I remember when we never used to recycle. Then recycling became the thing to do and we’d wake up a cold sweat in the middle of the night worrying about the piece of plastic inadvertently thrown into the general waste (or maybe that was just me?!).
Subsequently, councils introduced different coloured bins to make recycling easier. It was awesome and as we piled the washed out containers high, we collectively clapped ourselves on the back for doing our bit for the planet. Notwithstanding, despite our best efforts we discovered not all plastic is recyclable. And that unfortunately is just the tip of the iceberg because in fact, a huge amount of what we would consider recyclable isn’t. Let me give you some everyday examples.
As they are heat-treated, drinking glasses can’t be thrown in with the empty chutney jars as they don’t melt at the same temperature. Plus they may have lead in them which is a big no-no for recycling.
Receipts printed on shiny thermal paper have a coating which can be harmful if released into the environment so shouldn’t be burned. With approximately 11.2bn receipts handed out annually this is a staggering and worrying discovery.
Crisp packets and metallised plastic film products such as biscuit wrappers are bad boys because of the grease and residue they have inside them. Even if you religiously cleaned them, if they then fail the scrunch test i.e. the wrapper springs back into shape, they also should go in the general waste.
And let me introduce you to a particularly dastardly villain: the Pringle tube which comprises five different materials including a metal base, tear-off foil top, a plastic lid, silver foil lining inside and a cardboard outer sleeve. Maybe we need to stop with the pop?
Whilst manufacturers are starting to accept they need to use more recyclable packaging, it’s going to be a long time coming. In the meantime I’ve decided that, as best as I can, I will avoid buying things where the packaging isn’t clearly labelled as being recyclable. It’s not much, but as Van Gogh said “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. While it may seem small, the ripple effect of small things is extraordinary.”
If you are following Van Gogh’s premise and have suggestions for recycling or recommendations on how to avoid packaging altogether I’d love to hear from you. Email me (details below) and I’ll share the information in the next issue.
Until then, much sweetness