, and schools do a really good job! Consequently children are often the instigators and law enforcers of recycling in the home. If they are not, and if you think the children you know need a little nudge in the right direction, now is the time to make it happen.

We are now consuming resources faster than the Earth can replace them. In fact, if everyone in the world lived like we do, we would need at least 1.7 planets to meet our demand for natural resources and absorb our waste and pollution.

We will all produce a huge mound of rubbish in our lifetime, starting from when we are tiny babies right through to old age. The items may change from nappies to electronic goods to old clothes but all that stuff has an impact and leaves an impression -- our human footprint on the Earth. And if you break it down, the numbers can be alarming: (from www.ecoclean.in)

For example In USA alone the average person produces around 1.8kg rubbish per day, multiply that by 365 (days in the year) then by 300 million (the number of people in USA) and that adds up to 19.17 million tonnes of rubbish per day. What is so crazy 75% of that can probably be recycled.

Just look at the resources we can save by recycling a few simple everyday things.

  1. Over 4kg of waste paper is used per household in the UK each week! If we recycled all of this we could be saving over 4 trees a year per household.
  2. 8.5 litres of water is used to manufacture an average plastic water bottle, that’s crazy, so it takes 8.5 times more water to make the bottle that contains the 1 litre of water you want to drink. Please, please, please stop buying bottled water, use the tap. It will also help to reduce the plastic pollution in our seas!!
  3. It takes 32kg CO2 to produce 1 pair of jeans, think carefully before you throw out clothing and you can seriously reduce your impact on global warming. If you want to understand more about CO₂ and global warming, check out - here
  4. 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  5. 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.
  6. 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.
Recycling is cool!

Explain to your children that it is important to think carefully whenever they decide to throw an item away – do they really need it anymore, and is there anything they could do with it rather than just throw it in the bin?

Even if your children have grown out of old clothes and toys, firstly think if they can be reused, someone else might want them – perhaps a friend or younger relative, or you could give them away to a charity shop. If that is a no go then think about recycling them.

Ultimately, it is important to teach our children to take care of the environment, and recycling is a simple and effective way to positively influence the world we live in. It can be done in a fun manner. Learning all about recycling not only gives our children the chance to protect the environment, but also makes them feel that they can make a positive contribution to saving our whole planet.

It has to become a lifestyle not just a fad, this is our future.

Let’s all enourage our children to spread the message of recycling to their relatives and friends, in-fact to everyone.

The recycling process:

We, are of course the first part of the recycling process. It is up to us to check which material are recyclable see recycling symbols or check with your local council. It is important not to shove everything into the recycling bin without being pretty sure it should be there. Many a bin’s rubbish ends up in landfill due to contamination. All that work for nothing!

Next clean the recyclable materials, this makes the process much easier for the recycling companies, then finally put it in the correct bin. Simple but effective.

Then the bin lorries collect the materials and transport them to the Materials Recovery Facilities.

The materials are separated by machine or by hand, compressed and made into packages through special treatment.

The most useful materials are sent to manufacturers to make new products. For example, used aluminium cans are melted down for moulding into new cans, pie pans, number plate frames and aluminium foil.

If you want to understand the processing of raw materials – have a look at a programme called ‘The Story of Stuff’ it gives a good insight into the whole cycle of recycling.

What can be recycled?

Loads of things can be recycled, but the process is not always the same in every part of the UK. This can make it very difficult for the householder to understand what is recyclable, what is not and what to do with the various materials if it is not made obvious. It does not help that there may be several different packaging materials surrounding a single product, and the labelling can be confusing. We will have a closer look at this in the next section.

On top of that each council may have a different set of guidelines for collection and different coloured bins. We may have come up with a simple solution to this problem but it will take a lot of work to help put it into action. See below.

Your council has probably supplied you with a sheet similar to that shown here (this was supplied in Bury St Edmunds Suffolk) which will at least give some basic ideas. Try and stick to it.

Just to recap we will have a look at a few materials that are pretty much universally recycled. As a country we are not recycling enough of these waste products so even if you do not have time to do more, concentrate on recycling as much of these as possible. That would be a great start.

Glass

Glass is very easy to recycle; waste bottles and jars can be melted down and used again and again. Bottle banks are common place in UK and were the original examples of community recycling in many countries.

