Scotland is a land of myths and legends, from the Loch Ness Monster to the ghosts that roam the streets of Edinburgh. At Changeworks Recycling, we have found that the world of recycling is no different and over the years many myths have developed, some more damaging than others.
Let’s bust some of those recycling myths right now…
1. “Recycling is a waste of time – it all gets landfilled anyway”
We might as well start with the biggest recycling myth – this statement is definitely incorrect. Our business wouldn’t be here if this was the case and whole industries exist around the recycling of different materials.
However, it is important to understand that things can’t and won’t get recycled if the material is too contaminated. Sadly, this is often the problem when recyclable materials are mixed together or the wrong things are put into the recycling bin.
This is where Changeworks Recycling’s system comes in: by keeping each material separate through its entire recycling life-cycle, we can guarantee it will get recycled effectively.
2. “You have to remove lids from plastic bottles for them to get recycled”
Many recycling myths have started due to people misunderstanding messaging from their local council, and this one is a prime example of that happening.
After recyclable materials are collected, they are compacted and baled into large blocks before being transported to reprocessing facilities. In the past, the balers used for this process often weren’t very strong and wouldn’t be able to compress a fizzy drink bottle with the lid still on, which are designed to contain very strong pressures.
Councils would often tell residents that lids were to be removed from bottles to ensure they could fit as much material into a bale as possible – it’s got nothing to do with the recyclability of bottles with lids on! These days, balers are powerful machines and can compress all types of bottles – so keep the lids on your plastic bottles when recycling them.
3. “Paper towels are recyclable”
This is a recycling myth that comes up a lot and it is understandably confusing. Paper is recyclable, so paper towels must be too, right? Although paper towels, tissues and napkins are often made from recycled paper, they aren’t recyclable themselves.
Paper can only be recycled a certain number of times before the fibres start to become too short to make usable paper again, and this is when it’s made into paper towel products. So, what should you do with paper towels? We recommend putting paper towel products, such as napkins and blue roll, in with your food waste, where they will breakdown with the food.
4. “All plastics are recyclable”
There is no doubt that plastics have become the hottest subject in the world of waste management over the past few years, with public understanding of the issues surrounding plastics increasing.
However, there is still a perception amongst many that all plastic is the same, and therefore it’s all recyclable. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near as simple as that. In single-use packaging alone around 50 different types of plastics get used. When it comes to recycling, two different types of plastics can’t get recycled together if you want to make something worthwhile.
It’s important to understand that there is a difference between something that is technically recyclable, and something that will actually get recycled. For things to be recycled there needs to be a market for the materials, infrastructure available to recycle it and all of this needs to be economically viable for it to happen.
At Changeworks Recycling our message is to recycle plastic bottles only. This way, we can get a large volume of high-quality products, all of which can easily be recycled within the UK back into the same product – the circular economy in practice!
5. “Everything I put in my recycling bin will get recycled”
This one isn’t necessarily a recycling myth, but it really depends on what you’ve put into your recycling bin.
Unfortunately, in the UK mixed recycling has become the norm. If you’re putting mixed recycling into your bin, then there is a very high chance that a lot of it won’t end up getting recycled. This is because it’s likely to be contaminated further down the processing line and lots of things get missed, in addition to the significantly higher processing costs for mixed recycling.
However, with Changeworks Recycling’s source-segregated recycling system, if recyclables are kept separate from each other (for example paper, cardboard and plastics) it will all be recycled in the UK and it’s a much more efficient process.