Recycling bin

057: Sort your rubbish for recycling

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL

From our guest writer Barbara in Scotland

Sort your rubbish and use local recycling facilities

You’ve all heard about recycling, but do you know when and why it actually started?

Well, you may be surprised but in the UK the trigger was World War Two, when one of the sad implications was food rationing and shortage of every day products. However, recycling did not become commonplace until 1960s, when drink companies started offering money back for the return of their glass bottles.

Unfortunately, the bottle return scheme is not so popular anymore (although seems to be slowly come back again) but we can easily recycle lots of items in many other ways.

For a good start, look out the window – can you see bins with different colours?

These are available in many local authority areas – do you know they are designated for different types of rubbish? They’re commonly segregated into: paper and cardboard, plastic and metal, and glass.

And then, there’s also the very last one to use, usually black, for general waste which will unfortunately have to go to landfill.

Can I hear you saying: “But I don’t have time or space at home to sort my rubbish”?

That’s a very common but rather poor excuse!

First of all, it doesn’t take much more time to put something in just a slightly different place than your usual general waste bin.

Recycling bins

Secondly, even if not provided for your individual home, municipal recycling bins couldn’t be easier to reach these days – they’re usually at or very close to your home or perhaps at the supermarket you usually visit every week anyway. Therefore, if all rubbish is taken to these regularly, for example every shopping day, it shouldn’t take any extra space at home.

And no, you absolutely do not need to purchase any extra bins, as a bigger plastic bag, a cardboard box from your last online order delivery or that basket standing unused in your basement for ages will do this job perfectly well. The only extra effort needed – which would be very helpful indeed – is to rinse any leftover food from items you’re going to recycle. This will reduce recycling contamination (and also spare the noses of the poor binmen!)

Level up!

Are you ready for the next level?

Do you know there are organisations which collect even those materials which are normally very difficult to recycle – for example, crisp packets, disposable food pouches, medicine blisters and coffee pods?

They either help to set up collection points across the whole country (e.g. Terracycle) or offer free or low cost courier collections straight from your home (e.g. RecycleBox).

Very often supermarkets get involved too and will collect items such as plastic bags, batteries, and (seasonally!) Christmas cards.

Why sorting rubbish and recycling is so important?

  • helps to reduce waste – gives the material a second life
  • makes the recycling system more efficient and avoids contamination
  • reduces the use of natural resources (instead of production using raw materials, we re-use)
  • reduces air and water pollution associated with extracting resources and manufacturing processes
  • saves energy required for extracting, manufacture and transport of materials
  • reduces greenhouse gas emissions which helps to fight climate change
  • reduces plastic pollution

Still in doubts if it’s worth all this effort? Here are a couple of examples of what can be saved:

  • Recycling only one aluminium can will save enough energy to power a 100 watt bulb for about 4 hours!
  • Remember our aim to switch from linear to the circular economy? Glass can be recycled over and over again with absolutely no loss in quality!
  • Recycling a piece of plastic packaging is one piece of plastic that will not end up killing wildlife or sealife


Please remember not to dispose into a recycling bin anything that you are unsure of, as this may cause contamination which will actually do much more harm than good. It is often indicated on the bin itself what can go into it, however if you’re still not sure, best check with your local authority, for example on their website.

Easy peasy?

So, don’t wait, please start recycling today!

This article has been contributed by
Barbara Wysocka
Insta: @yourwastefreehome

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