Jars, bottles, dishes, drinking glasses, coffee mugs and even jewellery can be made from recycled glass.

  1. Each UK family uses an average of 500 glass bottles and jars annually.
  2. The largest glass furnace produces over 1 million glass bottles and jars per day.
  3. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be used again and again.
  4. Glass that is thrown away and ends up in landfills will never decompose.
Metal

Most of the metal we throw away at home comes from food and drink cans and aerosols. Typically food cans are made from steel, which can be melted down and turned into new food cans.

Aluminium

Drinks cans are generally thinner and lighter and made from aluminium, which can also be recycled very easily. Mining aluminium is a very energy-intensive and environmentally harmful process. That's why waste aluminium cans have a relatively high value and why re-cycling them is such a good thing to do.

  1. 24 million tonnes of aluminium is produced annually, 51,000 tonnes of which ends up as packaging in the UK.
  2. If all cans in the UK were recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins.
  3. £36,000,000 worth of aluminium is thrown away each year.
  4. Aluminium cans can be recycled and ready to use in just 6 weeks.

Aluminium cans / foil can be melted down and reused over and over again. It can be recycled into: drinks cans, plates, number plates, aluminium foil, and many other objects.

Wood

People have been reusing this traditional, sustainable material for as long as human history. Waste wood is often turned into new wooden products—such as recycled wooden flooring or garden decking.

Old wooden railroad sleepers (now widely replaced by concrete) are sometimes used as building timbers in homes and gardens. Waste wood can also be shredded and stuck together with adhesives to make composite woods such as laminates. It can also be composted or burned as a fuel.

Plastic

Plastic bottles of water and soft drinks, packaging used for food such as yogurt and butter, empty containers of detergents, cleaning products, shower gels, shampoos, toothpastes, deodorants Recycled plastic is used to manufacture toys, rulers, clothing and fibrefill for sleeping bags and stuffed animals.

See Ecofrenzy plastic section

Of all the different materials we lob into the bin, plastics cause by far the biggest problem. They last a long time in the environment without breaking down—sometimes maybe as much as 1,000 years. They're very light and they float, so plastic litter drifts across the oceans and washes up on our beaches, killing wildlife and scarring the shoreline. The only trouble is, plastics are relatively hard to recycle. There are many different kinds of plastic and they all have to be recycled in a different way. There's so much plastic about that waste plastic material doesn't have much value, so it's not always economic to collect. Plastic containers also tend to be large and, unless people squash them, they quickly fill up recycling bins.

All told, plastics are a bit of an environmental nightmare—but that's all the more reason we should make an effort to recycle them! Different plastics can be recycled in different ways. Plastic drinks bottles are usually made from a type of clear plastic called PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and can be turned into such things as textile insulation (for thermal jackets and sleeping bags). Milk bottles tend to be made from a thicker, opaque plastic called HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and can be recycled into more durable products like flower pots and plastic pipes.

Paper and cardboard

In the 1970’s everyone was talking about a paperless society. Some chance! Today we are producing more paper than ever before, thankfully we are also recycling more than ever before. Unfortunately paper can only be recycled a certain number of times, this is because paper is made from plant fibres which shorten during paper making. Eventually they become too short to make good paper, so there is always a need to manufacture some new paper to keep levels up.

Nothing is ever simple and so it is with recycling paper and cardboard. Paper quality is rarely the same, we may have a wide range of product from high quality printing paper to low quality paper towels. The higher the quality of the waste the better the quality of material after recycling. A lot of waste paper and cardboard is often mixed together and so we can only recycle this into low grade material for e.g. newspapers.

Waste documents are usually covered in ink, which has to be removed before paper can be recycled. Using bleach to de-ink papers can be an environmentally harmful process and it produces toxic ink wastes that have to be disposed of somehow. So, although recycling paper has many benefits, it comes with environmental costs as well.

  1. Recycled paper produces 73% less air pollution than if it was made from raw materials.
  2. 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are used annually in the UK.
Food

Make your own compost

Between 30% and 53% (by weight) of domestic refuse does not fit under the headings of paper, glass, metals or plastic. The largest fraction is food and garden waste (grass cuttings, leaves and pruning waste). This can be composted and ensure you have a constant supply of soil enrichment material for your garden, it also saves precious peat bogs and reduces your cost of buying fertilisers.

