Types of Plastic: Know Your Waste To Be A Pro-Recycler

Types of Plastic: Know Your Waste To Be A Pro-Recycler

Undeniably, plastic has changed the world, and in many ways, it has done enormous good for us: revolutionising healthcare, saving lives with helmets, incubators and equipment for clean water; but the conveniences of plastic have led to a throw-away culture.

I thought if I follow the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle when dealing with plastics, I’ll not be contributing to the 8 million tons of plastic waste that escapes into the oceans each year. Turns out recycling is not the magic bullet many make it out to be. Many of the plastics that are “recycled” still end up in the landfill. One of the biggest reasons for this is recycling contamination, where non-recyclable and incompatible types of materials get mixed in together.

But fear not, knowing the types of plastic and their uses will enable you to take back control and reduce your recycling contamination.

Know your types of plastic

Types of plastic: PETE,HDPE,PVC,LDPE,PP,PS,Other

While there are many types of plastic that can be recycled, few have easy ways of accessing those recycling services. Here is a summary of what you can expect for each plastic type:

  1. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET): Recyclable by council roadside pickups. One of the most widely used plastics in the world, used for fizzy drinks, water bottles, salad trays, and more.
  2. High-density polyethylene (HDPE): Recyclable by council roadside pickups. Typically used for milk bottles, bleach, detergents and some shampoo bottles.
  3. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Can be recycled but is rarely recycled. This so called “poison plastic” is bad for our health and difficult to recycle. Typical uses are: carpet backing, pipes, window frames, and toys.
  4. Low density polyethylene (LDPE): Recyclable usually through supermarkets bin liners, packaging film, squeezable bottles and carrier bags.
  5. Polypropylene (PP): Recyclable but not widely done. Before recycling, this is one that should be checked that it is actually accepted. It is widely used but not widely recycled! Typical uses are: food packaging eg margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays, yogurt pots.
  6. Polystyrene (PS): Not recyclable. Typical uses are: packaging for food and electronic goods and toys.
  7. Other: Not yet recyclable but can be repurposed to park benches.

What can you do with this information?

It might feel daunting and possibly better not to recycle at all, rather than ruin someone else’s efforts. But do not be disheartened, now you are armed with this extra knowledge you can become a master recycler.

Remember that the roadside council pickups are probably looking for plastic with numbers 1 or 2; and plastic number 4 is probably recycled at your local supermarket. For the rest seek out specialised recycling services. As well as helping you recycle better, knowing the symbols for plastic will enable you to avoid the types that can’t be recycled.

Keep looking for the little ways to reduce and reuse your plastics before recycling; everything helps and small steps are easier to maintain than massive changes.

Easy composting for all

Easy composting for all

Don’t know where to start with composting, don’t have the space, or just want to supercharge what you already have? Well, don’t worry, I am here to help.

Food waste is a big problem, households in the UK alone are responsible for 6.6 million tonnes of wasted food. There are lots of things we can and should do to reduce including giving zero-waste cooking a go. But the average person won’t be able to eliminate all food waste, so the next best thing is to compost it yourself.

I know it is intimidating, especially when you have small children, a tight budget, little room… my excuses went on and on. However, once I stopped procrastinating and properly looked into it, I found it wasn’t all that difficult and there are many ways to do composting no matter your budget or space. So I’m here to help and pass on my experience.

There are 4 main ways to “do” composting that are suitable for people at home:

EMO Composting (bacteria composting)

Worm Farm Composting (Vermicomposting)

Tumbler Composting

Open-air Composting

Summary

Effective MicroOrganisms (EMO) uses bacteria. A common product is Bokashi.

Two or more stacked boxes that use worms to aid the composting process.

A rotating drum.

 
Traditionally a pile of green and brown matter in your garden.

