Household waste rises by 30% over Christmas and New Year, so it's an ideal time to focus on the fact you can save to to €1,000 a year from recycling. Consumer expert Tina Leonard has the lowdown.

Recycling isn’t only about protecting finite resources. It will also save you money.

You can save €100 a year in bin charges if you recycle fully and up to €1,000 a year if you stop wasting food.

But in order to save that money what recycling habits should you employ, and just what can you recycle?

Our bad recycling habits

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, while we may claim to recycle over half of our household waste, approximately 30pc of household waste is actually recovered.

In addition there appears to be a huge contrast between recycling habits at home and in the workplace.

In a Repak survey 77pc of people said they recycle milk or juice cartons at home, but only 30pc do in the office, and while 82pc recycle their plastic bottles at home, only 41pc do in the office.

The main reasons for this work place indifference, according to Repak, are that people feel it’s not their responsibility or they simply don’t think about it.

So, perhaps you can make it one of your New Year resolutions to up your recycling game in the workplace. And, you may want to look at your recycling habits at home too.

And now, with all that extra packaging and leftover food in the house, you could start as you mean to go on by recycling carefully.

And don’t throw out good toys or other unwanted Christmas gifts that can’t be returned to the store. Remember that any charity shop will take them. Plus in Dublin the pro Cathedral is a drop off point for unwanted gifts and no matter where you are in the country you could post your unwanted gifts on where all sale proceeds go to charity.

Saving money

Yes recycling is about re-using finite natural resources and helping the environment but it’s also about saving money.

According to Repak the average cost of annual household waste charges are €220 to €250 but if you don’t recycle properly you would end up paying €100 more in bin charges.

Plus, on average, wasted food costs each Irish household €700 a year. For some households this can be over €1,000 according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • The average Irish household throws out about 1.2 tonnes of rubbish each year – this is the weight of a small car.
  • The average person throws out almost 300kgs of black bin rubbish each year (the same as three grown men)
  • Of this, about one grown man’s weight is organics (about 37%) and this is made up of ~30% food, with the other 7% is garden & landscape materials.
  • Of the rest of the rubbish, 35% is potentially recyclable.

Depending on where you live and who your operator is green bags are generally either free or cost one third of a regular bin charge, so it is well worth your while recycling as much as you can.

Essentially the more you recycle the more you save. But how much will depend on where you live. For example in Dublin you could pay €7 per lift of general waste but zero for the green bin, whereas in the Midlands you could pay €8 for the general bin and €3 for the recycling bin.

Also look out for any changes in payment structures from waste collectors, to make sure you are taking the most cost effective approach.

For example, back in October Greyhound changed the tariff structure for their waste collection in South Dublin. The new structure introduced charges based on a per kilo weight rather than per lift for both black and brown bin waste, as it had been previously. (Green bins are free and they also have an annual service charge of €60 for 78 bin collections). This favours customers with lighter bins but meant that if you had very heavy bins you could end up paying more than previously. However, Greyhound point out that 41% of the waste that customers put into their black bins in South Dublin could be recycled across their green and brown bins.

This is a good example of why you need to change your recycling habits to make sure you pay the least possible.

Changing our habits

If you have set up a recycling ‘system’ in your home then you’re likely to recycle more.

Most people have a recycling bin in the kitchen (97% of us recycle from the kitchen) but just 50% of us recycle in the bathroom and only 35% of us recycle from the bedroom.

So you could also put a twin bin in the bathroom for example. To take recyclable waste from bedrooms you could put a recycling bin on the landing or common area between rooms. This will make it easier for you to remember to add the empty tissue box or cosmetic bottle to the recycling waste.

What you can recycle

What exactly you can put in the green or brown bin will depend on the contractor providing the service in your area; a practice that must add to consumers’ confusion.

There are the usual number of materials they all can take i.e. paper, cardboard etc but to find out what extras can be chucked in the green bin, check information on the bin if it’s there or you’ll have to contact your contractor to find out.

Forgotten items we can all recycle:

  • Plastic trays from fruit (most have triangle symbol with a 1 and PET)
  • Yogurt drinks bottles (pots are accepted if there is a 2 in a triangle with HDPE, if the triangle symbol contains a 5 an PP check your operator)
  • Steel food cans
  • Cartons from milk, juice and soup
  • Foil trays from take-aways and tarts
  • Sweet and biscuit tins
  • Beer bottle tops and other bottle caps
  • Empty aerosol containers (deodorants, shaving foam and air fresheners)
  • Plastic shampoo, cleanser and toner bottles
  • Toilet detergent bottles
  • Glass perfume bottles
  • Plastic disinfectant bottles
  • Detergent and washing up liquid bottles
  • Plastic bags

Note on plastic: When it comes to plastic for example any plastic with a 1 or 2 in a triangle symbol can go into your recycle bin.

Most of the plastic recycling facilities in Ireland will accept PET and HDPE bottles. Some also take clean LDPE. Check with your local connector to see what types of plastic they accept for recycling.

Cleaning before recycling

You should clean everything first. While some liquid in the plastics won’t always interfere with the recycling, when it is crushed it will leak over paper or cardboard making the end product lower grade and giving it a lower value. But a lot of contaminants in the green bin will interfere with recycling.

Repak say that 7 – 8% of all matter is rejected (they do get dirty nappies in the green bin!)

Did you know? Five bottles is enough to make a t-shirt

  • Five recycled plastic bottles can make 1sq foot of polyester carpet, an extra large t-shirt or filling for a ski-jacket.
  • 670 recycled aluminium cans can make one bicycle.
  • Recycled steel tins can be made into new tin cans, car parts and keys.
  • One tonne of plastic is equivalent to 20,000 two litre drink bottles or 120,000 carrier bags. Plastic consumption is growing at about 4% every year in Western Europe.
  • Recycling one aluminium can conserves enough energy to run a TV for three hours. Aluminium never wears out; it can be recycled forever!

Don’t forget about food waste

Stopping food waste is about three main things: Better buying; savvy storage and canny cooking.

Store food at correct temperature so that is lasts longer and use air tight containers

Watch best before and use-by dates; but remember best before doesn’t mean it’ll poison you after! Use-by dates should be adhered to however.

Watch fruit and veg closely and remove rotten fruit early or it will speed up the decaying process of other fruit beside it.

Shop more often and buy less

Plan your meals and shop to this plan rather than buying randomly – never shop on an empty stomach or you could end up buying too much

Make the most of Christmas left-overs, i.e. risotto, curries, sandwiches, omelettes, soups, etc

Use your fridge/freezer wisely – rotate food, check use-by dates regularly, freeze left over for later use etc

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