Recycle more and make your own compost: good eco things to do year-round

Recycle more and make your own compost: good eco things to do year-round

If you know you're a bit lazy about recycling your household waste, and you still haven't started composting your peelings and food waste, come on, get a grip! or a counter top caddy more to the point. And grow your own herbs, ditch the bleach and generally clamp down on waste

By Mike Harris

We are recycling in the UK but still not enough of us are using our recycling boxes wheelie bins for their intended purpose. And nowhere near enough of us are recycling our food waste which is invaluable for local councils to make compost for their parks and green spaces. So the message to us all is RECYCLE MORE! We can also grow out own herbs and veg, upcycle worn furniture and get electrical stuff mended instead of buying new. 

Do you or your kids ever put a tin can or a magazine in your 'main' bin instead in the recycling box? Hardly the crime of the century but....local councils urge us to make sure then when we your when we bin it, we bin in it in the right bin. 

The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH) has risen to 45.7 per cent, up from from 45.2 per cent in 2016. The EU target for the UK is to recycle at least 50 per cent of household waste by 2020, so clearly more of us need to take recycling seriously. And that's because to put it in context, if all our rubbish goes to landfill sites, it creates huge amounts of methane, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases responsible for climate change - for which read climate warming. In other words, less landfill waste means less methane.
 
Having a designated recycling bin is key to get into the recycling habit. www.wheeliebinsolutions.co.uk  bins from £39.50
If you live in a block of flats, agree with your neighbours to have recycling wheelie bins and different colours for particular materials e.g. one for paper, one for glass, is a good idea . www.wheeliebinsolutions.co.uk
Take textile waste to your recycling centre or to a charity shop as they can 'rag ' it of money even if they can't sell the item if it's too worn
Taking your textiles for recycling will lead to new goods...such as recycled cotton socks. A virtuous circle
To think, this lovely rich compost was veg peelings and fish bones not long ago
Mike at his beloved compost heap
Have designated recycling containers  
 
An obvious thing is to have somewhere to put recyclables (paper, cardboard, plastic, tinfoil, tin cans, glass) which can be a box, a bag or a wheelie bin. Textile waste - either old clothing or bedding needs to go in a separate container because local councils don't, on the whole, collect it. So either take textiles to your local recycling centre or to a charity shop. Even if they can't sell the jumper or the sheet because it's in too poor a condition, they can what's called 'rag' it, which means it's sold to a company that deals in textile waste and the charity still gets money for it. 
 
Nearly all councils give households a recycling box and some, such as Camden in north London, give residents of larger properties a green wheeelie bin for their recycling. Mark Green, director of Wheelie Bin Solutions, says having the right size container for the size of property is key. So he's not with those who argue if we all have larger bins outside for recycling we'll by definition recycle more?
 
'Not necessarily,' he says. 'If the bin is oversized, then it often becomes used as an extra rubbish bin, contaminating the recycling materials. The bin needs to be of an appropriate size for the quantity of materials you produce, and your waste collection provider can offer advice on this.  
 
That said, Deco editor Abby Trow says she's become such a zealot for recycling that one Islington Council green box isn't enough for her family's weekly recycling and she's thinking about getting a not-too-enormous wheelie bin, ideally one made from recycled plastic. 'And in a nice colour,' she adds.
 
Mark Green says his Wheelie Bin Solutions' bins are made in Europe from HDPE (high density polyethylene), which is recyclable and has a life expectancy of up to 15 years -  obviously depending on how you treat it. They're also not as expensive as you might think, with two-wheeler 120L bins from £39.50. And they come in lots of colours, so black and green but also orange, red and blue.
 
Out of interest I wonder if a jaunty colour bin will get people to recycle more?  'No, not that we've found,' says Green. 'People tend to recycle more if they know exactly what materials can be recycled and when the collection day is. Local recycling communication and education campaigns are more impactful than brightly coloured bins!'
 
