Tag Archives: War on Plastic

Recycling in the UK with TerraCycle

Since TerraCycle came to the UK in 2009, its recycling programmes have grown in popularity. The company boasts that 80% of us living in the UK now have a TerraCycle collection point, for hard to recycle waste, within just four miles. This seems like a fantastic step forward to reducing waste for landfill and incineration, and we can all get involved. However, as TerraCycle’s founder agrees “We can’t recycle our way out of waste. We need to change our buying habits to support durable goods, used goods and ideally not buying whatsoever“.

Reading about TerraCycle and its founder Tom Szaky, it’s evident that his heart is in the right place, and the company and sister companies are earnestly trying to find sustainable solutions to the global garbage problem. It’s good to know that serious thinkers like Szaky are calling for a complete gear change when it comes to waste, and we can see that large corporations, brands, retailers and manufacturers are being involved at ground level. However, it’s also obvious TerraCycle hasn’t ‘solved’ the problem. Well not yet!

So, is it worth getting involved in their recycling programmes?

Why we need to do our bit

We all know that burying or incinerating our waste is detrimental to the environment, wildlife and us. Our waste problem affects air-pollution, land-pollution, delicate ecosystems and global warmingix. The facts are undeniably stark, especially when it comes to plastic:

Did you know?

Looking at the UK’s household waste statistics it’s easy to see we’re not doing nearly enough when it comes to dealing with our garbage. From 2010 to 2019 the volume of waste collected per person has fallen by roughly only eight percent. Recycling rates of household waste in England were only 43.8% as of March 2020.

“One issue with the amount of recycling that can be done in England is that not all local authorities collect the same materials. As recently as 2017, just 18% of local authorities in England collected plastic film, nearly half as many as in Wales, which has a significantly higher recycling rate than England. Currently, plastics account for just 8.5% of the composition of dry recycling waste from households in England.”

Recycling rate of household waste in England 2010-2020

Published by Ian Tiseo, March 17, 2021

If we continue to rely on local authorities to collect our waste we’re simply not tackling the problem. And this is where changing our habits is key. One way to do this is to look at the services that TerraCycle offer.

What is Terracycle?

TerraCycle was founded by 19-year-old Tom Szaky in 2001, and was primarily to help eliminate the idea of waste by making quality fertiliser from food waste. As the company grew, Szaky knew that producing fertilizer was not the solution to the world’s waste problem and decided to focus his efforts on the wider problem of how waste is recycled.

In a 2020 interview he said, “We decided that we needed to switch the ‘hero’ of our equation from the product to the garbage, and that’s what led to what the company is today.”

Since refocusing the business, TerraCycle now runs several recycling schemes, and launched the first ever recycling programme for cigarette butts in 2021.

TerraCycle’s mission statement is “Whether it’s coffee capsules from your home, pens from a school, or plastic gloves from a manufacturing facility, TerraCycle can collect and recycle almost any form of waste.”

How TerraCycle works

It’s quite easy to take advantage of TerraCycle’s recycling services, but to begin you need to think about which one of their schemes you want to join, as there are quite a few. At first, I assumed I could just collect all my recycling, bag it up and have it collected. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but thankfully the TerraCycle website is straightforward and simple to use. Here’s an overview of the many schemes you can get involved with…

Free Recycling Programmes

TerraCycle offers a range of free recycling programmes in partnership with brands, manufacturers and retailers. Instead of bagging up all your hard to recycle plastics together, you can target specific packaging and waste. For example, you can recycle Acuvue® Contact Lenses, bread bags, crisp packers, Colgate® Oral B Care products, pet food pouches, cheese packaging, Febreze® Air Fresheners and even Ferrero Rocher packaging. There’s also a beach plastic recycling programme for rigid beach plastic you find along the shoreline, but as of April 2021 this programme is not accepting new members in the UK

Three ways this recycling get collected

  1. Drop off recycling at your nearest local collection point, which you can find using interactive maps on the TerraCycle website.
  2. If you can’t find a collection point within a five-mile radius of your house, you can set up a drop-off location in a public place.
  3. Alternatively, become a private collector and arrange a free pick-up using labels printed from their website.

