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Waste Less, Live More: Easy ways to improve your household recycling

It appears we've become a nation of recyclers, with household recycling rates skyrocketing from 12.3% in the year 2000 to a whopping 42.9% in 20161. But in actual fact, recycling rates have plateaued in recent years, whilst waste has increased, so we need to start thinking about what we recycle - beyond plastic bottles and cardboard boxes. Depending on your local recycling services, around half of what goes in your waste bin could potentially be recycled.

There are simple ways to ensure you're maximising your household recycling. We recommend putting a recycling bin next to your rubbish bin in the kitchen, as well as one in your bathroom and garage. In the bathroom alone there are a number of 'unusual suspects', which often miss out on being recycled, such as hairspray aerosols, tissue boxes, shampoo and cleaning bottles - all of which could be recycled. Be sure to also give recyclable items a quick clean to remove any residue, whether it's remnants in a yoghurt pot or conditioner bottle, it's better to make sure the it's clean and dry before you pop it in the recycling bin.

Don’t get carried away though, certain items definitely don’t belong in your recycling bin - think nappies, plastic carrier bags and food waste. Putting the wrong items in your recycling bin results in 'contamination' and your, as well as all of your neighbours', recycling could be rejected from recycling and end up in landfill or being incinerated (another way that unrecyclable waste is processed) instead.

Every local authority has slightly different rules about what you can or can't recycle, and also how they collect and dispose of waste and recycling. Your local authority might provide a separate food waste collection, or beyond what your local authority offers, your local supermarket might even have a plastic bag recycling point. The best way to find out what services are available in your local area is to use the information available at your fingertips, check out your local authority website or search the Recycle Now map, and google to see what recycling services your local supermarket offers.

And if you're wondering what happens to all the items you diligently put into your recycling bin, watch the short video below of a working 'material recovery facility'.

Written by Gust Michiels, Senior Project Manager - Waste Insights.

1 Local Authority Collected Waste Management Statistics, URL: (2017)

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