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Recycling: are we doing our bit?

We all know that recycling is needed to protect our environment, and we all try to recycle, but are we doing enough?

Here are some recycling facts to think about:

  • Recycling a tin saves enough energy to power a television for up to three hours
  • Recycling a glass bottle will power a laptop for 25 minutes
  • Recycling a plastic bottle can power a 60-watt light bulb for three hours
  • 60% of waste found in a non-recyclable dustbin can be recycled
  • 50% of waste in a dustbin could be composted
  • 80% of a car is recyclable

Some of these figures should really make us think about what we’re doing now and how we can do more to further improve our recycling efforts.

The importance of recycling


Recycling is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on both the natural environment as well as ourselves. The amount of waste that we create is increasing all the time and this is due to the following reasons:

  • Increase in wealth means that people are buying more and subsequently creating more waste
  • Increase in population means that there are more people creating waste
  • New packaging and technological products are being developed, much of which is not biodegradable
  • Lifestyle choices such as eating more fast food means that additional waste isn’t biodegradable

So how important is recycling to our environment? There is no space for waste. Our UK landfill sites are filling up fast, and harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses are being released from l sites, so recycling is needed to reduce pollution caused by waste. Huge amounts of energy are used to make products from raw materials, whereas recycling requires less energy, which helps to preserve natural resources. So let’s break this down even further to product level, and the environmental impact on each.

Paper


  • Creating new paper results in 73% more air pollution than recycling paper
  • The UK uses 12.5 million tonnes of cardboard each year
  • 24 trees are used to make a single tonne of newspaper

How we recycle paper

Paper is taken from to the recycling plant where it is separated into types and grades. It’s then washed to remove any ink, plastic film, staples and glue, and put into a large holder where it’s mixed with water to create ‘slurry’. By adding different materials to the slurry different products such as cardboard, newsprint or office paper can be created. The slurry is then spread out into large thin sheets to dry out, rolled up and then sent out to suppliers.

Aluminium


  • The UK throws away £36,000,000 worth of aluminium that could be recycled
  • If each can in the UK was recycled then we would need 14 million fewer dustbins

How we recycle aluminium

Our aluminium tins and foil are taken to a recycle treatment centre where it is sorted and cleaned ready for reprocessing. It then goes through a melting process to be turned into molten aluminium which removes coatings and inks. The aluminium is then made into large blocks - each block or ‘ingot’ contains around 1.6 million drink cans.

The ingots are then sent to mills to be rolled out, which gives the aluminium greater flexibility and strength, and then more aluminium products are made such as cans and ready meal packaging. Following this process (which can take as little as six weeks) the recycled aluminium products are sent back to shops ready to be used again.

Glass


  • 500 glass jars are used each year by an average family
  • Glass that’s not recycled will never decompose – but all glass is 100% recyclable

How we recycle glass

Once glass is picked up from bottle banks and glass recycle bins, it’s taken to the glass treatment plant where it is sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities. The glass is then crushed, melted and moulded into new glass products such as jars and bottles. This end product can also be used for brick manufacture or for decorative purposes, and as glass doesn’t degrade it can be recycled over and over again.

Plastic


  • We use 15 million plastic bottles a day in the UK
  • An average family will throw away 40kg of recyclable plastic each year
  • Plastic takes up to 500 years to decompose

How we recycle plastic

We use as many as 50 different types of plastic, some of which we are able to recycle in the UK. However there are some plastics that unfortunately still go to landfill, or are shipped abroad for recycling.

The process of recycling plastics includes sorting, shredding, washing and melting before they are then compressed into pellets. Recycling plastic is completed through a two step process; the first step is sorting, which is mainly done automatically but then includes a manual sort to ensure all contaminates are removed. The plastic is then either melted down and moulded into a new shape, or shredded into flakes before being processed into granulates.

Wood


  • The UK generates 4.5 million tonnes of waste wood a year, 60% of which goes on to be recycled
  • One million trees are chopped down each year to make 44 million British Telephone Directories, most of which are now never used.

How we recycle wood

Waste wood is processed to produce wood chip which can be sent to manufacturers to produce new board, or can alternatively be used as wood fuel for biomass plants and boilers. At LSPS, we recycle wood waste on site producing wood pellets which are used for animal bedding or cat litter. For further information, you can read about how we recycle wood and about skips suitable for wood waste.

Compost


  • An average of 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households every year, most of which could have been eaten.
  • Most wasted food ends up in landfill sites where it rots and subsequently releases methane and other damaging green house gases. If we stopped wasting food which could have been consumed it would have the same CO2 impact as taking one in four cars off the road.

How we recycle compost

Composting is the decomposition of materials originating from plants and animals. Organic materials such as plant trimmings, vegetable cuttings, eggshells and teabags can be including in the composting process, which when broken down produces dark, crumbling matter that can be reused as fertiliser in soil. So if you’re clearing out garden waste, find out which skips are suitable for your job.

You can add the following to your compost pile:

  • Hair and fur
  • Shredded paper
  • Straw and hay
  • Animal bedding and sawdust
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Grass and plant cuttings
  • Raw fruit and vegetable trimmings
  • Teabags and coffee granules
  • Horse manure
  • Leaves

Building materials


Building and DIY waste is made up from many materials, such as metal, wood, glass and brickwork, all of which can be reused or recycled. Find out what skips are suited for building and DIY waste.

Related articles:

Thinking of hiring a skip? Here are some ground rules
Tips for garden clearance

What size skip do I need?
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