You can also add shredded paper, egg shells, tea bags, etc to the mix to produce a balanced product ready to:

  1. Mix with soil.
  2. Act as a potting medium.
  3. Spread on the garden.
  4. Act as a soil improver.
  5. Act as a mulch to suppress weeds.

Make your own compost heap

Here are a couple of easy ways to make your own compost heap:

  1. Find 4 cast off pallets, either from deliveries or check if there are any pallet recovery schemes in your area. Lay one on the ground and nail the other 3 around 3 of the sides. Hey presto a compost heap and an added bonus you have recycled the pallets.
  2. Take four 1m x 5cm x 5cm posts and hammer them into the ground in a square, 1 metre apart. Place rows of bricks across the bottom (for air circulation). Staple 60cm wire netting around three of the sides and across the bottom (above the bricks). As your compost heap is filled, place sheets of cardboard against the inside of the wire mesh to insulate the heap. An old carpet can be placed over the waste to stop it drying out and to keep the heat in.

Make up your compost heap rapidly for the best composting action. Try to ensure that the material is not so soft that it collapses internally stopping air circulating (lawn cuttings do this) nor so stiff that it resists decay and becomes too open, thus drying out.

  1. Urine poured over your heap helps break down the organic material.
  2. You may want to add a wire mesh base to try and keep vermin out.
Old Clothes and textiles

We all have clothes or textiles such as curtains, duvet covers and blankets that we don’t want any more or are past their best.

Recycle at charity shops or in appropriate recycling bins at your tip or at another local site. Alternatively pass them on to siblings, friends or colleagues.

Clothes and textiles that are in good condition can be donated and sold for re-use. Items that aren’t suitable to be passed onto someone else can be recycled and made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets.

Ink Cartridges

Some companies, such as Tesco, offer points to people who recycle their ink cartridges. These points can be used to buy things in their shop. Some websites offer money for ink cartridges check our recycle4charity

Mobile phones and other electronic gadgets

Check out websites where you can recycle old mobile phones and other electronic equipment:

www.cashinyourgadgets.co.uk
www.onrecycle.co.uk
www.comparemymobile.com
www.sellmymobile.com
www.o2recycle.co.uk
www.compareandrecycle.co.uk

Batteries

Used batteries can be sent for recycling by placing them into collection containers that can be found at many retail outlets and other public buildings across the UK.

Toys

How did we ever buy so many toys for our kids? If you are anything like us you feel embarrassed, however we are on a toy recycling binge at the moment, but it is not as easy as you think. Toys can be a combination of so many different materials, so we have to look at alternative ways to keep them from being dumped or incinerated. Here are a few ways to recycle them -

  1. Keep old toys for the next generation.
  2. Donate old toys to a charity.
  3. Pass toys on to children’s hospitals, surgeries, orphanages
  4. Include toys in gift boxes to go to under privileged kids abroad.
  5. Sell old toys at a car boot sale.
  6. Sell toys online with ebay or schpock

If you decide to make a recycling run to the tip, make sure you have a mass of stuff so that you are making the most of your trip. Remember short car trips waste lots of fuel and blast out loads of CO₂..

How can you tell what is recyclable

Here’s a neat fact – around 50% of your rubbish can be recycled but it is not always easy to know what is recyclable and what is not.

Here’s a good way to check your waste - whenever you buy food, you should check the wrapper to see if it can be recycled. Most food packets will have little pictures on the back like the ones here. These pictures help you to know what is recyclable or not – Sometimes there are several types of packaging around one product. They may all have a different symbol, please be patient and separate the various materials and put them in the right bin.

Just a quick word of sympathy here, some of these symbols say things like ‘Plastic, check local recycling’ well in all reality how many of us are going to take the trouble of calling the council every time we see this symbol. We understand that WRAP (waste & resources action programme) are looking for alternative solutions and there could be some movement on this is in the near future. Until then many people will not bother to recycle because it is too complicated and frankly we do not blame them, however for those of you still trying, we do suggest you keep to the guidelines given by your council according to their data sheets. Surely it is time to take the packaging manufacturers to task, they have a responsibility to us all.

