How to Recycle (in 6 Easy Steps)

February 08, 2020

Let me start this post by stating recycling isn’t the solution to the problem of our overconsumption and subsequent waste issue, that’s not to say it doesn't still serve a purpose. All the waste we generate needs to go somewhere and sending it to landfill is far from the ideal solution, for rubbish that cant be reused or repaired recycling is far and above the best option out there.

But, recycling properly can be a real minefield and without the proper guidance it can do more harm than good with soiled items in the mix often resulting in recycling trucks being rejected and sent to landfill add to this that some surprising items pose a hazard and some can even result in broken machinery so should not be sent for recycling at any cost.

That’s why in this post we’ll explain exactly how you can recycle properly and reduce your waste in 6 simple steps.

How to Recycle

Step #1 Donate first

Recycling is certainly better than sending items to landfill but it shouldn’t be the first option when it comes to getting rid of your stuff. If your item still has some useful lifespan consider repairing and reusing, donating or upcycling to extend it’s life.

Despite it’s positives, reycling itself is an energy intensive and wasteful process with many pitfalls and isn’t a catch all solution for disposal of everything.

That being said, recycling is still a useful tool in a zero-wasters arsenal and can be used effectively following the steps below.

Step #2 Buy materials that are recyclable

This is a crucial but often overlooked step and that is to of course purchase items that can be recycled in the first place, don’t make the simple mistake of assuming just because an item has simple construction or is plastic that it can be recycled.

Avoid plastic recycling mishaps by following the plastic recycling guide below:

plastic recycling chart
Source: Great river plastics LLC

Other materials such as aluminium, steel, paper and card are a lot more simple to sort, look for a mobius symbol on the material and guidance for recycling instructions on the item itself. Soft drinks cans, cartons and other food packaging will typically have a small area highlighting best disposal practices on the packaging.

Symbols can differ from location as can the materials you are able to recycle in your local area, which brings us onto step 3!

Step #3 Check your local recycling advice

As we’ve just mentioned materials that are accepted in your local area and at local recycling points can differ vastly from place to place. 

Search for recycling guidance from your local council to make sure you don’t face any recycling uspets or mixups.

Step #4 Wash and clean your recycling

Soiled recycling can often result in whole truck loads of recycling being rejected and sent to landfill in the worst case but is worth less money and can be thrown away by recycling plants in most cases.

That’s why it’s important to make sure any item you’re about to recycle is cleaned and rinsed first so your hard work doesn’t go to waste. Removing labels and separating items out into the different material components and throwing away any soiled items like pizza boxes are all important steps to being a top recycler!

Step #5 sort if required

recycling bins sorting

Echoing step 3, ensure you consult your local recycling guide to check exactly what materials need separating and sorting. Some recycling plants won’t have the facilities to sort your card and paper from metals and glass and some will. This differs from location to location so it’s best to consult your local guide and not make assumptions.

Step #6 Avoid certain items at all costs

Some items are a real nightmare to recycle and can result in whole loads of recycling being rejected, make sure you avoid mixing these items into your recycling at all costs:

  • No tangling items - plastic carrier bags, hoses, lengths of rope and more can get tangled in machinery at recycling plants and pose a risk to workers. 
  • No dirty diapers - dirty diapers and other similar soiled items will taint yours and others recycling and result in the whole lot being rejected.
  • No household items - shoes, furniture, textiles and more can’t be recycled due to the construction and mix of materials and should instead be upcycled, donated or repaired.
  • No medical waste - medical waste can pose a hazard and shouldn’t be put in recycling or bins.
  • No garage waste - Car parts, scrap metal, tires, filters, propane cylinders and the like are safety hazards if put in curbside recycling or trash bins.

There you have it, 6 steps to make sure you get the most of recycling. Make sure you follow these 6 steps and guidance from your local recycling guide to ensure your recycling efforts don’t go to waste and end up in landfill!

Do you have any more handy recycling tips to share? Post them below.

Soseas guide to recycling

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