Corroborated, reducing, reusing and recycling represent a change of attitude towards the planet’s resources as well as the products we use on a daily basis. And contrary to the general perception, the process doesn’t stop with depositing recyclables into bins for collection. It also involves making specific choices when shopping, by favouring certain products wholly or partially made from or packaged in recycled materials.
If the demand for these products grows, the rate the materials are recycled at will grow as well. Below is a summary of the main categories of products made from recycled materials that you are likely to encounter on the British market. On some products, information will be displayed with regards to the type and percentage of recycled materials they contain. Recycled materials are used, of course, only for the manufacturing of non-perishable items.
Plastic packaging: By far the most common, plastic packaging, in the form of bottles, other containers and plastic film, adding to that packaging peanuts (made from polyester), polyvinyl chloride bags and blister packs, is often made from recycled plastic. The applications of recycled plastic in packaging are by no means limited to polyethylene bottles.
Paper and cardboard packaging: Whilst paper bags are seldom used for shopping in the UK, they are used for gifts, along with gift wrapping paper – both can be made from recycled paper. Cardboard boxes are also normally recycled into new boxes and once again used for packaging.
Metal packaging: Considering the fact that post-consumer metal consists mostly of steel and aluminium cans, they also constitute most of the recycled metal packaging found on the market. The percentage of recycled metal differs between products and is usually specified on the label.
Metal: Steel is very widely used by the construction industry, for a broad array of applications, from widely used materials such as reinforcing bars and mesh to heavy machinery employed in the construction process. It is recycled on a large scale and preserves its properties, therefore it is eligible in its recycled version for the same applications as it is when newly produced.
Plastic: As a construction material, plastic is starting to replace timber, which is a commendable alternative to using more trees instead of preserving them. Fake lumber made from recycled plastic is being used for manufacturing floor boards, fences, decks, rails and so forth.
Wood: Recycling wood has also become quite common nowadays, especially aged wood, which is reprocessed and treated and then put back on the market in the form of new products such as flooring or roofing.
Glass: As a construction material, recycled glass is often used in the form of aggregates, which are added to concrete or mixed with other materials for laying walkways, driveways, parking lots and so forth. It is also used for making tiles.
Many designers of modern furniture aim to preserve a classy appearance and keep innovating when it comes to the designs themselves, yet at the same time have a minimal impact on essential resources such as wood. Recycled timber is widely used nowadays, for indoor and outdoor furniture alike. Plastic lumber is also used for outdoor or street furniture, and although it doesn’t emulate timber to perfection, it has its own appeal. Akin to wood and plastic, metal - predominantly steel - is also recycled into new furniture, from office furniture to bar stools.
An important percentage of all regular printed publications (newspapers and magazines) use recycled paper, which then re-enters the recycling process. Newspapers can be recycled up to eight times, which saves a notable amount of paper. Leaflets and other types of junk mail are often made from recycled paper as well.
Paper products: Although it is common knowledge that using many paper products on a daily basis should be avoided, it is still and indispensable material, irreplaceable when it comes to toilet paper, stationery, printing paper and so on. The good news is all these can be made from recycled paper as well, along with other similar products such as gift wrapping paper (which can also be reused, if kept in good condition) or envelopes.
Plastic products: Aside from packaging, which is the most widespread application for everyday use recycled plastic products, this material can also be found in kitchenware, cleaning and gardening equipment. Moreover, baby and child care products (such as bottles, high chairs, plates and cutlery) as well as toys are almost exclusively made from plastic, as it is safer to use. Recycled plastic is successfully used for manufacturing such objects.
Glass products: Even though glass is easily breakable, it is almost as easily recycled into new items. It is common for people to use recycled glass and ceramic kitchenware, from small goblets to sizeable pitchers.
Metal products: If you work in an office, you might be using needful items such as staplers, scissors, paper clips, lamps, file cabinets and furniture made from recycled metal (usually steel). Recycled metal is frequently used for household equipment such as ladders and gardening tools as well.
In this day and age, the range of textiles made from recycled plastic, such as polyethylene thread or yarn, are becoming more prevalent. Although these plastic fibres are not suitable for any type of clothing, they are appropriate for weather-proof apparel such as fishing ponchos, uniforms for traffic management operatives, Bivvy jackets etc. They are also used for common items such as tents, travel bags, rucksacks or outdoor furniture covers. Cotton can be recycled as well, into cleaning cloths and wipers.
This type of products is usually not manufactured on an industrial scale, but rather by small companies which have an aim to make use of what would otherwise be waste. They often employ the creativity of talented artisans whose ingenuity surprises many, and through that make a point – that something seemingly worthless can be turned into an aesthetically valuable item. Basically, any recycled material can be turned into art. It is quite common for glass to be recycled into glass beads of a great variety of shapes and colours.
Did You Know?
According to Defra, each person in England produced an average of 457 Kilograms of waste in 2009-10. Of this, an average of about 181 Kilograms per person was recycled. That left 60% of un-recycled waste, at an average of 276 kilograms per person.