By the way do not be confused by the Green Dot symbol or FSC wood, they are not what they seem – take a look at our blogs

The green dot symbol on packaging is misleading

Does the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label mean anything anymore?

Recycycling Symbols
Plastic
Hard Plastic

Referring to harder and heavier plastic packaging, such as trays, this logo tells you that this part of the packaging is only recycled by 20-70% of local council's. ​Check with your local council before putting this material into your recycling bin.

Plastic Film

This logo appears all too frequently on packaging and generally refers to thin plastic film. This part of packaging is only being recycled by 20% of councils. You should still check with your local council whether this material is being recycled in your area, because it does not definitively mean it’s not recycled.

Carrier Bags

Some plastic films can be recycled at carrier bag collection points at major supermarkets.

Recyclable

Items include carrier bags, yogurt pots, margarine tubs, trays and punnets (without film lids).

Non-recyclable

Items include boxed cereal inners, clingfilm, crisp packets, bubblewrap, food and drink pouches, ready meal film lids.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)

Widely accepted for recycling through your bin or local recycling centre. Products include water bottles, soft and fizzy drink bottles, pots, tubs, oven ready trays and jam or honey jars.

HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

Widely accepted for recycling through your bin or local recycling centre. Products include kitchenware, toys, picnic ware, household and kitchenware and cable insulation.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)

Limited recyclability (check with your local recycling centre). Examples of this plastic include food trays, cling film, cosmetics bottles, footwear, credit cards and synthetic leather

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)

Can be recycled (but check with your local recycling centre).Commonly used Squeezey bottles, six-pack rings, tubing, toys, carrier bags, heavy duty sacks, gas and water pipes.

PP (Polypropylene)

Can be recycled (but check with your local recycling centre).Examples of this plastic include margarine tubs, microwavable meal trays, moulded plastic car parts and industrial fibres.

PS (Polystyrene)

Sometimes accepted for recycling, but low demand for recycled Styrofoam.Examples include takeaway boxes, vending cups, toys and novelties, refrigerator trays, cosmetic packs, CD cases, plastic cutlery and cafeteria trays.

Other

Other kinds of plastic not defined by the previous groups.

Carboard
Cardboard Boxes

This logo indicates that over 75% of England’s councils have household recycling collection for that packaging type (check that you are not in the 25% of councils that don’t recycle this waste). The logo tells you which part of the packaging it refers to (BOX) and the material it consists of (CARDBOARD).

Cardboard Sleeves

This logo indicates that over 75% of England’s councils have household recycling collection for that packaging type (check that you are not in the 25% of councils that don’t recycle this waste). The logo tells you which part of the packaging it refers to (SLEEVE) and the material it consists of (CARD).

Glass
Recycle Glass through Household Waste Collection

75% or more of councils provide household recycling collection facilities for glass in their area. Metal lids (capsules) can be left on.

Recycle Glass through Bottle Banks

Please dispose of glass bottles and jars in a bottle bank (but remember to separate colours). Metal lids (capsules) can be left on.

Metal
Steel

Recyclable steel products include food tins, bottle tops, paint cans (empty and dried out), aerosols (without lids) and scrap metal.

Aluminium

This includes drink cans, food tins, biscuit/chocolate tins and lids, aerosols, kitchenware (cutlery, pots and pans), aluminium foil, foil trays and tubes (e.g. tomato puree). For other metal items, check your local recycling centre.

Aluminium

This includes drink cans, food tins, biscuit/chocolate tins and lids, aerosols, kitchenware (cutlery, pots and pans), aluminium foil, foil trays and tubes (e.g. tomato puree). For other metal items, check your local recycling centre.

Other symbols
The Green Dot

This symbol is very misleading, it does not mean that packaging is recycled or recyclable.

See our blog to understand the meaning of this symbol.

​It just shows that the producer has made a small financial contribution to the recovery and recycling of packaging.

Mobius Loop

Indicates that an object can be recycled - not that it has been recycled or will be recyclable everywhere. The symbol can be used with a % figure to explain that the packaging contains X% of recycled material.

Keep Britain Tidy

This logo means you should dispose of litter carefully and thoughtfully. Do not litter. This doesn't relate to recycling, but is a reminder to be a good citizen, disposing of your refuse in the most appropriate manner.

