Recycle & Reuse

How to Recycle and Reduce Waste

Recycle and Reuse

The facilities that you have available for recycling may be very different to that of your neighbours in the county next to where you live. It depends on where you live and on which Local Authority manages your waste and recycling collections as to what is collected, how it is collected and how often. You may not have access to a kerbside collection service and will then have to rely on bring banks and mini recycling centres. Because of these reasons, it is very difficult to offer specific advice about methods of recycling that will be relevant nationally – so the best thing to do is to visit your local council’s website or telephone them directly to see what is available to you locally.

Having said that, however, below is a rough guide to some general rules about recycling and reducing waste. Information on what happens next to the items that you recycle have also been included because these are valuable resources. Nothing goes to waste if you recycle.

Paper

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

Paper is sent to Belgium, or to Aylesford Newsprint in Kent, which is one of the largest recycling plants in Europe. All inks, glues, staples, plastic film etc. are washed out with soapy water, a process which is helped by the proportion of magazines in the mix. Magazines contain clays that help to lift inks during washing. Cleaned paper pulp is sent to a paper-making machine where it is injected between two wire meshes to form a damp sheet, before passing through hot drying cylinders. On Aylesford’s production line, the paper is now moving at more than 60 mph as it rolls onto jumbo reels, each one about 30 tonnes in weight. This high quality newsprint supplies national and local newspapers throughout the UK and Europe. New papers could be coming back to you, in the newsagents or through your door, within three to four weeks.

Yellow Pages

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

Yellow Pages are treated in a different way to other types of paper. Covers and glue are removed, pages are shredded and used in lots of imaginative ways: for animal bedding, Jiffy bags, cardboard and insulation for houses. An innovative scheme in Devon used shreddings beneath road surfaces to reduce noise. Near the Tewkesbury-based Highbed Paper Bedding company, some larger stables send used bedding for composting, so ensuring yet another ‘life’ and making maximum use of old Yellow Pages.

Cardboard

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

Cardboard recycling involves soaking in water and agitating to release fibres, turning them back into pulp. Metal and ink contaminants are removed, additional finishing chemicals are added; the pulp is pressed into sheets and dried. Although the fibres get shorter each time they are pulped, cardboard can be recycled four or five times before fibres degrade and disintegrate. Second time around cardboard makes more boxes and packaging, but has an interesting range of other uses including stationery, animal bedding – and as a final resting place, coffins!

Glass

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

The glass is sorted by colour, washed and impurities are removed. It is crushed into cullet (small pieces) and melted, then moulded to make new bottles and jars. Glass can also be used as aggregate in road building: Glasphalt looks just like any other tarmac, but is 30% crushed glass, specially treated so it won’t puncture tyres! Glass comes round again in more decorative ways too, for some walkways in Bristol city centre, for example, and graves were traditionally dressed with coloured glass chippings.

Food Tins

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

A magnet is used to separate the steel from aluminium cans. They are melted down in furnaces, with iron ore and oxygen is added to remove impurities. The impure metal (slag) is separated and may be used in road-building. The pure metal is made into blocks (ingots), rolled into many shapes and sizes and water-cooled. It will be used for more tins, or car parts, fridges and other domestic appliances. On a grander scale, what once was a humble food tin might just become part of a bridge.

Aluminium Cans

Recycle and Reuse

vYou could use a can crusher to make storage easier.

What Happens Next?

Cans are sorted, baled and taken for crushing into large blocks, and sometimes shredded for reprocessing. Melting removes all inks and coatings before metal is made into blocks (ingots), which can be huge, 2 x 8 metres and 60cm thick, and weigh as much as 20 tonnes. Each one contains about 1.6 million drinks cans. Ingots are sent to mills where they are rolled into sheets from 0.006mm to 250mm gauge. This rolling adds strength to the pure aluminium which then travels far, to can makers all over Europe – and within just six weeks those new shiny drinks cans are back on the shelves.

Aluminium Foil

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

Foil is recycled separately from cans because it is made from a slightly different alloy of metal. It is similar to the aluminium can process, without the de-coating or shredding. Ingots are much smaller, about a metre long, from which more foil is made, or a range of products such as light-weight car parts.

Clothes, Shoes And Textiles

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

Clothes and shoes are either sold to people here through charity shops, or are sent to developing countries where they are used again. The same applies to household linens, curtains etc. (where they are collected); lower quality textiles, not fit for wear, are taken in some districts and go for fillings or cleaning rags. Wool can be recovered and re-spun.

