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Expert Advice: Great Ways to Recycle at Home

Gina Narramore

Gina Narramore



To coincide with National Recycling Week, McCarthy & Stone spoke to First Mile to see how more people can recycle at home – particularly those in retirement.

Kerbside recycling only came to the UK in 2003. But, since then, the UK’s household recycling rate has skyrocketed from only 12% to 43%.

However, there’s still much more we can do to help the environment by recycling because, according to Recycle Now, 79% of all the plastic we’ve ever produced is still in the environment and, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.

Here, with the help from experts at First Mile, we’ll provide you with some top tips on how you can get more actively involved in recycling in your own home to help tackle this important issue. 

Why is Recycling so Important? 

Recycling at home’s incredibly important, as it’s one of the best ways that we can have a positive impact on the world we live in. At the moment, we create more rubbish than ever before because:

  • Increasing wealth means people are buying more products.
  • The rising population means more people are on the planet creating waste. 
  • New forms of packaging and new products are often not biodegradable. 
  • Lifestyle changes (such as the creation of fast food) means that much of our waste isn’t biodegradable.

Thankfully though, small changes can make a big difference because, according to government data

  • One recycled tin can save enough energy to power a television for three hours.
  • One recycled glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • One recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for three hours.

Unfortunately, at present, a large percentage of UK households do not recycle enough and instead throw everything into their household waste bin. Overall, up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled, so it’s incredibly important we accurately know what we can recycle in our homes. 

Home recycling’s something everyone can get involved with and, no matter what your age, you can help us overcome the environmental problems we face.

As someone in retirement, you have a great opportunity to get involved in recycling at home, because you have free time to learn different approaches, visit drop-off centres for others and even join a recycling programme if your local area has one.

What is National Recycling Week? 

One of the best times of the year to get more involved in recycling is during ‘National Recycling Week’.

Now in its 17th year, Recycle Week has become a permanent fixture in the calendar. Organised by WRAP, it aims to encourage the public to recycle more by demonstrating the benefits of recycling items from all around the home.

Running from 23rd-29th September in 2019, the theme is ‘Recycling. It’s in our own hands’. It’s a call to action, asking people to rinse, crush, squash, sort and separate in order to really make a difference. 

Top Tips from the Experts 

To help you get involved in recycling, we spoke to Jessica Mével, who is the Marketing Coordinator at recycling experts First Mile.

She provided us with some top tips about how we can get started and what we can recycle in our homes.

What are your top tips for more active recycling and green living at home?

Firstly, you need to know what your council recycles. Every single council in the UK has different rules, so go on their website to see what they do and don’t recycle.

Once you’ve done this, check out your local Zero Waste Store. More and more Zero Waste Stores are opening around London particularly, so it’s easier than ever to get involved. All you need to do is buy a couple of glass jars, so you never have to buy rice and pasta in plastic again.

You should also try to buy less. As a society, the UK tends to overbuy and gets carried away when food shopping. Do your food shopping with a list and try to plan the meals you want to cook in advance.

What are some of the common misconceptions about recycling at home and in general?

A lot of people make mistakes when they’re recycling. But they’re honest mistakes and they’re easy to overcome.

Firstly, flimsy, flexible plastic can’t be recycled at home. So, if you buy a packet of strawberries, the tray can go in the recycling bin, but that extra bit of bubble wrap and the flimsy plastic cover have to go in your general waste.

Compostable packaging such as biodegradable or compostable coffee cups and food trays shouldn’t go in home recycling, food waste or the bin. They actually need to be decomposed in special conditions that aren’t readily available. So don’t be so quick to grab that compostable coffee cup unless you know of somewhere it can be disposed of correctly.

Often, people also forget to recycle their shower gels, shampoo bottles, mouthwash bottles, etc. just because they are in the bathroom. It might be easier to pop them in the bin there and then, but with just a little effort, you can take them to the kitchen and pop them in the recycling bin.

Remember that you can also split products like greasy pizza boxes. If the bottom half has loads of pizza grease on it, separate your pizza box and put this part in the general waste. If the top half is intact, pop it into your recycling.

Finally, if unsure about whether something is recyclable or not, it’s better to pop it into your general waste so that you don’t contaminate your whole bag of recycling.

What advice would you give those in retirement who are looking to get more involved in recycling?

Don’t focus on just recycling, focus on the environment you live in as a whole, so consider going litter picking or visiting a Zero Waste Store.

You should also make an effort to learn more about where your waste goes, so you can pass on the relevant information to others who may need a helping hand.

Finally, see what is happening in the community around you and get involved. If you live somewhere where there’s not much going on, start your own group focused on the environment, help your local council improve its recycling for everyone and organise monthly litter picks.

Starting these projects requires ‘get up and go’ spirit, but they can be incredibly rewarding. Plus, they’re a great way of making new friends and tackling boredom.

Recycling with McCarthy & Stone

Although the data shows that more people are recycling at home than ever before, there’s still much more that we can do to help protect the planet for future generations and, as a retiree, it’s easier than ever to start home recycling.

What’s more, by spreading the word around your development and local community, you could meet new people and make friends for life.  

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