Consumerism still has a very strong hold on modern western societies, with an infinity of products being produced, sold, bought, consumed and partially sent to landfill. When recycling started growing as a trend and attitudes began to change, people started recycling a very small array of items and continued sending certain items to landfill, even if at a second glance, they were actually recyclable as well. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as awareness keeps growing and people intensify their recycling efforts in their own home.
This is a practical demonstration done on an average sample, consisting of the contents of a full household rubbish bin. The bin is emptied and the contents examined in order to determine which ones were recyclable and had been omitted, if the owner regularly recycles some items, or frequently go to landfill, if the owner doesn’t recycle at all. This can either be done by someone who is trained for this type of activity or by the owners themselves, with a precise guide covering all household recyclables.
Rubbish auditing is carried out in schools as well, as a demonstration, at environmentally themed festivals or by non-governmental organisation, as part of an educational program.
Everyone supposedly knows the basics when it comes to recycling, yet questions arise as well, when one handles a great variety of products on a daily basis, many of which are made from mixed materials. If you are not sure whether an item is recyclable or not, or which category it fits into exactly, the best thing to do is put it aside and enquire about it as opposed to placing it into a recycling container, unsure of its nature. If an irregularity occurs, it can seriously affect the recycling process of the whole content of that particular container.
Recyclables should always be as clean as possible and free of any contaminants (except those specified by trustworthy sources, such as labels and bottle caps on plastic bottles or staples on paper). Pizza boxes, for instance, are made from recyclable cardboard, yet when stained by grease and bits of food, are not eligible. Cans, plastic and glass containers used for food packaging should always be rinsed under the tap, to avoid the decomposition of any leftovers inside them, which is unsanitary, causes odours and, on a large scale, can interfere with the recycling process.
Every municipality has got a different system, as organised by local authorities. In some areas, councils provide recycling bins of various sizes (varying in dimensions including according to the nature of the residence). In others, residents buy their own bins, for indoor or outdoor use, or simply use those placed near public facilities if that is more convenient. The system of kerbside collection also differs from one area to another.
Before determining what kind of bins to place near a public facility, local authorities evaluate which types of waste those who frequent them are likely to generate. With schools and universities, that is easy to presume. Although modern technology tends to replace paper nowadays, educational institutions still go through a significant amount of paper, mainly in the form of stationery items and printing paper. Actually, paper products constitute one fourth of the total amount of rubbish generated by UK schools. Then, there is a substantial amount of packaging, mostly empty bottles and cans, since the young generation is quite keen on soft drinks. Polyethylene bottles and aluminium cans are the most common for these applications.
Akin to most recycling bins placed in the proximity of public facilities, outdoor bins placed near schools usually have the maximum capacity, that of 1000 litres, or range between 660 and 1000 litres. Indoor bins are sometimes used as well; they are either placed on the corridors or inside each classroom. They are mostly paper bins, sometimes 100% ecological (made from recycled paper or cardboard). Styling is not that important, yet when it comes to lower grades (younger children), bright colours and images might encourage them to participate more.
Like schools, offices also use a fair amount of paper, predominantly printing paper, which is of very high quality. For that reason, paper bins are present in most offices across the UK nowadays. As offices are customarily clean and exposure to contaminants is minimal, the paper originating from office waste will usually be recyclable. The paper is sometimes shredded before being placed in a recycling bin, if it contains sensitive information concerning that particular company.
Indoor recycling bins tend to be quite small; the qualities required are usually a low visual profile and convenience of use. Under-the-desk recycling bins, which open from the top with a sliding lid, are ideal. Bins are also placed in the proximity of board rooms, as certain events involve the consumption of products packaged in polyethylene bottles, aluminium cans etc.
Paper bins are usually ecological, made from paper or cardboard. Small segregated bins are also common on corridors, as they don’t take up too much space. An emphasis is sometimes placed on styling, which has to blend into the office décor; inconspicuous colours are often chosen, whilst the favoured materials are stainless steel and plastic. These materials are very durable, hygienic and provide the desired appearance as well.
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.