Article

Trash talk

It’s a familiar dilemma for many of us: we pick up some trash to throw it in the garbage, only to be left wondering which bin to use. Despite the increasing amount of guidance and people’s good intentions, many items still end up in mixed-waste garbage cans, unrecycled. Recycling conserves natural resources, saves energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change – so paying more attention to our waste disposal habits and infrastructure makes perfect sense.

Trash talk

Legislation regarding waste management and recycling in the EU is becoming more stringent as Europe moves towards a circular-economy way of thinking. The new laws require EU countries to recycle at least 65% of their municipal waste by 2035* in order to protect not only our environment, but also our health. The ultimate target is a closed loop of product lifecycles, from production and consumption to recycling and reuse. While municipalities are responsible for making sure that the proper infrastructure required by sustainable waste management is in place, it is up to us as individuals to use this infrastructure correctly.

Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle

While recycling might require a little bit of effort at first, once you get into the habit it’s easy to make it part of your daily routine. When your household waste is sorted into the correct containers it can be used as raw material for making new products or generating energy – but before simply tossing things away, take a moment to think about the other options open to you.

Reduce

Green thinking begins before you even leave for the supermarket. Make a list before you head out to the store to avoid buying unnecessary items, and minimize the amount of waste by avoiding individually packed products such as vegetables wrapped in plastic. Bigger paper and cartonboard packages are a better option as they can easily be recycled and the material reused. However, only buy the amount you’ll consume to avoid food waste.

Reuse

Instead of buying a new product, could you reuse something you already have at home? Reusable water bottles and shopping bags are a great example of a simple way to cut household waste, and plastic waste in particular. In Europe tap water is inexpensive, so filling your bottle from the tap saves money and the environment. Also remember that undamaged goods are not waste, and your trash could be someone else’s treasure. You can sell items that are in good condition at a flea market or online, or donate them to charity or a local recycling center.

Repurpose

Repurposing means using something for a different purpose than originally intended. This may require a bit of thinking and some handicraft skills, but you’d be surprised at how great the end result can be. Sites like YouTube and Pinterest are filled with great DIY ideas, like how to turn your old shoe boxes into beautiful gift packages using excess wallpaper or create a unique Christmas calendar from toilet paper rolls. Even the simplest things can make a difference, like reusing scrap paper for taking notes or saving it up for your kids to use as art material or drawing paper.

Recycle

For items that you can’t reuse or turn into something new, recycling is the most responsible way to dispose of them. Recycling is not only good for the environment, but it also makes you pay more attention to what ,and how much, you throw away. These days many of us stare in horror at the piles and piles of plastic we generate at home, most of which is now thankfully recyclable. Taking a good look in your recycling cupboard can be a sobering experience – and one which provides food for thought when it comes to reconsider your purchasing habits.

How to recycle your household waste**

  1. Biowaste consists of organic, decomposable, solid matter.

    What can I put in my biowaste bin?

    • fruit and vegetable peelings
    • food waste
    • fish bones and other bones
    • solidified grease
    • tea bags or leaves, coffee grounds, and coffee filter paper
    • soft paper such as kitchen towels, paper napkins, and tissues
    • plant off-cuts and dried flowers, and small amounts of garden waste
    • wood-based litter from pet cages (for example, sawdust and pellets)
  2. Waste cardboard includes cartons, paper and cardboard packages.

    What can I put in my cardboard bin?

    • cartonboard packages for liquids such as milk and juice (including those with an aluminum lining)
    • cartonboard packages such as cereal and cookie packages
    • paper packaging such as bread and flour bags
    • paper bags
    • egg cartons
    • empty cardboard tubes from kitchen or toilet paper rolls
    • corrugated cardboard and kraft paper

    Note: Before tossing any food packaging, rinse it and let it drip dry before flattening it down as much as possible. There’s no need to remove any staples or packing tapes.

  3. Glass is a little more straightforward to deal with. You can put any clear or colored glass bottles and jars into your glass waste bin at home. Rinse dirty glass bottles and jars with a splash of cold water, and remove the caps and lids (if they’re metal they can be recycled too). There’s no need to remove labels, bottle collars, or other parts.

    Note:.Things like drinking glasses, porcelain and ceramics, or incandescent and halogen light bulbs need to be put with your mixed waste as they are not suitable for the same recycling process as bottles and jars. However, nowadays many large electrical retailers offer recycling points for things like energy-saving light bulbs and fluorescent tubes, so check out your options before tossing these into the mixed-waste bin.

  4. Most of the metal waste we generate at home is small metal packages like empty food cans. Larger metal objects should be treated as scrap metal and disposed of accordingly.

    What can I put into my metal waste bin?

    • small metal items
    • food and beverage cans
    • aluminum foil
    • metal lids and caps
    • metal casings from tea lights
    • empty, dry paint cans
    • empty aerosol cans (ones that don’t make a sloshing or hissing sound)

    Note: Be sure to rinse any metal food containers with cold water before disposing of them.

  5. Recycleable paper consists of the paper that arrives in your mailbox and paper you use for writing or printing.

    What can I put into my paper waste bin?

    • newspapers and magazines
    • adverts, brochures, and postcards
    • envelopes (including those with windows)
    • phone books and product catalogs
    • paperback books
    • hardback books with the covers removed
    • copy paper and printed paper
    • sketchbooks and notepads (with any metal or plastic bindings removed)
    • white paper bags

    Note: staples and paperclips do not need to be removed.

  6. Plastic packaging means plastic containers, wrapping, bags, and so on used for packaging products. Packaging also refers to the plastic bags used to carry purchases home in.

    What can I put into my plastics waste bin?

    • Empty plastic food packaging such as yogurt containers, butter and margarine tubs, or packages for cold cuts, cheeses, and convenience food
    • Empty plastic detergent, shampoo, and soap bottles
    • Plastic carriers, bags, and wrappings
    • Empty plastic bottles, canisters, and jars (preferably flattened and with caps and lids removed)

    Note: Rinse or wipe clean empty packages to remove any residue or odor, and remove caps and lids.

  7. Mixed waste includes miscellaneous waste. Hazardous waste and all materials that can be reused as raw materials have already been separated from it.

    What can I throw into my mixed waste bin?

    • plastic products other than packages – for example, broken plastic toys, watering cans, and kitchen utensils
    • hygiene products such as disposable diapers, tampons, and sanitary towels
    • worn out textiles and shoes (Please note that several shop chains have organised textile collections in their stores and you can take textiles and shoes there to be recycled.)
    • leather, faux leather, and rubber
    • drinking glasses and heat-tolerant glass dishes
    • mirrors, pieces of broken window glass
    • porcelain and ceramics
    • vacuum cleaner bags
    • incandescent and halogen light bulbs, fuses
    • used cooking oil (in a tightly sealed bottle)
    • ash and cigarette butts

Want to get stories like this and more?

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. Read more about our cookie policy and privacy statement.