People in the UK throw away seven times their own body weight in rubbish every year! So thinking of ways you can reduce and limit it can make a huge difference to the environment and the energy resources needed by local authorities to collect and dispose of your rubbish. So how can you reduce the amount of waste your produce? And what can be recycled or composted?
Minimising the waste you produce is the best starting point and the best habit to cultivate in the long-term. For example take your own carriers or re-usable bags to the supermarket so you can avoid using up more plastic bags, choose cloth nappies instead of disposable versions, buy fruit and vegetables loose instead of in plastic packaging.
Many things can be re-used rather than thrown away – all it involves is a little cleaning and/or repair. For example, glass jars can be washed clean and then used for storage; old clothes can be cut up and used as cleaning rags and dusters. Even things that you can’t use around the home, such as old toys, can be donated to charity shops.
Recycling is extremely important as most of the raw materials (e.g. plastic, aluminium) needed to make our everyday products are from a finite source, with supplies fast running out so recycling not only helps the environment by reducing waste, it also helps by reusing the materials we already have and so not using up more energy (and creating more pollution) to extract new materials.
A large component of your household rubbish can be recycled – in fact, in some authorities in the UK, over 50% of the contents of rubbish bins is recycled. Check with your own local authority to see what items you can recycle through your kerbside collection or your local drop-off recycling banks. Try to recycle everything you can and when out shopping, look for products that are made of recycled material or that can be easily recycled (look for the universal symbols). Things that can be recycled include cans, paper, glass and plastics.
If you have a garden, you can compost a lot of your garden waste as well as kitchen refuse. In fact, you can compost any organic material, although the compost pile will need a proper ratio of “browns” (carbon-rich materials, like dried leaves, straw and wood chips) and “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials, like fresh greens, grass clippings and kitchen scraps).
Hazardous waste is defined as anything that might be harmful to human health or the environment. This potential to harm does not need to be immediate, therefore hazardous waste does not just include toxic chemicals that are dangerous now, but also things which might become dangerous during the process of decomposition or disposal and as it sits in a landfill.
Up to 5% of household waste can be classified as hazardous and this includes things like household cleaning products, pesticides, garden fertilisers and oils and chemicals from the garage and DIY activities. In addition, large inorganic items like fluorescent tubes, TV and computer monitors (especially the cathode ray tube), fridges and freezers, and batteries, can also be dangerous and should be disposed of correctly by taking them to the local household waste recycling facilities, rather than just thrown into the rubbish bin with everything else. If you are unsure about any item, play it safe and check with your local authority first before disposing of it.