Waste Electricals

Waste electrical items - from household appliances to mobile phones to IT equipment - can be recycled if you see this symbol. Do not put electrical items in your household collection bins.

Wood

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo identifies products which contain wood from well managed forests. Wood (furniture, toys, etc) can be taken by most recycling centres, unfortunately this is not the true picture, for a more comprehensive understanding please see our blog.

Why do manufacturers make it so difficult? How about making a poster with your child showing all the common symbols to look out for. Make copies and spread them around to your friends.

Where do you recycle stuff

1. The first place to start is at home – check your bins, check what they can take and stick to the guidelines. If you are unsure, go on-line, many councils have apps to show you what to do with hundreds of products.

Here is the Suffolk app, we use it all the time.

2. Some car parks have recycling bins, maybe your supermarket, maybe your community centre. They are all separate and may take glass bottles, inkjet cartridges and clothing.

3. Inside some supermarkets you can recycle plastic bags and batteries.

4. Every council has at least one central recycling centre, you can take most items to these centres for recycling, anything from plastic to scrap metal.

Just make sure you have everything separated prior to going, it makes life so much simpler once you arrive.

Recycling at school

There are over 34,000 schools in the UK! What an opportunity to recycle!

Help your children to set up a recycling bank at school - they can make their own recycling bins out of cardboard boxes, colour code them and use them in school.

  1. Paper – make a bin for each classroom. All of the schools paper can then be recycled into new paper.
  2. If your kids have a drinks machine in their school, make sure there is a bin next to it for drinks cans.
  3. Compost heap (for details see the section above) - another great way to include your school in recycling is by creating a compost heap. All you need to do is make sure there is a bin for unwanted food at the side of the playground. You could even ask the kitchen chefs to give you all of their vegetables peels.

The compost can be used to grow vegetables for the school kitchen, for cooking lessons, or to be sold at the school fair. Selling your vegetables and compost at the school fair is a great way to teach others about recycling.

Make sure everyone in your school knows that they are supposed to be recycling. Make bright and colourful posters with instructions about how to recycle – and make sure you tell them where the bins are kept.

Fun Activities

Maybe there can be rewards for the kids for loads of recycling e.g. a certificate

Weekly sheets – on laptop / phone
Week 1 Reduce paper usage
Week 2 Reduce plastic usage
Week 3 Reduce water usage
Etc.

Recycling websites – recyclenow
Fun game on the NASA website
Make stuff out of e.g. Plastic bottles
Competitions
Puzzles

Ask your children to draw 5 things they can reduce using, 5 things they can recycle, and 5 things they can reuse Have a pile of clean rubbish and ask them to sort the recycling

Make models from junk
Design a poster
Make musical instruments from junk, make Xmas decs.
Look for recycling symbols on packaging and waste and ask the kids to explain what it means.
Games to distinguish between materials e.g. make a pile of glass, plastic, paper and metal
Wallcharts showing what your children have recycled
Tick box sheet of what your kids have reduced, recycled and reused this week.

New idea from Ecofrenzy to simplify recycling

9/10 people say they would recycle more if it was made simpler. Here’s an idea -
How about something revolutionary in the world of recycling?

Why don’t we make it so simple that we all know which packaging can be recycled and where we put it?

How many times do you have a look at a piece of plastic film or a plastic tray engulfing a small morsel of food and wonder, is that recyclable?

Currently we look for some kind of recycling mark or symbol and then become confused as to what it means.

Here's a simple solution!

All councils in UK come together and agree on a uniform number and colour of bins for each household. At the same time they have to agree which materials they can all recycle (initially this could be a stumbling block as different councils have different recycling facilities, however nothing is insurmountable, as other countries have proved).

  1. Blue for material that can be recycled
  2. Green for organic material that can be composted
  3. Black for items that cannot be composted or recycled

Next the joint councils go to packaging manufacturers and ask for a simple change to packaging. 

If a material can be recycled it has a blue bin shape printed in a prominent position, if organic and compostable material, then a green bin shape is printed. Similarly if a material is not recyclable, then it has a black bin shape printed instead.

Then all consumers do is marry up the colour bin shape on the packaging to the correct colour bin outside their home, and hey presto, recycling made easy for everyone.

EcoFrenzy idea for consistent and easy to understand recycling and packaging symbols.