Spectacles

Recycle and Reuse

What Happens Next?

They are sorted and cleaned and then passed onto a charity such as The World Sight Appeal or Vision Aid Oversees donate them to communities in developing countries. VAO distribute them in developing countries, helping people who would not otherwise have access to any professional eye-care.

Car Batteries

Recycle and Reuse

A huge press crushes the car batteries, breaking them down into valuable component parts which can then be carefully sorted:

Plastic is thoroughly washed, dried and ground up into granules which are used in many different products, including recycling collection boxes, furniture, paint trays, car parts, drainpipes and – fittingly – more car battery cases.

Lead is melted down to make not just more car batteries, but also guttering for roofs and shields for X-ray machines in hospitals.

Acid is treated and neutralised.

Distilled Water is purified and used again.

Engine Oil

Recycle and Reuse

Containers of oil from household collections are decanted into large holding tanks. Oil is boiled and left to settle; any water is removed at this stage and the oil is filtered to remove metal particles. The process is repeated to produce a watery brown liquid that is used in the furnaces at power stations, for heating tarmac and drying stone in quarries, as an alternative to conventional fuels.

Green Waste

Recycle and Reuse

Green waste is vegetable matter, plant material, prunings, grass cuttings etc. from gardens. Green waste it is not generally treated in the same way as anything that has been indoors in a kitchen environment, and which may have been near meat or fish, especially uncooked. When green waste is buried in landfill, there are potential problems with leachate (seeping liquid which pollutes the soil) and methane, a gas which is flammable and contributes to the greenhouse effect.

Composting is the best method of recycling biodegradable matter. Unlike the toxic cocktail of landfill, good composting conditions enable aerobic breakdown into nutrients and soil-conditioners, a valuable resource – and virtually free for gardeners. In some areas civic amenity sites compost green waste and offer it for sale to local people, or it may be used to enrich soil on farms.

To get started you can either:

Do Compost:

Don’t Compost:

What Happens Next?

Whatever you decide! Compost produced from your own compost bins can be used as a mulch to discourage weeds, dug into your soil around your plants or used in window boxes or pot plants.

Plastic

Recycle and Reuse

Plastic is a problem, and most people realise why. It is not going to go away: because natural processes will never be able to break it down. Its manufacture uses petrochemicals from oil supplies which cannot be replaced, and involves high-temperature furnaces and long-distance travel. Plastic is also very light, often filled with air, and can take up a huge amount of room. Most discarded plastic is buried in landfill. But it is valuable and should have more than one life – above ground!

There are many different types which must be separated before processing and the ‘bottle’ type is most suitable for recycling. So the kind of container used for milk, fizzy drinks, shampoos, detergents, cleaning fluids etc., is collected. At present it is not possible to accept plastic film or carriers, tubs and pots or the sort of punnet in which fruit and meat is sold.

Two main types of plastic are recycled: basically clear and opaque. These are chopped into flakes, formed into pellets, then melted down for manufacture into various new products – although the material will not be used to contain food or drink again. Instead hard surfaces for furniture are made or flexible drainage pipes; most inspiring of all is the high quality fleece which can be produced for outdoor clothing.

Some areas are lucky enough to have a kerbside collection for plastic bottles, in others they have to be taken back to the supermarket (some Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s provide huge containers to make it easy); Civic Amenity sites also offer facilities for plastic recycling. Bottles – with tops removed – need to be rinsed, and flattened to save space. (It can be fun, squashing bottles flat, and children are usually willing to help!)

It’s worth the effort, and more people are understanding why. Any contribution, however small, will mean a little less plastic buried for ever!.

Nappies

Recycle and Reuse

Throwaway Nappies are costing the earth – literally.

For tomorrow’s world and today’s children : it’s time to rethink

Set up as a waste minimisation initiative in 2001, The Real Nappy Project encourages parents, nurseries, clinics and hospitals to use washable nappies and reduce the volume of disposables going into the waste stream. It is run by the Recycling Consortium; an awareness-raising not-for-profit organisation. For further information on The Real Nappy Project, please click here

For a parents guide to real nappies, how to use them, and where to buy them from, please click here

Computers

Recycle and Reuse

Every year over 1 million computers end up in our landfill sites. At the moment less than 20% of old computers are recycled! There are a number of national companies which take large amounts of redundant PC’s from businesses for re-use, as well as local community projects which take PC’s for refurbishment and then pass these on to charities, schools, low income households and developing countiries overseas.