In the UK, we have been doing our household recycling every day for almost 17 years, so we obviously know what we’re doing, right? We can tell our PTE from our LDPE, can’t we? Anyway, all packaging tells us whether it can be recycled, doesn’t it? The answer is almost definitely no!
Since turning our attention to reducing our plastic consumption, it has become abundantly clear that, despite having recycled for all of our adult lives, we still don’t know what is and isn’t recyclable. Some things which we have always put in our recycling bin are (on closer inspection) not recyclable! Also trying to check whether a product is recyclable or not is something of a mystery. There is no legislation that means manufacturers have to state whether packaging is recyclable or not, leaving us guessing and hoping we’re doing the right thing.
Take this symbol for example. Do you know what it means?
You could be fooled in to thinking that this means the packaging is recyclable, but you would be wrong. This simply means the manufacturer pays money to projects that promote recycling, arguably because they themselves are not making the relevant changes to do more recycling themselves. If their packaging was recyclable, surely they would proudly display this on their product instead?
To help us navigate the crazy maze that is UK recycling symbols, Which? have created some fantastic infographics that explain everything!
If all you can find is the triangular resin code, you next need to understand what each number means and how easy it is to recycle. Luckily Which? once again come to the rescue with this handy guide.
Next time you visit the kitchen or bathroom, have a look at a few of your products. You will be shocked at how many products are non-recyclable.
What can we do about it?
In addition to reducing our plastic waste, we need to put pressure on manufacturers, retailers and the government to make packaging more sustainable. Many organisations have their own campaigns to target specific causes or manufacturers, however I feel the best place to start is with the government. We elect our government to put policies in place to help change the things we care about, and this includes plastic reduction and all other aspects contributing to climate change. There are existing open petitions you can sign, you can write to your local MP, or you can think big and start your own campaign! The worst thing you can do is do nothing, so make a difference and do something positive today!
What positive action have you taken today? What non-recyclable packaging were you most surprised with? Share your thoughts below – we’d love to hear from you!