Once a quaint undertaking, participated in for little more than the novelty value, today recycling is a global effort. It influences government policy, affects the way whole industries operate, and is viewed as minimum requirement in the fight against climate change and environmental harm.
In celebration of the UK’s efforts to become a recycling world leader, Recycle Week was established so brands, waste management companies, the government, and the media could come together to achieve one goal: Galvanise the public into recycling more of the right things, more often.
Now in its 18th year, 2021 sees the week run from 20th – 26th September.
This year’s theme: Step It Up this Recycle Week
It would be something of an understatement to say the last 18 months were tough on us all. The pandemic inflicted pressures we could do little about and feelings of helplessness were common.
However, as we emerge from the other side, a challenge that has never gone away is waiting for us. The Climate Crisis has a reached a tipping point and ignoring it is no longer viable. Fortunately, most of us don’t ignore it and engage in behaviours, however small, that made a difference – like recycling.
We do though need to do more, we need to do it together, and we need to do it now.
So, for the 2021 ‘Step It Up this Recycle Week’, we’ve compiled a set of tips you can use to boost your recycling efforts whether at home or at work.
Just keep in mind, recycling isn’t just for Recycle Week, it’s for life.
Recycling at home
1. Get ruthless about bags
Plastic bags - the type we get at supermarkets - are awful things. Those that dissolve can turn into harmful microplastics and those that don’t dissolve stick around for a good 1,000 years. Where they make their way into natural habitats, they choke, entangle, and kill animals. They’re also a major interference in recycling loads, acting as “tanglers” that get caught in and shut down machinery.
Invest in some resilient bags, preferably made from recycled materials, and leave them in the boot of your car so you never forget them when going shopping.
2. Rinse your recyclables
There’s a reason your local council plead with you to do this. Food waste contaminates recyclable materials, making them useless for anything other than plugging landfills.
The rule of thumb is to clean recyclables sufficiently enough that you’d be happy to eat or drink from them again. Not only will this extra little effort help to protect the environment, it also prevents your bins from becoming a rodent hot-spot.
3. Stop ‘wishcycling’
Wishcycling is something you’ve probably never heard of but have almost certainly done. It’s where you put waste that, deep down you know isn’t recyclable (but wish was), into the recycling bin. All it achieves is contaminating whole loads of otherwise recyclable materials.
Most local authorities have thresholds when recyclables are sent to third-party waste management companies. If thresholds are exceeded, i.e., there’s too many unrecyclable materials mixed in with the recyclables, entire loads can end up in landfills.
In other words, ‘wishcycling’ can sabotage the whole system.
4. Switch to a green energy provider
Even if you consider yourself a recycling blackbelt, if the power coming into your home is generated through the burning of fossil fuels, your carbon footprint remains yeti-sized.
Have a browse of some of the many price comparison websites and consider switching to a provider that derives its energy from renewable sources. Best of all, given the increasing migration to renewables, tariffs are rarely more expensive and can even be cheaper.
5. Educate yourself
Arguably, this is the most important tip of all. If you feel your knowledge around sustainability is lacking, the internet is a treasure trove of information on how to improve your everyday behaviours.
Educate yourself, commit to making changes, and know that whatever the future brings, you can at least say you did your bit.
Recycling at work
1. Create a reuse station
Redundant office supplies have a habit of ending up in skips, and from there, who can ever be really sure? One way you can guarantee that your office supplies stay out of natural habitats, is to put them in a designated area of the building for others to reuse them.
The saying goes, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure” and this very much goes for items around the office. Chairs can be re-upholstered, desks can be taken home, and IT hardware can be donated to companies, specialising in tech refurbishment, yes, like ours.
2. Ditch the disposable cups
Ending the reliance on single-use water and coffee cups is a more powerful intervention than you might think.
If the average employee drinks from three disposable cups a day, that equates to 30kg of waste per year. A company with 50 employees, all drinking from three cups a day, generates 1.5 metric tonnes of waste over the same period.
This is a statistic worth sharing with your colleagues before implementing a ‘mug only’ policy.
3. Bring organic waste bins inside
Around 30% of the waste we generate is from consumables. By adding an organic waste bin, discarded food stuff is sent to composts where it is used to grow yet more food.
A clearly labelled, regularly emptied green bin, with educational posters surrounding it will help tick off another form of wastage that your company is dealing with responsibly.
4. Appoint Green Officers
You might be surprised how eager your colleagues are to help meet recycling goals.
Progress has been shown to accelerate with the appointment of Green Officers whose job it is to influence behaviours and hold people accountable.
Incentivising your colleagues to engage in responsible behaviours is an effective way of ramping up good practice.
Set either individual or company-wide goals (or both) and award prizes for things like ‘best recycler’ or ‘best recycling team’ each month.