Use Inside

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cross
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Use outside

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(including balconies)

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(including balconies)

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Effort

Low

Low

High

Medium

Difficulty

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Moderate

Fruit and vegetables

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(small amounts of citrus and onion)

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(small amounts of citrus and onion)

Coffee Grounds/Filters/Tea bags

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Dairy

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cross
cross

Bread/Rice/Pasta

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cross
cross

Fish/Meat/Fats/Oils


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cross
cross
cross

Newspaper and cardboard

Small amounts

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Untreated wood ash/ sawdust

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Garden waste

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Time to compost

Fast: 4-6 weeks

Moderate: 2 to 4 months

Fast: 3-6 weeks

Slow: up to 12 months

Cost

£60 for a 2 box starter + about £40 per year for the “bran”.

£10 (make your own) – £65

£80 – £150

Free – £30

Editors Pick

Skaza Bokashi Organko

Original Organics Deluxe WORMERY KIT

SQUEEZE master Dual Chamber Compost Tumbler

Make your own

EMO Composting

This sounds complicated but is actually one of the easiest to do. One of the most widely used form of Effective MicroOrganisms (or EMO to its friends) is Bokashi. Bokashi kitchen composters allow you to compost all your food waste indoors. This form of composting is faster than a traditional garden compost pile and can handle any food waste. You simply chuck your food waste into a fully sealed container and sprinkle the all-important “Bokashi Bran” over it before sealing the container. It takes 4-6 weeks to turn into useful compost but you get “compost tea” out more regularly. You can dilute and feed your plants with the compost tea, it is also apparently good for unblocking drains – but I’ve not tested that yet.

Cost:
You can pick up two bin Skaza Bokashi composting sets with a starter pack of bran for around £60. You’ll also need to factor in replacing the Bokashi bran, this will come to about £40 per year.

Tips:
Get two containers – when one is full you can leave it to sit while you fill the other.
Line the container with newspaper for easier cleaning.
Press down the waste firmly as the bacteria require a low oxygen environment.

Worm Farm composting

Worm composting is exactly as it sounds, it uses worms to break down food waste and other organic material into something called worm compost or vermicompost, you’ll also get a liquid called “worm tea” which is a great nitrogen-rich fertiliser for your plants. This method of composting can be small so pick the right containers for your space. The basic setup is a tower of at least two compartments. A lower area collects the liquid (worm tea) and the upper area is where the kitchen waste goes and the worms hang out.

The worm farm works best at temperatures between 18-25℃ so work best when kept in your kitchen, shed, or garage. The worm farm should be odour free but can give off bad odours if you neglect the worms or feed them things like dairy.

Cost:
You can get a ready-made kit like this Original Organics Deluxe Wormery kit, which takes all the thinking out of creating your wormery. Or you can create your own for less than £40.

If worm farm composting sounds like a thing for you have a look at this article for more information.

Basic compost recipe for

For both tumbler composting and open-air composting you need to get the nitrogen and carbon levels right. The lingo used by composting experts is “green” waste to mean the high in nitrogen stuff and “brown” waste to mean the things high in carbon. But don’t panic, this sounds more complicated than it really is, all you need to do is follow this basic recipe and you’ll get great results:

  • 1-2 parts Greens – wet/fresh ingredients (high in nitrogen) such as fruit & vegetable scraps, fresh grass, coffee grounds, tea leaves (don’t use tea bags unless you know they don’t have plastic in them).
  • 3 parts Browns dry ingredients (high in carbon) such as shredded newspaper, dried leaves, dried grass, cardboard, or straw
  • Oxygen – the bacteria that break down your compost pile require an oxygen rich environment. Turning the compost regularly achieves this. It reheats the contents and speeds up the composting process.

It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get the levels quite right, it will just mean that the composting process takes a bit longer.

Here are 5 things you should add and 5 things you should never add to your compost.

Tumbler Composting

This is a great system if you have a lot of green and brown waste to get through and are relatively strong as you’ll need to turn the drum every day or two. You can get drums that are fairly compact so work in small gardens or balconies. The turning aerates the compost and provides that all-important oxygen.