Collecting TerraCycle points

TerraCycle points are credited to the accounts of public drop-off location administrators and private collectors as a reward for their collection efforts. Points can be redeemed into financial donations to the charity or school chosen by the owner of the points.

So what if you can’t find what you want to recycle in these free programmes?

For waste that can’t be recycled through the Free Recycling Programmes for whatever reason, TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box™ Solution may be the answer.

Zero Waste Box™ Solution

You still can’t put all your recycling in one box for this one, so you still have to look on the website and see what kind of waste you want to recycle. This scheme doesn’t just stick to specific brands and takes more generalised waste such as 3D printing materials, baby equipment, glue sticks, glasses and school backpacks. Plus, one that particularly caught my eye, disposable gloves and face masks. It seems if you can’t find what you want to recycle in the free programmes, paying for a box is the answer.

How much do they cost?

This all seems great but you do have to pay out a considerable amount for the boxes themselves. You choose from small, medium or large boxes depending on how much you estimate you will collect. To buy an All-In-One Zero Waste Box™ you pay £151.39 for a small box, £246.46 for a medium box or £415.60 for a large box. The good thing is that this particular box takes non-hazardous waste including flexible and rigid plastics such as art supplies, eye wear, home cleaning accessories, office supplies, beverage capsules and party supplies.

TerraCycle say, “The Zero Waste Box™ system is convenient and easy to use, making it the perfect option for households, schools, businesses, manufacturing facilities, and events looking to offset their impacts and lighten their footprint”.

So, where does the waste go and how is it recycled?

TerraCycle promise that collected waste won’t end up as litter, in landfill or incineration, but instead will be used to make new materials and products. Unlike municipal recycling, they focus on a wide range of waste streams. They work with scientists and specialists to analyse the materials to determine the right way to break it down into its building blocks and how to process it into new materials.

The different material types are cleaned, then sent to third-party processing partners that recycle the materials into usable forms. Metals and aluminium are shredded and smelted into metal sheeting, ingots or bar stock. Glass is crushed and melted to be used in new glass bottles or brick, cement or concrete applications. Rubber is generally cryo-milled to freeze, then size-reduced into a powdered state for flooring applications. Organics are composted or used in industrial and commercial fertilisers. Plastics are melted and reformatted into pellets, flakes or a powder format.

But here’s the rub

Speaking to the World Economic Forum (WEC) during a live Facebook webinar in February 2016, Tom Szaky said, “We show that if you promote recycling platforms around waste then you will drive consumerism”. This is the main criticism of TerraCycle’s Recycling Programmes and Zero Waste Box Solution™. While these schemes are great, they’re not giving an incentive to big companies like Nestlé, Walkers, Pepsi to change their thinking on how they package their products.

TerraCycle’s solution – Loop

To give TerraCycle their due, they recognised the problem and in 2019 launched their most ambitious attempt yet to eliminate plastic waste from the household shop. Their new solution is Loop, which sits alongside their previous schemes. 

Szaky says, “The idea for Loop came up when I was talking to colleagues. We asked ourselves whether or not recycling and making products from recycled content was going to solve the garbage problem. We realised that it’s an incredibly important thing to do, but it’s only solving the symptom of waste and not really eliminating the idea of it – or solving the root cause.”

As they say on the website: “Why own a product’s packaging (and have to throw it away when you’re done), when all we really want is the stuff inside? With Loop, temporarily place a 100% refundable deposit to borrow the packaging, and we’ll professionally clean and reuse it once you’re finished”.

Loop is now available in the UK in partnership with Tesco and is the UK’s first online shopping service that delivers food, drink and household essentials from leading brands in reusable packaging. Loop is currently being used for some 300+ products, including Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Crest mouthwash and personal care product Dove.

But can we all do even better?