Reuse

Keep using the same things as many times as you can to reduce waste

You can "reuse" materials in their original form instead of throwing them away, or pass those materials on to others who could use them too!

Think creatively how you can reuse everyday items such as tin cans, egg boxes, plastic bottles in-fact anything you might throw away. Give them a second life and you are also saving energy, fuel, resources as well as reducing greenhouse emissions.

This is such an easy way to reduce our demand for new materials and reduce our waste at the same time.

If you don’t have time yourself to reuse stuff, there are many charities that need your help. A lot of countries in Africa are very poor, and children living there do not have very much. Lots of them don’t even have enough money for school books or new clothes!

What to do with your stuff -

Aluminum foil
Wash it and reuse

Bikes
Give it to a friend or family member who would like it or alternatively sell it to someone else who can make use of it.

Blankets and towels
Take them to a local animal shelter that will be glad to put them to good use and give animals a soft, warm place to sit.

Books
Pass on to friends or donate to a library or a school.

Car boot sales, jumble sales and charity shops
Go looking for things that you need at all these places rather than buying new

CDs and DVDs
Reuse them as coasters on the coffee table or maybe hang them out as bird scarers around the veggie patch

Clothing
Let others reuse it, pass it on to friends, family or donate to charity
If they are torn and unwearable, rip them up to make cleaning cloths. Old t-shirts work well for dusting.

Coffee grinds
Act as a fertilizer so place them into your garden or soil

Curtains
Tear them up and reuse as rags

Egg cartons
They can be used as partitioned storage boxes in your children's sock drawer or for small Christmas-tree balls.
Mum and dad, show your kids how to use them for chitting potatoes or as plant pots
Egg cartons can be used in art projects at school

Envelopes
Stick a label over the old address and reuse. This will save money as well as reducing the number of envelopes that are thrown away.

Food waste
Use to produce compost – see section above

Gift bags
If you receive a present in a gift bag, save it for another occasion and reuse that bag!

Glass bottles
Decorate them to make fancy candle holders.

Greeting cards
Reuse in craft projects.

Jars and Pots
Use them as small containers to store odds and ends. Reuse old glass containers with lids and save them for leftovers, or, make your own jam or jelly. Food safe airtight glass containers are also great for storing rice, pasta, sugar, and flour.

Leaves, lawn and plant cuttings
Reuse as compost for the garden

Magazines
Pass them on to friends with the same interest or donate them to your doctors / dentists waiting room

Margarine tubs
Can be reused as storage containers, anything from drawing pins to leftover soup destined for the freezer

Milk in glass bottles from your milkman
The bottles can be reused again and again. This reduces the number of plastic or cardboard milk containers that might otherwise be thrown away.

Packaging
Reuse packing peanuts, air pillows, bubble wrap, and boxes to send parcels to your friends and family at Christmas or for their birthdays

Paint
Bring our your creative side, find something in your home to touch up, or donate it to a local charity.

Paper and used envelopes
Use them as note paper

Old electronics gadgets and mobile phones
Donate them or sell them on:

www.cashinyourgadgets.co.uk
www.onrecycle.co.uk
www.comparemymobile.com
www.sellmymobile.com
www.o2recycle.co.uk
www.compareandrecycle.co.uk

Pens and art supplies
Donate excess materials to schools, hospitals, children’s homes or charities

Plastic bottles
Cut off the bottom and use as a cloche in the garden
Plastic cups, plates, utensils, and plastic food storage bags
Don't throw them away! Wash and reuse them—most of them will last for a long time with many uses.

Spray bottles
Clean them out and fill with water to spray plants or make your own window cleaner using water and white vinegar.

Toilet paper inner rolls
Tear them up and pop them in your compost

Toothbrush
Use it to clean hard to reach areas like around the sink, your drains, taps, and grout.

Toys
You can also donate toys you no longer want. Just like with clothes, unwanted toys can be donated to charities or friends who could use them.

Travel mugs
Instead of disposables; a lot of restaurants and stores will be glad to fill or refill your own mug.

Wood
Used wood can be used in woodcrafts for making objects such as a spice rack or a bird table.

Wrapping paper
If you manage to keep it in one piece as you open your birthday or Christmas presents, then save it for next year.

Yoghurt pots
Reuse them as plant pots