China’s recent restrictions give us all more reason to improve our recycling
Recycle Now's campaign manager, Craig Stephens, explains the impact of China's recent recycling import restrictons and how you can help by recycling more of the right things!
Plastic seems to be everywhere at the moment. Whenever I turn on the TV or look at the news, there seems to be another story highlighting the scale of plastic waste – with a particular focus on how plastic can end up in our oceans.
While it’s encouraging to see so many people speaking out against waste and looking to reduce it; I can also understand the concern from many of you that since January, China – one of the largest importers of the UK’s recycled materials - is beginning to introduce stricter quality controls, impacting the amount of our recycling it accepts.
Until now, China has accepted a huge proportion of our recyclables each year. This has been an effective way for us to recycle, saving a huge amount of material from going to waste; and also allows China to supply manufacturers in the country with recycled material for the products they produce.
This news has understandably become a focus in the fight against plastic waste. And while plastics are currently under the media spotlight, China is also reducing the amount of paper and card it imports.
One of the key reasons for this is simple – much of the recycled materials China receives is ‘contaminated’, meaning it is poor quality including items that cannot be recycled, and difficult and expensive to successfully sort for recycling.
I can understand why this is a cause for concern from many recyclers – many of my own friends and family who dutifully recycle every day have expressed worries to me. With more and more people recycling, where is our increasing amount of recycled material going to end up now? And fundamentally, is it still worth recycling at all?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that much of the recycling we generate from our homes is still recycled in the UK. To put it into perspective, a whopping 6.5 billion plastic bottles were recycled in the UK in 2016. So while we are focussed on the situation abroad, it’s easy to forget the fantastic work we’re doing recycling at home. It’s really important that we keep up the good work on this.
How you can help
Secondly, the good news is that there’s something simple we can all do at home to improve the quality of the stuff we put in the recycling bin – ultimately giving it a much better chance of it being successfully recycled in the UK and abroad.
By understanding more about what can and cannot be recycled, and putting the right items in the recycling bin (and also not putting the wrong items in!), we can reduce ‘contamination’ and make our recycling easier to recycle.
Get your recycling right
To help you get your recycling right, Recycle Now has a really simple tool – the Recycling Locator. Simply tick the item you’re looking to recycle, enter your postcode, and it will show your local recycling points for that item.
It can also help you find out exactly what to put in your recycling bins at home. Simply enter your postcode into the tool to find out what your local authority accepts in your kerbside collection.
This site also has an A-Z list of items to give you more information about whether they’re recyclable – and why this may or may not be the case.
Most people in the UK think recycling is a good thing to do – which it absolutely is! Recycling is an environmentally friendly way to prevent waste at home. Recycling plastic ensures that it stays in use and reduces the chance of it ending up in our oceans. Recycling saves energy, reduces the need to use raw materials and helps combat climate change. Just some of the reasons to keep up the great recycling we do in the UK.
We can all do our bit to give the planet a helping hand, not least by recycling as best as we can at home.
Top tips for recycling plastic
- If it’s plastic and bottle shaped, it’s recyclable – even those bottles in the bathroom and bedroom
- Packaging labels and recycling symbols appear now on many items, which can help you understand whether it’s recyclable
- Pump dispenser tops, like those on hand soap bottles, should go in the general rubbish bin; but trigger sprays, like those on surface cleaner sprays, can be left on and recycled
- Make sure bottles are empty
- Leave tops on your plastic bottles and squash them
- Rinse food trays to ensure that food does not contaminate other materials.