Tumbler composting is faster than open-air composting but generally costs more and the compost that comes out of a tumbler has fewer nutrients than compost from an open-air composter. So go for a tumbler if you have a small outside space and/or you have a lot of green/brown waste to compost, otherwise I’d go for a compost bin or bay.

Cost:
Tumblers tend to be an expensive way to compost but you can pick up a decent one for about £80. The SQUEEZE master dual chamber compost tumbler is a nice one that has the benefit of two sections, so when you fill one up you can leave it to do its composting thing and add new material to the other side.

Open-air Composting

Open-air composting is traditionally just a pile of green and brown matter in your garden. This could simply be a pile somewhere but you often contain this pile in a bay or bin. Other than the price range and look of your compost pile, the main thing to consider before buying or making a bay is, how you’re going to turn the pile to give it the air. You can get relatively small footprint compost bins but their small size makes it tricky to turn your compost.

Cost:
Compost bays can be made from anything you get your hands on, for example, a few pallets, so can be free or you can buy a fancy modular one. Some councils provide the bays/bin for free so check with them before spending any money.

5 things you should never put in your compost

5 Things you should never put in your compost

Are you interested in starting a compost pile but are overwhelmed by all the options, or is your compost not performing as you’d hoped? Well, don’t worry, I am here to help.

Compost is amazing for your garden because it is so rich in nutrients and using your own compost can save money and reduce waste. Although it can seem daunting to start with, once you get through all the waffle and jargon, the process is really simple and forgiving – you can check out this article to help you start composting whatever your budget or space.

5 Worst things to compost

1. Tomato Plants and Foliage

Tomato plants are easy to grow which makes them the most widely homegrown vegetable, but they are also one of the most easily diseased. And this disease can easily spread throughout your compost pile. Most home compost piles don’t reach high enough temperatures to kill the pathogens and spores so they’ll be laying wait to transmit to your plants when you use the compost.

What to do with tomato plants

Option 1: Put the effort in and compost them yourself – In order to safely compost potentially diseased plants, it is crucial the pile is hot: between 55°C and 77°C. This takes more work than most are willing to do, but if you are willing, then there are plenty of articles out there to help. This one talks specifically about composting tomato plants.

Option 2: Put them in the council green bin.

2. Fish, meats, fats, and oils

By adding meat, fats, and oils to your compost you are going to attract the unwanted attention of pests and cause your compost pile to smell bad. All while slowing your pile’s decomposition right down! The reason the decomposition grinds to a crawl is that bacteria that do most of the work in a compost pile are aerobic. But, the bacteria that break down animal products are anaerobic.

What to do with meats, fats, and oils

Option 1: Try an indoor approach with a kitchen composter. You can put any food waste in and it works faster than a traditional outdoor compost pile. The Skaza Bokashi are good (I’m in the process of testing them now and will have a review up). They are made from recycled material and create compost tea which can be used as fertiliser and a natural drain unblocker. The solid material left in the bucket is an amazing compost base that is safe to add to your compost.

Option 2: Put them in the council food waste bin.

3. Carnivourus animal and human poo

Just no! Carnivorous animal and human faeces can carry harmful pathogens, parasites and infectious diseases which you don’t want to be spreading around your garden and certainly not getting anywhere near your vegetable patch.

Poo from herbivores, like horse, rabbit, cow, and chicken are safe to add.

What to do with all the poo

I own a dog and the amount of mess to clear up is astonishing. I am currently using bags, as these are the easiest but it is on my list to reduce the waste I am creating. One thing I’m considering is creating a DIY dog poo composter, let me know your ideas and experiences.

4. Plasic-coated paper

Unfortunately, some paper is coated with plastic to make it bright, colourful, and glossy. This plastic coating won’t decompose and may also have toxins that harm your plants.

What to do with plastic-coated paper

First, try reuse, magazines can be passed onto friends or sometimes places with waiting rooms are looking for second-hand magazines and books. Depending on how eagerly you’ve unwrapped your present, wrapping paper can be reused for future presents.

