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Revealed: 5 common recycling mistakes you are making

·3-min read
Photo credit: Dave and Les Jacobs - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dave and Les Jacobs - Getty Images

Many households have made daily changes to help combat climate change, from using eco-friendly cleaning products to buying an electric car.

While making steps such as recycling is important in reducing our carbon footprint, new research has found many of us are making similar recycling mistakes and therefore counteracting our hard work.

So, to help make sure we're not taking one step forward and two steps back, the recycling experts at MyJobQuote have shared the five most common recycling mistakes many of us are unaware we are making — and how to overcome them.

1. Not removing sticky tape

While popular packaging, such as cardboard, can be recycled, many of us tend to leave the sticky tape on which can create dire consequences. 'Sticky tape is not recyclable as it is typically made of polypropylene, which is a type of plastic,' Samantha Jones from MyJobQuote explains. 'By leaving sticky tape on recyclable materials, such as cardboard and paper, the material then becomes unrecyclable and ends up in landfill anyway.'

Samantha advises removing all of the sticky tape from cardboard when recycling to avoid corrupting any recycling collections. 'Seek eco-friendly alternatives to sticky tape, such as tapes made from bamboo and hemp which are biodegradable. Brown paper tape is also a good alternative, as it is plastic free and easier to recycle.'

2. Clean off food leftovers

Many food products come in recyclable material, such as glass jars, aluminium cans, and even cardboard trays. A common mistake is to simply dispose of the product without cleaning them first. 'Attempting to recycle something with food residue can contaminate other recyclables and therefore cause those products to be unrecyclable,' Samantha explains.

'Rinse out all products which can be recycled before disposing of them to avoid any risk of contamination,' Samantha advises. 'If you do not, then you risk compromising your entire recycling bag.'

Photo credit: xizeng lu - Getty Images
Photo credit: xizeng lu - Getty Images

3. Incorrect separating

'By attempting to recycle something which can’t actually be recycled, you risk contaminating all the other recyclable materials,' Samantha explains. 'Not only this, but incorrect separation causes decreased efficiency in the recycling process, as non-recyclable goods must be hand picked out of the chain which is time-consuming and has a negative impact on the environment.'

So how can we avoid the risk of contamination? Samantha advises that you should read the label carefully, explaining that you may have to take items to your local recycling centre if they cannot be placed in your household bin.

4. Wrapping paper including in paper recycling

Most councils will not accept wrapping paper in their household recycling collection, so throwing them in with other paper recycling can affect the whole collection. 'Wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated and can also contain glitter and plastics, which simply can't be recycled,' Samantha explains. 'Other wrapping paper is very thin and doesn’t contain enough fibres for recycling.'

Photo credit: retales botijero
Photo credit: retales botijero

The best way to avoid any recycling mistakes with wrapping paper is to stop using the brightly coloured paper you can find in gift shops. 'Using brown paper instead to wrap gifts is the best alternative, as this can be easily recycled, as long as there's no ink on the paper,' Samantha advises. 'Another way is to simply use gift bags as opposed to wrapping paper, as although these can be harder to recycle too, they can be reused again and again.'

5. Batteries

Many people wrongly assume that batteries can be included in household recycling, however, this is not the case. In fact, even just throwing batteries away with general household waste can be dangerous.

'Batteries contain metals which are harmful to the environment so if a battery becomes punctured then the harmful metals are able to permeate into the ground and reach water supplies.'

Many supermarkets offer battery banks where you can drop off any used batteries completely for free. 'A money-saving and more environmentally friendly way to get batteries is to invest in rechargeable batteries which will inevitably last longer than standard,' Samantha advises.

Photo credit: HJBC - Getty Images
Photo credit: HJBC - Getty Images

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