For many people, recycling doesn’t go beyond basic plastics and paper materials in their kitchen and even then there’s some confusion about what can go in the green bin. It’s estimated that average person’s waste stream is 75% recyclable but we only recycle at about 30%. There are many ways to improve your carbon footprint in your home so you can sleep a little easier at night and we’ve listed some to help you on your way.
Know the benefits
Recycling helps save energy, water, landfill space and resources. When you consider that plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose and recycling just one plastic bottle saves the same amount of energy needed to power a 60 watt light bulb for 6 hours, then it seems a very worthwhile exercise. Likewise, a ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 3 cubic yards of landfill space and 7,000 gallons of water. A discarded plastic bag stays buried in the ground for up to 500 years before it breaks down. Recycling in your home and watching what you use and buy, can and does make a difference.
Understand the Green Bin
It may seem obvious but there’s still some confusion amongst family members about what can and cannot go in the recycling bin. Your best bet is to check with your collection agency as the contents may vary, but the following products are generally what you can put in the green bin.
Remember to ensure they are dry and clean:
Paper, Newspapers, magazines, cardboard, cereal boxes, steel food cans, aluminium cans, plastic bottles, plastic containers, juice & milk cartons, plastic bottles, detergent bottles.
The following items are generally not allowed in your green bin:
Glass, food waste, garden waste, wet waste, nappies, polystyrene, styrofoam, plastic film/bags, plastic food wrappings.
An obvious way to cut down your carbon footprint is to watch your intake. You can do this by making an effort to choose recycled materials, or recyclable materials and also opt for products with less packaging. Bring your own shopping bags, reusable coffee cup, lunch box and reusable water bottle out and about with you.
Composting is the breakdown of organic material, namely kitchen and garden waste, by organisms and its conversion into a rich soil known as compost. This can then be used to aid plant growth and cuts down your household waste. A simple and natural way to recycle. An added bonus of regular composting of food waste means your bin fills up more slowly and won’t smell. Don’t have a garden? Organic materials can also be brought to civic amenity centres to be composted.
Donate old electrical items to schools and community centres. Look into FREE WEEE collection events in your area, which will allow you to recycle many household electrical waste including batteries, light bulbs, TV’s, fridges and hair dryers.
There are many ways to recycle your clothes. Charity shops will happily take a bag of (clean) clothes and shoes. There are many clothes banks around the country, often near supermarkets and community centres. There also may be some door to door and school collections in your area.
Old furniture can be given easily away on classified sites like Done Deal or Adverts.ie and dedicated charity shops will take resellable furniture in reasonable condition.
Tips for recycling
Wash and clean all your jars and bottles before recycling. Make your paper and cardboard recycling as compact as possible by squashing it up, and therefore fitting more in your bin. Remove glossy magazine covers and plastic attachments from cardboard. Larger pieces of cardboard can be flattened, tied up and left to the side of the bin and will generally be taken. Try and keep all your newspapers and supplements together. Buy loose fruit and veg and opt out of using the plastic bags. Bulk buy dry foods such as cereals and grains and store them in containers at home. Save bread bags and newspapers to use as doggie-doo bags when out walking the dog.