If you can’t reuse then repurpose it; my kids love using the pictures in magazines to create art.

5. Treated ash, sawdust, lawn cuttings

This includes painted wood, stained wood, varnished wood, pressure-treated wood, charcoal briquettes with additives, and lawn cuttings that have had weed, feed or fertiliser. The chemicals and herbicides can stay in the compost and negatively affect your plants’ health.

Bonus – 3 things you might not want to add

These things are completely bad for your compost but are worth considering before adding.

Citrus Peels and Onions

If cut up small they compost fine – all be it slower than other organic materials – but the acidity can slow down decomposition and can upset the worms you hopefully have in your compost pile. So if you want to add them, do it occasionally.

Bread, rice, cakes, donuts, pastas, and dairy products

These will decompose fairly quickly but they will attract pests and make the compost pile smell. You can reduce this by burning them deep down and adding lots of brown material on top of it to “trap” the smell.

Seed cores

Before adding vegetable scraps to the compost pile consider removing the seeds otherwise, you may get vegetables popping up in unexpected places. I learnt this the hard way when some bonus butternut squash appeared in with my tomatoes!

How to compost eggshells

How to compost eggshells

Learn the right way to compost eggshells to get the most out of them that gets you free nutrients for your plants and free pest control

During the pandemic, more people than ever are saving grass cuttings and kitchen scraps for their compost bins and turning them into the “black gold” also known as compost. The benefits are huge, but for the uninitiated, it can seem daunting. The truth is it doesn’t have to be difficult and just following this basic “recipe” for compost gets you great results:

  • 1-2 parts Greens – wet/fresh ingredients such as fruit & vegetable scraps, fresh grass, coffee grounds, tea leaves (don’t use tea bags unless you know they don’t have plastic in them).
  • 3 parts Browns – dry ingredients such as shredded newspaper, dried leaves, dried grass, cardboard, or straw.

This mix is very flexible, you really can’t go wrong just keep it in mind as you’re adding things to your compost. I keep a box of dry ingredients next to the compost so I can add a couple of hand fulls whenever I chuck in the wet stuff.

What’s the best way to compost eggshells?

Eggshells go into my top 5 best things to compost, they are a great source of calcium and can be sprinkled directly on the soil for slug and snail control.

Eggshells however will take years to break down if you just throw them on the compost without a little bit of prep. These are the steps I follow:

  1. Give the eggshells a little wash – this isn’t critical but leaving them unwashed can attract unwelcome vermin and when washed they are easier to break up.
  2. Put the eggshells in an oven try and bake for 10 mins. – I just throw them in the oven when I’m baking something else so I’m not wasting energy.
  3. Once the eggshells have cooled then blitz them into a fine powder in a blender or mortar and pestle – if using for pest control aim for small sharp pieces instead of a fine powder.
  4. Add to the compost heap or or directly to the soil. – eggshells are particularly good for tomato plants with blossom end rot.

You can break the eggshells up without baking them first but the baking step makes it easier. When broken up the eggshells will be absorbed almost immediately rather than taking years to break down.

Other composting tips for beginners

  • Mix the different materials, for example don’t chuck a huge bag of grass cuttings in one go.
  • Don’t put meat, fish, or dairy into the compost head, this will help you avoid attracting rats. Another tip is to turn the heap regularly, it provides air to the compost to stop it smelling and will detter rats.
  • If you don’t have a garden try a wormery instead. This is a stacking system of trays that you can buy ready made or have a go at making your own worm composter.
  • I forget to actually use the compost so try locating the bin near your growing area.
  • You need some moisture in the compost which shouldn’t be a problem as most green materials have loads of moisture but if you find your compost is getting a little dry then try soaking your cardboard/paper before you add it.
  • Lastly don’t fret, you’re compost is very forgiving. If you don’t get the ratios quite right you’ll still end up with compost, it just might take a little longer.

