5 myth busting recycling facts

Recycling sounds easy enough but when it comes to doing it, it isn’t always as easy as it sounds! Do the tins and plastics go together? Can you recycle juice cartons? These are questions I’ve asked myself and sometimes it seems simpler to just chuck it all in the big wheelie bin and think no further of it… But I know recycling is worth it in the end.

With different advice and rules in different regions no wonder people get confused. To helps you sort fact from fictions, I’ve included 5 myths about recycling that apply to the Gloucestershire area (since most of us live here) but double check what your local council do as it can vary.

Myth 1: The triangle icon means that the container can be recycled

When checking to see if something can be recycled, do you know what to look for? Many, including myself, look out for the green arrows in the shape of a triangle…

However, this doesn’t always mean an item can be recycled, rather it has the capability to be recycled. Local authorities each have their own rules and processes so the thing to look out for on packaging is the green box with the circular arrow. It includes details of what it can be recycled as, like these two below…

Another symbol that is often seen on packaging is the green dot with two interweaving arrows in the shape of the circle (below, left). This means that the company that has made the product has put financial contributions towards the organisation of recovery, sorting and recycling of the packaging.

One symbol, that isn’t as widely seen as some others, is the compostable symbol (below, right). If this symbol is present on packaging it means that it has passed the standards set by the European standards and it can be put in composting bins (often meaning industrial ones rather than your home compost bin though).

Next time you’re looking at a container, have a look at all the different symbols! Use this handy guide from Recycle to learn more and check out all the different symbols you might see.

Myth 2: All plastics can be recycled

Not all plastics can be recycled, and with 40,000 different types it’s no wonder! But good news – the majority of plastics can be recycled. Plastics are split into 7 different categories.

There are 3 which are easily recycled:

  • Type 1 PET plastic: used for things such as water bottles
  • Type 2 HDPE plastic: used to make things like milk bottles
  • Type 5 PP: used for some tubs like yoghurt pots

Then there are some which are not easily recyclable and only few places accept them:

  • Type 3 PVC (shown as V sometimes): used for car parts
  • Type 6 PS: often used for things like takeaway boxes

Lastly, there are two types of plastic which are only accepted at specialist points:

  • Type 4 LDPE: used for plastic bags
  • Type 7: any other plastic

Carrier bags are something most of us have lying around, but what do you do when they get old and holey? They can’t be put in the home recycling boxes… But not all hope is lost! Many larger supermarkets now have facilities to recycle them. Even better though, why not try to reuse the bags or use a cloth bag which are less likely to break!

The 7 Different Types of Plastic<br/> | Plastics For Change
Image source: Plastics for Change

Myth 3: Recycling isn’t worth the effort

Yes, it is worth the effort!

It takes about 75% less energy to create a plastic bottle with recycled materials when compared to making one with new plastics and WRAP suggests that a staggering 18 MILLION tonnes of CO2 are saved every year because of recycling. When I did some research to write this paragraph, I was amazed at the number of sources that suggested that recycling isn’t worth it, but when I read further many suggested that it wasn’t enough to just recycle alone, as there are still far too many single-use plastics being made, but that it is still 100% worth doing because of the energy being saved, as well as the reduced impact on the environment.

If nothing else, by recycling what you can rather than putting them in the bin, it will reduce the number of times you have to take the bin bag out – better for the environment and easier for you!

Overall, recycling is worth it as it helps to limit the pollution we produce and our carbon footprint, and it helps to reduce the amount of times you have to empty the bins. But it doesn’t solve the worlds problem. If you want to do more, why not try to reduce or reuse? Have a look for plastic free products such as soap, food, or toiletries next time you’re in the shop!

10 Ways to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle | by Niharika Chhabra | Evolve You |  Medium
Image source: Medium

Myth 4: You can’t recycle Tetra Pak containers

For those that don’t know, Tetra Pak is a type of plasticised carton for products like UHT milk, juice and other drinks. In Gloucester and Tewkesbury, you can recycle your Tetra Pak containers in your home recycling boxes. However, in Cheltenham you have to take them to the local recycling centre. If you want to check the rules where you live you can use this useful link from the Tetra Pak website to find out your local council’s rules.

It wasn’t long ago that it was very hard to recycle Tetra Pak but it’s now getting easier with many councils working on being able to accept Tetra Pak containers. At the moment only 65% of Local Authorities accept them in home recycling, but 90% of recycling centres accept them – the link above has a great interactive map and full details.

History of the world in 52 packs | 9. Tetra Pak

Myth 5: Recycled materials are reused for the same products

When we put our containers in the box by the kerb they don’t necessarily get recycled into the same product. This is because once it has been used once the quality has degraded, so to make something new it needs to be mixed with “new” plastic or used for a lower quality product. Did you know that there are many products that are made from recycled plastic – from clothing to rugs to shoes. Even LEGO has started to build bricks made from recycled plastic!

It’s great that these plastics can go on to have new life as something different, but remember it’s always best to choose reusable products or items that are packaged in materials that can be recycled an infinite number of times without degrading, such as aluminium and glass.

How LEGO perfected the recycled plastic brick | WIRED UK
Image source: Wired

I hope you have learnt something from these myths, and it has given you the motivation to stick with recycling even when it seems confusing. If in doubt, most councils have informative graphics and posters about their recycling policies that you can refer to. It may seem like a minefield but soon enough it becomes second nature – leaving more room in the wheelie bin and less in landfill!

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