From books to phones, clothes to cars, packaging to plastic bags, all the ‘stuff’ that’s in the world uses up resources when it’s made and has a big environmental impact. So the more we can reduce, reuse and recycle these items the better. Instead of using and throwing away 300 cups, for example, it’s better to make one, reuse it 300 times and then recycle it by turning it into something else.
Reducing means not buying more stuff, or things we don’t need in the first place. It’s one of the best actions we can take for the planet.
Reusing involves making the most of what we already have, so the resources are worth their impact on the environment. Buying second hand is a great way to reuse what already exists in the world.
Finally, recycling takes materials and processes them so they can be used again. It’s way better than sending them to landfill!
Ready to become a regular at reducing, reusing and recycling? Because you’ll want to try these ideas again and again and again…
Recycling is easy, right? You just throw things in a recycling bin… Mm, kinda! There are a few things to check. First of all, each area has different collection rules, so double check your council website to find out what they do and don’t accept in the recycling bin. Putting the wrong things in can contaminate collections (booo!) and means that they can’t be recycled properly – so if in doubt, leave it out! Give your items a quick rinse to make sure they’re clean and no food or drink is left in them. Then, recycle away!
Got a reusable water bottle? It’s a pretty cool accessory (if we do say so ourselves) and they come in all sorts of colours, patterns and sizes, so find one that feels like you! In the UK, we’re really lucky that we have safe, clean tap water, so you can refill a reusable bottle every day instead of getting all your water from plastic bottles, like people in many parts of the world. See how many refills you can get before you forget (or lose) your water bottle – and then try to beat that high score.
That pesky plastic! Plastic is a pest to the environment because it’s a material that hangs around for hundreds of years, causing more problems as it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces – and it seems to be everywhere! Is there anything in your family’s weekly shop that could be bought in bulk to reduce packaging? For example, if you buy individual juice cartons with plastic straws, you could swap this for one big bottle of juice and pour yourself a serving each day instead (into your reusable bottle!). Or, if you buy fun-size packets of your favourite snack, you could buy one big bag and separate it yourself. Buying fruit without plastic packaging is also a huge win if you can get into the habit.
Food wrap-tastic. Do you use cling film or tinfoil in your lunchbox? There are almost 200 lunchtimes in a single school year. If every one of the 8.2 million kids in Britain takes their sandwiches in disposable wrappers like these, we’re looking at an eye-watering 1,600 million wrappers per year. There’s got to be another way! Thankfully, storing your food in reusable Tupperware instead of wrapping it up is a quick and easy swap you can make.
Did you know the UK produces the second-largest amount of e-waste of any country in the world? E-waste means electronic items like phones, laptops and chargers that are wasted and sent to landfills, often even if they still work! It’s bad for the environment because these electronics contain lots of valuable metals that could be used again and again. It took a lot of resources to extract them from the ground and they can be toxic when they break down. If you have any old or broken tech, see if it can be repaired before giving up on it or replacing it. Why not see if there’s a repair cafe running in your local area and take it along to be looked at?
Can’t be repaired? It can probably still be recycled! Most kerbside recycling (the bins you put out each week) won’t be able to process electronics but your local recycling centre, electronics shop or the maker of your item might be able to. Batteries are often collected in special bins at supermarkets or tech stores.
Make them last longer. There are some easy ways to protect your electronics so you can use them for longer. Make sure you use a screen protector and protective case on handheld items and don’t bend or stretch your chargers too much, especially at the ends of the cable. Eek.