TerraCycle’s recycling programmes are a great start and perfect if you rely on products such as contact lenses and baby products and want to ensure they are recycled responsibly. However, looking at the long list of waste they take on, you have to ask yourself if using alternative products is just a whole lot smarter. There are plenty of sustainable eco-friendly swaps you can make, and ways to upcycle at home. Plus, we need to start asking ourselves if we can do without items such as coffee machines, plastic cotton buds, wet wipes, disposable gloves and disposable masks.

If you want to see how TerraCycle can help you do your bit, take a look at their two websites https://loopstore.co.uk/ and https://www.terracycle.com/

But remember to check in with this blog for tips on how you can make easy, smart choices which will help the environment without perpetuating the problem by checking out this blog. You can also sign up to our newsletter

Why Switching to a safety razor is a great choice

How many razors do you think you’ve disposed of so far? 20? 30? 40? More than that?

Shaving is an area that is incredibly disposable but it’s also one of the simplest eco-friendly swaps you can make. The swap is great for your pocket and the environment.

If you look after your safety razor well, it could last a lifetime and will reduce the number of plastic razors from making its way to landfill.

Disposable razors

In the last 30-40 years, razors have come a really long way: flexible heads, lubricating strips, multipacks, handle grips and even in different colours (a few years it was reported razors marketed towards women were more expensive than those marketed towards men! That’s shocking!).

Once the blade becomes blunt, you have the option of either replacing the whole razor with a brand new one or just the head, both options are wasteful.

They are also made with different materials which can be difficult to separate: Rubber for the grips, metal for the blades, the remaining parts in plastic. The only place they can end up is landfill. In 2019, about 5.5 million people used disposable razors. That’s a whole lot of razors and one massive razor landfill.

What’s the alternative?

Enter the safety razor.

I have a safety razor, which I bought about 18 months ago and I absolutely love it. Here’s a picture of mine with the blades I use.

You may already recognise a safety razor, they’ve been around for well over 100 years and is loaded with a single replaceable blade. The handle twists opening the top where you can easily remove the blunt blade and replace with a new one.

One thing I learnt since having a safety razor is that there’s no such thing has a ‘quick shave’. You really need to take your time and use it carefully.

It didn’t take long to realise that I didn’t need to apply much pressure as the razor is top heavy and does most of the work for you. The beauty of these razors is the blade is sharp on both sides, not just one.

My top tips

  • Exfoliate – Always exfoliate the area first, this will reduce the number of nicks and cuts. I use exfoliating mitts and I love them.
  • Angle – You’ll need to angle the razor about 20 to 30 degrees, that doesn’t mean you take a protractor into the shower, it’s a guide so you know that the razor will need to be used at an angle.
  • Time – Make sure you take your time, as it’s top heavy, it will do most of the work for you anyway.
  • Recycle the blade – Although the blade is metal, it could be put in with your recycling but check with your local recycling centre as they may have a safety deposit disposal bank. The blades are so small that they hardly take up any space if you need to save them up first.

If you have made the switch or are planning to make the switch, let us know 💚

Environmental Awareness Days 2021

Everyday there seemed to be an ‘International day of xxx’ or ‘National day of xxx’ and in 2020 there were quite a few that I had missed. So I thought I would do a calendar for 2021.

Although, this isn’t a complete list, I’ve tried my best to include awareness dates for when they would be usually be held but with coronavirus, these could be delayed or even cancelled until next year.

January

  • Veganuary 1st January to 31st January – This has been going for a few years now and the idea is to only eat vegan food throughout the month of January. This is a good opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint, see how you get on being a vegan for a month and to try different foods.
  • Big Garden Birdwatch – 29th January to 31st January – Organised by the RSPB, you can spend an hour in the park or garden, making a note of the birds and how many you see. By submitting this information to the RSPB, it allows them to monitor the challenges faced by wildlife and whether the population of a particular breed is growing or in decline. Click on the link and you can sign up.
  • Houseplant Week UK – 11th January to 17th January – Houseplants are brilliant at purifying the air, this week is a perfect opportunity to find out which houseplant to buy. A good place to start is a blog I wrote last year about houseplants.
  • Big Energy Saving Week – 18th January – 24th January -This week is dedicated to cutting your energy use and how to save money lead by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The website is full of tips and ideas.