How to make your own beeswax wraps

How to make your own beeswax wraps

Following on from my Plastic Free July I focused my attention on ridding our use of cling film. Beeswax wraps are a great choice for replacing this plastic wrap. These homemade food wraps are reusable and very quick to make.

Why is cling film so bad?

Cling film is brilliant at keeping food fresh but it is a very big contributor to the plastic pollution crisis. It is made from a variety of plastics which makes it extremely difficult to recycle. Meaning it usually ends up in the landfill and in our oceans adding to the 381 million tonnes in plastic waste we create yearly. Added to that there has long been concern surrounding the leaching of chemicals from the plastic into our food and drink. Cling film is not immune from this concern:

“New evidence suggests that heat makes chemicals in plastic storage boxes and bottles leach into food and drink: two major reports last year linked 175 compounds to health problems connected to cancers, fertility and foetal development.

Even Cancer Research UK, which has so far been sceptical, is now warning that cling film should not be allowed to touch the food it is covering during microwaving.”

MailOnline

This is a bit sensationalized and there are doubts it is as bad as the article makes out. For example the BBC has run some tests to see if they could detect the leaching, the results of which showed that it is safe to use cling film even in the microwave but if there are other non-toxic options that don’t add to our plastic problem, why not make the change. This is where beeswax wraps coming.

What are beeswax wraps?

Simple, they are some fabric coated in wax that make an amazing reusable food wrap. They can be used for bowl covers and to wrap food like sandwiches, fruit, really any solid food. You can buy beeswax wraps of course, and there are plenty of great options available:

But if you are anything like me you’d look at something and go – “I can make that!”. Beeswax wraps couldn’t be easier, they are just pieces of cloth that have been infused with natural beeswax. So not only do you get to the exact size, style and have the satisfaction that comes from making your own stuff, you’ll also save money with these homemade beeswax wraps.

How to make DIY beeswax wraps

Here are the supplies you’ll need to make homemade beeswax wraps:

  • Fabric scraps – use whatever you have but I recommend a light to medium weight and 100% cotton.
  • Sustainably sourced beeswax (pure or cosmetic grade) – you can grate a bar of beeswax or use beeswax pellets
  • Scissors Pinking shears if you have the as they cut zigzags and reduces fraying but no problem
  • Iron
  • Baking paper
  1. Start out by cutting the fabric to the desired shape and size, then lie it flat on a sheet of baking paper on top of a heat-resistant surface – ironing board or thick towel. Make sure the baking paper is bigger than the fabric or bee really careful when heating and spreading the wax to the edge.
  2. Next grate or sprinkle a thin, even layer of beeswax over the fabric. Cover the beeswax with another piece of baking paper.
  3. Heat an iron on a wool setting, around 150°C.
  4. Gently iron over the top sheet, melting the beeswax into the fabric and use the iron to push the wax to the edges. If there are any gaps, add a little more wax and iron.
  5. Leave your newly created beeswax wrap to cool then peel off the paper. Remove any excess wax and reuse for the next wrap or project.
  6. To use, make sure your food is cool and then wrap. The warm air or the warmth of your hands makes the beeswax pliable and gives it sticking power.

How to care for you DIY beeswax wraps

Beeswax wraps can be washed carefully in cold water and left to dry – don’t use hot water and don’t scrub as both will remove the beeswax.

If you take good care of your beeswax wraps they will last 6 months to a year and can be refreshed by adding more beeswax when they start losing their sticking power.

A novel way to recycle plastic carrier bags

A novel way to recycle plastic carrier bags

Do you have 170 plastic bags and about 6 months spare? Then this could be the project for you!

Kailey Schmitt is a designer and seamstress who during the COVID-19 pandemic struggled to get fabric so decided to go green and reuse something she already had a lot of. Namely plastic carrier bags, Target shopping bags to be precise because she wanted a mostly white dress with red accents. Or for the more cynical out there she probably formed a partnership with them. Either way, it is a great thing to do to reduce plastic waste. This video shows her process with the highs and lows:

Although I applaud the idea the final dress isn’t to my taste, it’s like many things you see on a catwalk; great for a photoshoot but impractical for everyday use.

