Recycling at home is one of the easiest things we can do to help the environment. It doesn’t have to be complicated and is a great activity the kids can get involved in around the house. Recycling isn’t as simple as using up a product and launching it in the bin. There are things we have to do to make sure the stuff we’re putting in our recycling bins actually end up where they’re supposed to. Different local councils have different rules so it can get confusing knowing which products can actually be recycled. Having your green bin collected curbside is a start, but it’s much easier than you think to sort and separate your recycling properly.

Here are a few tips and tricks to establish a great home recycling process:

1. Check what can be recycled

As we all know, not everything can be recycled. A lot of what we think could be recycled often isn’t. Before putting your waste into the bin, check which items can and can’t be recycled in your local area. Look on Recycle Now to learn what your local council’s recycling regulations are. As a starting point, paper and cardboard, tins and cans, cartons, plastic bottles and packaging, glass and empty aerosol cans can be recycled. You can’t recycle batteries, black plastic, glassware, pots and pans, ceramics or light bulbs in your regular recycling bins. Check out your local recycling plant to see if they have the disposal facilities for these items.

2. Get the right containers

You could get a small green bin from your local council which is emptied into your large green bin for curbside collection. Or you could get creative with it and source your own bins, bags or boxes to keep inside the home. They don’t have to be fancy; just your average metal bin, a storage container or a hessian-style bag. Place your recycling vessel next to your general waste bin to remind yourself to separate the items. Write the names on the front so you know which container is for paper and card, plastic or cans for example. You could make this a fun project for the children to get involved in. Ask them to decorate the recycling containers by labelling them, sticking pictures, writing their names and painting them.

3. Rinse out the waste

A common mistake people make when recycling is throwing waste straight in the recycling bin without washing it. Waste can’t be recycled if it’s got remnants of food and liquid in it as it’s classed as contaminated. All you have to do is give it a quick rinse after you’re done with it. You don’t have to properly clean it with disinfectant or anything like that – it’s just to make sure the bulk of the contaminants are gone. Put the items next to your sink to remind yourself to give them a quick wash whilst you’re doing the dishes.

4. Read the labels

Not everything can be recycled even if it looks like it. You should check the packaging to see which recycling number it has and whether it’s recyclable. Some components of the packaging may need to be removed before you put it in the bin. To teach your children about recycling, you could ask them to identify if the item can or can’t be recycled. If they get it right, ask them which bin the item needs to go in – award them points for each correct answer.

5. Make recycling a habit

Recycling bins that aren’t curbside tend to be located at major supermarkets or recycling points. On your trip to the supermarket, make it a habit to take your recycling containers with you. You can drop off your recycling whilst doing the shop to save time and energy on separate trips. It doesn’t have to be a weekly thing, you could do it biweekly or monthly depending on how much recycling you collect. Making it part of your routine will help to build good habits so recycling becomes second nature to you.

6. Check out TerraCycle

TerraCycle is a scheme allowing the public to recycle items you typically can’t recycle. At specialised TerraCycle recycling points, you can take items like crisp packets, bread bags, household goods packaging, pens or even contact lens packaging. There are different TerraCycle points located all over the country so look on the map to see if there are any near you. If you have one locally, collect the recycling and take a trip there. If you don’t have one near you, you can always set up your own TerraCycle recycling point for your area.

Upcycling activities for children

If you’re at home with the children and looking for ways to get creative, your recyclable waste is a great way to do this. Here are some ways you can upcycle your rubbish to make fun craft activities:

Plant pots

A simple activity we’ve probably all done before is turning yoghurt pots or plastic bottles into plant pots. All you have to do is wash your yoghurt pot, fill it with soil and plant any seed of your children’s choice in there. If you want to do this on a larger scale, you could use a plastic bottle. Turn the bottle on its side and cut a long rectangular section out of the top of it. You can then fill this with soil and add different seeds to make your own planter. The children can make it their responsibility to keep the seeds watered and watch how they grow over time. Here are some other ways you can turn plastic bottles into a great resource for your garden.

Bird feeder

Making a bird feeder out a toilet roll tube couldn’t be easier. All you need is a cardboard tube, peanut butter, a spoon, birdseed and string. Simply cover the cardboard tube in the peanut butter using the spoon, roll it in the birdseed until it’s fully covered, put the string inside the length of the tube and tie a knot. Then hang your bird feeder outside where the birds can enjoy it.

Sensory game

Creating a sensory game for babies and young children is a great way to reuse your plastic bottles. All you have to do is wash out your empty plastic bottles and leave them to dry. Take the cap off and fill the plastic bottle with a material of your choice. This could be rice, pasta, buttons, marbles, feathers or ribbon. Screw the cap back on and ask the children to shake the bottle, touch it and smell it (with the cap off). Blindfold the children and ask them to guess what the item is. For the babies, don’t use the blindfold, just let them shake the bottle, touch the items and smell it. This is a great way to teach them about different sounds and textures.

A puzzle

Old greetings cards and cereal boxes are great items to create your own puzzle from. To make your puzzle, flatten the card or cereal box and cut out the main image you want to use. Print out a jigsaw piece template and glue it to the back of the card. Take your scissors and cut out the jigsaw pieces. Turn it over and you’ll have the picture in lots of pieces. Get the children to put them back together again to complete the image. This is a fun way to test their shape awareness and problem-solving abilities.

Recycling at home is an easy way to make a big environmental impact. Sorting, cleaning and separating your recyclable waste ensures your rubbish ends up in the right place to continue its lifecycle. With so much opportunity for learning, recycling is a great way to teach children all about its benefits. Incorporating fun activities along the way will help them develop positive habits and continue recycling as they grow older. Remember to use some of your recycled items for fun craft activities. These are great opportunities to test the senses, learn about the environment and grow creative skills.

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