Reduce, reuse, and recycle. These three simple steps will help you to cut down on your waste and consumption and become a more sustainable world citizen. And it all starts with learning how to recycle like a pro!
In this article, we examine the recycling process, looking at easy ways to recycle, things that can be recycled at home, and how a plastic bottle makes it from the recycling bin and back into the supply chain - rather than into the ocean.
Keep reading, and find out how to recycle like a pro.
What are the steps of recycling?
To better understand how to recycle at home, it’s important to understand how recycling works as a whole. Let’s start by exploring the solutions for recycling that currently exist, so you can start to understand how your actions fit into the recycling chain - and why the little things, like using a can crusher or getting the plastic in the right bin, are so important.
Here are the major steps in the recycling process:
Step 1: Collection
Items are collected from your home or from recycling bins by your local waste management authority.
Increasingly, homes are provided with dedicated recycling bins; however, it’s incredibly important that you read which items are allowed in the different bins.
There can be separate bins for glass, and other bins for plastic or cardboard or aluminum can recycling. Different authorities run different recycling programs, so always double-check what can and can’t be recycled in your local area.
Step 2: Processing
Once your recycling has been collected, it’s sent to a processing plant. This is where the recyclable materials need to be further separated to ensure that only recyclable materials are being processed - and this is why it’s so helpful to get the right recyclables in the right bins.
Different materials go through different stages of processing, but the ultimate goal is to break down the recyclable waste into material that can be reused.
Step 3: Manufacturing
Recyclable materials are remanufactured where possible into new products. This can vary greatly, depending on the quality of the previous material and the available recycling programs.
For example, plastic bottles can only be safely recycled into bottles no more than three times - after this, the plastic degrades and must be used for other purposes.
Step 4: Purchasing recycled products
Once the recycled goods have been repurposed and remanufactured, they are then sent back out into the supply chain.
For example, for glass or plastic bottles, this means being shipped back to bottling plants where they can be refilled and resold.
Once the bottle has been used, it then needs to be recycled again - once again joining the recycling chain!
What are the easiest materials to recycle?
Some materials are easier to recycle than others, and as we already mentioned in the case of plastics, some materials have a much longer lifespan than others.
For this reason, it’s important that we begin to use materials that are easily recycled and that do have the potential to be recycled indefinitely.
You can help at home by only purchasing food, drink, or other packaged goods that are packed in recyclable materials.
This helps to keep recycling costs and energy use down and ultimately helps to save the planet - one bottle at a time!
The easiest materials to recycle include the following:
- Metals (e.g. aluminum)
- PET Plastics
- Paper and cardboard
For a truly environmental recycle, however, you also need to consider other factors too, such as sustainability. Glass, for example, is seen as much more sustainable than plastic. Glass is less of a pollutant; it can be recycled many more times than plastic, and it can be broken down much quicker!
This is where you can help by choosing sustainable options over less sustainable options. Even though plastic can be recycled, make the choice to purchase goods in glass containers, and the demand for plastic will ultimately fall.
What can I recycle at home?
As well as making informed choices at the supermarket to reduce your waste, you can also reuse items at home before you recycle them through official channels.
Glass containers are the best example of this. If you do lots of home cooking, then keep your old jam jars from the store; you can then reuse them for your own home-cooked applesauce!
Keep cardboard boxes for future storage purposes, or save the plastic containers from your last takeaway for leftovers. Anything that can be easily cleaned can be reused.
Once they have come to the end of their lifespan at home, then it’s time to place them in the recycling bins.
Common items that can be recycled rather than thrown in the trash include the following:
- Paper (newspapers, magazines, mixed paper, etc.)
- Glass bottles and jars
- Rigid plastic bottles
- Metal containers (tin, aluminum, steel cans, etc.)
In many places, it’s also possible to ‘recycle’ food waste. Local authorities often provide you with food waste bins, or you can start your own compost heap in the garden if they don’t. Food waste can be recycled and turned into compost or fertilizer for agriculture. Your apple cores will essentially be helping the next apples to grow. Food waste can also be turned into biofuel to fuel the local recycling plant!
The biggest recycling tips you need to take note of is getting the right materials in the right bins. Not everything can be recycled, and putting the wrong materials in the wrong place can slow the process down or even stop other recyclable goods from being recycled.
The biggest example of this is pizza boxes. Any materials that still have food or oil on them can’t be recycled. They can also cause other materials to be ‘contaminated’ with food. These materials then end up in a landfill.
How to recycle: the final say
Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Three easy words that will help you to become a recycling professional!
Reduce the need for landfills by selecting recyclable materials when doing your next grocery shop. Skip the plastic bags, and go for glass jars and bottles!
Reuse any and all materials you can at home, before then recycling the materials that can be recycled. Why not bookmark our guide to recycling, so you can learn how to recycle like a pro?