March

  • Compost Week – 15th March to 21st March – As the name suggests, this week is dedicated to composting and its benefits. Composting is becoming quite popular and it’s really healthy for your garden.
  • The Great British Spring Clean – Usually around 22nd March to 23rd April – Encouraging you to pledge whatever time you have, even if its an hour, and use that time to go litter picking or join a litter picking group. Keep an eye on their website for 2021 dates, it’s usually held in March/April but in 2020 it was held in September.

April

  • Discover National Parks Fortnight – Around 4th April – 19th April – There are secret coves and ancient forest to explore all around the UK. This is a brilliant opportunity to discover a new place and get some fresh air into your lungs.
  • Community Garden Week – 5th April to 11th April – This week takes the opportunity to celebrate school and community gardens up and down the country. Working together and inspiring each other, what’s not to love?
  • Earth Day – 22nd April – The Earth Day network is a global effort to work together and their mission to ‘To build the world’s largest environmental movement to drive transformative change for people and planet‘ (https://www.earthday.org/about-us/). This movement has been going since 1970. You can sign up to their newsletter and keep up to date with their progress and campaigns.

May

  • No Mow May – 1st May to 31st May – I found out about this campaign last year and it’s a fabulous idea. The idea is that you don’t mow your lawn for a whole month, allowing flowers to bloom which is vital source of nectar for bees and other insects. You can even construct a ‘scaremow’ – click on the link to the National Trust Website to find out more.
  • National Children’s Gardening Week – 29th May to 6th June – What better way to get your children interested in gardening. It’s fun for all the family and gets you out into the fresh air, what’s not to love?
  • Bike Week – 30th May to 5th June – In partnership with Cycle UK, this is a campaign to celebrate cycling and the benefits. Also, a fabulous way to reduce your carbon footprint!

June

  • World Environment Day – 5th June – ‘The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.’ (https://www.un.org/en/observances/environment-day). This year’s theme is biodiversity and with everything that is going on with the planet, it’s very appropriate.
  • World Oceans Day – 8th June – Raising awareness of the vital importance our oceans play and how it helps to sustain a healthy planet. There is much in the media about plastic in the ocean and the effects our choices have on the oceans. Sign up to get involved.
  • National Refill Day – 19th June – I remember this from 2020. In an effort to prevent plastic pollution, this campaign encourages us to make the switch from single-use plastic bottles to reusable ones. I, for one, am already on board and have quite a few reusable bottles already!

July

  • Plastic Free July – 1st July to 31st July – I love this global campaign which encourages us to make changes to reduce our plastic use. I even wrote a blog about what I did for 2020. Small changes make a massive difference and I would encourage everyone to make a change. Their website is full of ideas.
  • Plastic Bag Free Day – 3rd July – This is a global campaign to eliminate the use of single-use plastics which is part of the Break Free From Plastic movement. I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought a plastic bag! Their website also has some interesting facts about the different types of plastic used in bags.
  • Don’t Step on a Bee Day – 10th July – Bees are so crucial to the ecosystem that I’m in the process of writing a blog about why they are important and what they do. Bees are precious and need protecting.

August

  • National Allotments Week – 9th August to 15th August – This week is to celebrate the importance of allotments and their benefits; growing and cooking your own food should be a life skill. The theme for 2021 is ‘plotting for the future’ highlighting how allotments contribute to a sustainable future.

September

  • Organic September – 1st September to 30th September – This campaign aims to bring awareness by trying organic food and to educate people about farming practices in growing organic food.
  • Recycle Week – 20th September to 26th September – As the name suggests, it’s a week to promote and encourage recycling. Full details are yet to be released for 2021 so the dates could change, last year’s theme was ‘Recycling. It’s in our hands’.

