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Top 10 best recycling tips

Updated on May 7, 2012

This article comprises a concise and informative list of easy ways to recycle or re-use every day. From grey water and toilet water to idea composting ingredients; from sterilising jars to cash for cans; the possibilities are endless!

1. Toilet water

We waste thousands of litres of water per year flushing toilets. If you can adopt the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” approach, you will save gallons of water. If that’s not doable, adjust your cistern refill level to half way (or put a couple of bricks in your cistern) to reduce the amount of water used when you flush.

2. Rain water

If you live in a temperate climate with lots of rain, consider buying a few water butts, and collecting the rainwater. This can then be used to water the garden in drier periods or even to fill up your toilet cistern (make sure the water is free from debris first).

3. Grey water

Grey water – that is, waste water from your bath, basin, washing machine or dishwasher - can also be re-used in your cistern. To do it properly, requires some (fairly costly) re-plumbing. But if you can collect some of it (via a large collector, several buckets and some deft collection timing) it will again help reduce your water bill and the cost to the environment.

4. Composting

Instead of throwing organic material away put it in your composter. You can buy a composter for £20 or build your own.

Things that are good for composting

Bread crumbs
Stale bread
Stale saltine crackers
Pizza crusts
Old/stained cotton clothing
Old wool clothing
Coffee grounds and filters
Tea bags
Stale cereal
Nut shells (not walnut shells)
Old herbs and spices
Garden waste
Leaves trimmed from houseplants
Dead houseplants and their soil
Flowers from floral arrangements
Natural potpourri
Lint / dust
Dryer lint
Contents of your vacuum cleaner bag or canister
Used paper napkins
Pizza boxes, ripped into smaller pieces
Paper bags, either ripped or balled up
Paper towel rolls
Used paper plates (no waxy coating)
Cereal boxes (tear them into smaller pieces first)
Paper egg cartons
Paper cupcake or muffin cups
Toilet paper rolls
Cotton swabs (100% cotton & non-plastic sticks)
Bills and other documents (shredded)
Envelopes (minus the plastic window)
Sticky notes
Business cards (non glossy)
Subscription cards from magazines
Wrapping paper rolls
Paper table cloths
Crepe paper streamers
Fur from the dog or cat brush
Droppings and bedding from your rabbit/gerbil/hamsters, etc
Wine corks
Bamboo skewers
Pencil shavings
Used facial tissues
Hair from your hairbrush
Old loofahs
100% Cotton cotton balls
Used matches
Ashes from the fireplace, barbecue grill, etc.
Your Christmas tree

5. Mulch your grass

If you are not using your grass cuttings for composting – and to save time collecting / raking the grass – leave it be. Allowing your grass cuttings to line your lawn helps feed the grass and ensures a much healthier outcome.

The only thing you need to be aware of is to cut only a small length of grass at a time. Otherwise you will end up with large tracts of clippings dotted around your lawn rather than a fine lining of mulch.

6. Buy with recycling in mind

When you are out doing your weekly shop, not only think about what you are buying but what it’s packaged in. If there is lots of plastic packaging for one item and less so (or better still, none) for another, buy the latter. If you always buy bottles of water, try buying a stainless steel bottle and use a free water re-fill strategy. Instead of using the supermarket plastic bags to transport your fruit and vegetables home in, use your own hemp or paper bags.

Sterlising jars - 5 easy steps

1. Thoroughly clean the jars with hot, soapy water.

2. Place the jars on a baking sheet and into an oven.

3. Heat the over to 250 degrees F (120C).

4. Once the oven reaches this temperature, bake the jars for a further 30 minutes.

5. Turn the over off and allow to return to room temperature before handling the jars.

7. Re-use packaging or use recycling points (Cans/Glass/Cardboard)

If you must buy items that come packaged in glass, consider re-using that glass jar or bottle once you have finished its contents. You might be able to use jars for making home made jams / chutneys / relishes / or simply mixing dressing ingredients in. Before you reuse, just make sure you have properly cleaned and sterilised.

Cardboard packaging can be composted (or reused in arts and crafts if you have children; or donated to the local school for their arts and crafts projects).

If you cannot find a use for your used plastic packaging, ensure you take it to your local recycling site.

Sterilise jars in an oven
Sterilise jars in an oven

8. Cash for cans

Aluminium tins and cans can be recycled.

There are more than 500 cash for cans sites around the UK, so you can even earn some extra cash by recycling these.

9. Mend or donate (Clothes / shoes)

If you are able to mend old clothes you can make some extra cash that way or save yourself money buying new clothes.

If you do not have specific seamstress talents, then ensure you take old clothes and shoes to your local charity shop where they can be sold to some who will be more than happy with them and the charity can make some money from them.

10. Broken stuff / Old stuff / old electrical equipment

Again, if you have a talent in DIY or fixing stuff, then by all means spread the word and get people to bring their old stuff to you for (potential) fixing. Otherwise, try Freecycle or donate to a local school (e.g. for science lessons, etc.).

Quick Poll

Which new recycling tip will you use first?

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