For those with less time, fewer plastic bags, or just don’t want a dress made of plastic, you could try one of these ideas.

  • Plastic Bag Jumprope – take 10 plastic bags, 7 steps and you end up with a fun way to get fit and play with the kids.
  • Pom Pom Light – “rubbish” never looked so good.
  • Recycled Plasitc Totes – This one will take a little longer but if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to crochet any size bag from plastic bags then this is the blog for you.

I’m going to start working on my crochet skills now and let you know how I get on.

How to reduce your plastic waste

How to reduce your plastic waste

Plastic is everywhere, it has devastating effects on our earth and gets into our food through the fish we eat. Cut back your waste with these tips.

Plastic is a wonder material but its strength is also what makes it so disastrous for our world. Plastics are everywhere, and yes, they have done enormous good for us, they have revolutionised healthcare with life-saving devices, save lives with helmets, incubators and equipment for clean water, and even made space travel possible; but the conveniences of plastic have led to a throw-away culture. Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. To help visualise the size of this, it is equivalent to five rubbish bags full of garbage placed on every foot of coastline around the world. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!

So anyway, plastic is bad. Many – and not just the hard-nosed environmentalists – are worried about the effects of plastic pollution; thankfully this is causing the supermarkets and governments to start taking the issue more seriously.

How can you make a difference?

Plastic is a big problem, bigger than the individual so don’t panic, it’s not all on you but you can do your bit for the environment. If everyone practised the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and – failing that – Recycle; we would see a drastic drop in plastic pollution.

Reduce

Surely we should avoid all plastic, why is this only Reduce? Because in reality unless you drastically change the way you live it is not possible to completely avoid all plastic (companies sneak plastic into all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect), however, it is possible to cut back from where you are right now and keep making those progressive steps.

I took one of these steps when I joined the Plastic Free July challenge. The main plastic in my life that I focused on removing was pre-packed bread. In a family with two kids, we get through a lot of bread and all of it came in plastic bags, and yes there are lots of ways to reuse the bags but was determined to remove them entirely.

My plan of attack was to kindle my inner Paul Hollywood and start making as much of my own bread as possible, I even joined the sourdough craze and created my own sourdough starter (it’s called Tod). As well as your standard loaf, sourdough makes amazing pizzas especially when cooked in your own DIY brick pizza oven, and sourdough pancakes are a real hit with the kids. When life invariably got in the way of my baking prowess, I’d use the local baker and take along my own container.

I’ve managed to keep it up beyond July and continued to look for more things to reduce, here are some of the other things I’ve done to reduce the single-use plastic in my life:

  • Grown my own fruit and vegetables
  • Shopped at zero-waste shops where I could – these aren’t everywhere yet but more are popping more and with supermarkets taking the problem more seriously I hope they will do more loose food and provide plastic-free options.
  • Started buying loose leaf tea – I didn’t realise that many teabags contain plastic
  • Started using silicone stretch lids and DIY Beeswax Wraps instead of cling film

I’d love to hear your ideas for reducing plastic in your life.

Reuse

This is an easy one, just reuse everything as much as possible. By getting a little creative you can find a use for almost anything:

Recycle

Don’t get me wrong, recycling is better than just dumping the plastic but this should be the last resort. It takes energy to turn it into something else and depending on what is being made will require virgin plastic to improve the quality of the final product.

Here are some ideas to help with recycling:

  • Look for producst with recyclable packaging, unfortunately it is not possible to recycle all packaging.
  • If you think an item has used excess packaging, complain about it via the shop you bought it in and manufacturers. Consumers have some much power now with the use of twitter and other social media.
  • Check on the website of your local waste company to be sure you are recycling everything you can.
  • Recycle soft plastic such as carrier bags and bread bags – many supermarkets have recycling facilities like this.

What else do you do to reduce, reuse, and recycle your plastic waste? Leave a comment below.

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