October

  • Unblocktober – 1st October to 31st October – This was one I had never heard of before. This campaign promotes awareness for our drains, sewers and waterways by changing your habits at home. The amount of things people put down their drains that can cause blockages is alarming. I remember watching a programme last year about the damage baby wipes can do to drains. Their website has some brilliant ways to make these changes.
  • No Disposable Cup day – 4th October – as the name suggests, it asks everyone not to take a disposable cup for that day. Personally, I think everyday should be disposable cup day!
  • National Clean Air Day – 8th October – Their website states 36,000 a year in the UK die from air pollution, that’s shocking! As well as stats, their website provides information on how you can get involved.

December

If there are any other events that you feel should be mentioned, please do let me know 💚

Plastic Recycling Symbols

Have you ever looked at a plastic bottle and seen a triangle with number? Ever wondered what they mean?

Although, it would be better to try to avoid using plastic altogether, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a little guide to help.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). What is it used for? – Soft drinks bottles, food packaging. This plastic is easy to recycle

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). What is it used for? – Milk cartons, cleaning products, yoghurt pots. This plastic is easy to recycle

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). What is it used for? Pipes, Electrical cables, insulation. This plastic is difficult to recycle.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE). What is it used for? Shopping bags, wraps for magazines. It can be recycled…just about.

Polyethylene (PP). What is it used for? Butter and margarine tubs, food trays, carpet fibres. Easy to recycle.

Polystyrene (PS). What is it used for? Plastic cutlery, takeaway packaging, insulation. Difficult to recycle.

This is the ‘other’ category. This will include the other packaging that is incredibly difficult to recycle; crisp packets, salad bags

You may have noticed that the text for each of these are separated into three colours; Green, Orange and Red, this determines the ease or recycling that plastic.

Green – Recyclable

Orange – Recycled at specialist points

Red – Not easy to recycle and will most probably end up in landfill

One important aspect to bear in mind that if something is easy to recycle, this is more likely if it isn’t attached to a layer of another type of plastic. Mixing plastics comes with a new set of problems.

The best thing to do is to reduce the amount plastic you buy, where you can.

Plastic in tea bags

Us Brits are tea-lovers. We love our tea; we have it with cakes, biscuits, toast and we can even go to expensive shops to have luxury ‘afternoon tea experience’. When we’re sad we have a cuppa, when we are happy we have a cuppa, when we go to a friend’s house, guess what…we have a cuppa.

But, do you think about the tea bag?

When you discard your teabag, where you do put it? Bin? Compost heap? Food waste? Nope, the only place is landfill because some brands use plastic to make their tea bags and some could be leeching micro plastics.

Just what you want, you’re enjoying a nice cup of tea and, unknowingly, your cuppa has millions of micro plastics swimming around in there. Yuck!

About three months ago, I found out about plastic in tea bags and I was mortified. I had put my tea bags in the compost and they don’t actually belong there. Of course, all brands are different so it’s worth checking the label but, in my experience, if a company is doing something they shouldn’t be doing, they won’t be very vocal about it. So, I changed to tea leaves. It took a while to get used to but I can’t ever imagine going back to tea bags.

My decision to move to loose tea leaves was further reaffirmed by a recent BBC programme called War on Plastic presented by Anita Rani and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Anita investigated the claim of plastic in tea bags this with the help of the team at University of East Anglia (UEA). The team of scientists aimed to dissolve six of the UK’s biggest tea bag brands to see what was left. Some dissolved completely and some tea bags left, what looked like, a plastic skeleton.

There are even some tea bags that aren’t made of paper at all – they’re entirely plastic! A team in Canada conducted a study on these tea bags where billions of micro plastics and nano plastics were found in the cup of tea. How gross!

The thought of these floating around my cuppa makes me feel sick and with all the plastics found in the oceans, I wouldn’t be surprised if micro plastics have already entered our food chain. Who knows what damage these will all do to our fragile bodies.

I think I will stick to my loose tea leaves.