If you think you have it difficult having to recycle things in a few boxes and bins, think about the people in one town in Japan that recycles nearly everything. People in Kamikatsu have to sort things into 45 categories! We are not at that stage (and living simply is the best way to keep your recycling simple). But it can get confusing sometimes to know what you can and can’t recycle (most plastic bags and containers can now be recycled with bags at supermarkets, but not usually clingfilm, a good reason not to buy it).
Can I Recycle This? is a beautifully illustrated guide to cut through the confusion of what you can (and cannot) recycle, and how and where to do it. Recycling is now so complicated that sometimes you are left scratching your head, anytime you want to throw something away. This book offers simple answers to whether dozens of household objects can be recycled, but information on how to make the decision for anything else you find.
Jennie Romer has worked for years to help cities and states draft meaningful legislation to help communities better process their waste, and produce less of it. She has now written this non-judgement, easy-to-use guide to change the way you think about what you throw away, and how you do it. She is founder of a site to simplify plastic bag laws.
Things You Can recycle
- Paper, card, plastic/glass bottles, aluminium
- Most plastic wrap (not clingfilm)
- Cigarette packs (separate cardboard, foil & plastic)
- Tea light containers (remove wax)
- Pizza boxes (tear off greasy parts)
- For anything else, communities can buy Terracycle boxes (some are sponsored by industry, others you buy) that recycle everything from cigarette litter to pens, in shops and community centres.
Things You Can’t Recycle
- Cooking oil (unless in a proper recycling bin). Don’t pour oil down drains or give to birds, it affects waterproofing/insulation of feathers). Just wrap and bin.
- Plastic toothpaste tubes
- Plastic drinking straws
- Crisp packets and sweet wrappers
- Plastic takeaway containers
- Disposable nappies
- Blister packs for medicines (give to pharmacy)
- Paper towels, tissues, plates
- Gift tags/wrap with foil or plastic
- Wallpaper (contains toxic paste)
- Porridge sachets (contains plastic lining)
- Photographs (just bin unwanted ones)
- Pet food & baby food pouches
- Plastic packaging tape
- Baby wipes & cleansing wipes
- Plastic water filter cartridges
- Black plastic bags (sensors can’t see the colour)
How Councils Can Make Recycling Easier
Mostly by encouraging simple living and investing in some better recycling containers. Often public bottle banks are full to bursting, and the recycling containers for people are not of the best quality (for example, responsible councils that are forward-thinking would add tops to recycling bins, so contents don’t fly out in the wind and travel down the road). It’s false economy not to invest in better brands:
Plastics can get very confusing, as there are many types and all have to be recycled differently. PET is the main plastic used for water bottles and plastic trays, and pretty easy to recycle. But there are other types too like HDPE (for toiletries and milk cartons), LDPE (for grocery bags and bin liners) and polypropylene that is more used for butter/margarine tubs and food trays. Nobody should need a degree in science, just to recycle things.
Even Greener makes good recycling bins and containers for councils and businesses. Just a few small investments could easily up your recycling rate, and mean cleaner streets. The range offered includes recycling bins of every kind, plus receptacles for offices and outdoor living, and recycling bins for hazardous waste like batteries and cooking oil (which should never be poured down the drain nor given to birds, as it negatively affects the insulation and waterproofing of feathers). If you don’t have one, you can easily order a recycling bin from your council.