Collect foodwaste for the council or use it to make your own compost

For me, the biggest garden miracle is the compost heap: the perfect place for the useful disposal of organic household and garden waste. Did you know that up to half of all household waste can be composted? not only veg trimmings and teabags/leaves and coffee grains, but vacuum-cleaner dust, cereal boxes, shredded paper and wood ash. Alternative disposal would be landfill or incineration, both of which produce CO2.

What I love is that not only is it a convenient system for getting rid of waste, it produces free compost, a rich and valuable source of mineral nutrients plants need to grow.I'm no gardening expert and I don't want to teach any grandmothers to suck eggs, but if you grimace at the thought of a container in your kitchen full of scraps, well... let me take you through the cycle.

We put fruit and veg peelings, teabags, coffee grinds, along with loo rolls, egg boxes and torn up cereal boxes into a compost caddy by the sink. When full, can I say that it's NOT a putreying stinking mass, and I tip it onto the compost heap. Onto this same heap go grass mowings, garden cuttings and prunings (except if they're very woody). The heap fills up quite quickly, especially during the growing season… but this is when the miracle occurs.

Because when your back is turned, the ecosystem gets to work: millipedes, slugs, snails and woodlice shred and digest the plant materials as they decay, creating a greater surface area for funghi and bacteria to work on.

Cream compost box by Burgon & Ball from All Tidied Up
Brush steel compost bin with bamboo handle with odorsorb filters from Simple Human, £49.99
If you don't want a container, dump your peelings in these compostable paper bags from Burgon & Ball
Oxo easy grip compost bin, £15, is shaped to allow for ventilation, so no need to buy filters
Attractive white ceramic compost pail with carbon filters by Judge Cookware, £27.50

We put fruit and veg peelingsteabagscoffee grinds, along with loo rolls, egg boxes and torn up cereal boxes into a compost caddy by the sink. When full, can I say that it's NOT a putreying stinking mass, and I tip it onto the compost heap. Onto this same heap go grass mowings, garden cuttings and prunings (except if they're very woody). The heap fills up quite quickly, especially during the growing season… but this is when the miracle occurs.

Because when your back is turned, the ecosystem gets to work: millipedes, slugs, snails and woodlice shred and digest the plant materials as they decay, creating a greater surface area for funghi and bacteria to work on.What I love is that not only is it a convenient system for getting rid of waste, it produces free compost, a rich and valuable source of mineral nutrients plants need to grow.I'm no gardening expert and I don't want to teach any grandmothers to suck eggs, but if you grimace at the thought of a container in your kitchen full of scraps, well... let me take you through the cycle.

We put fruit and veg peelingsteabagscoffee grinds, along with loo rolls, egg boxes and torn up cereal boxes into a compost caddy by the sink. When full, can I say that it's NOT a putreying stinking mass, and I tip it onto the compost heap. Onto this same heap go grass mowings, garden cuttings and prunings (except if they're very woody). The heap fills up quite quickly, especially during the growing season… but this is when the miracle occurs.

Because when your back is turned, the ecosystem gets to work: millipedes, slugs, snails and woodlice shred and digest the plant materials as they decay, creating a greater surface area for funghi and bacteria to work on.Worms and fly larvae burrow through the heap, eating and aerating it as they go. In the process, the heap dramatically reduces in size, so when you return to add further waste a couple of weeks later, a once full heap is now only half-full. You fill it again, turn your back for a couple of weeks, and the same miraculous result occurs.

We're lucky enough to have space in our garden for two 6 x 4ft heaps, each of which rises to about 5ft. Over the space of a year, the first heap gets properly full. At this point, usually in the autumn, the second heap, which has been abandoned for the best part of a year, apart from occasional turning, is ready to have the compost dug out and spread over the flower beds as a mulch. This suppresses weeds, helps retain soil moisture and feeds plants with nitrogen and phosphorous.

Not only does this save you money from not having to buy compost and nutrients, but it helps to prevent the destruction of natural habitats through peat extraction.
 
But composting can be done on any scale. If you've got a small garden, use an outdoor compost bin, usually available cheaply through your local authority. These can be made of plastic or wood, the stacking variety being a popular option whereby you build and fill the bin a section at a time, leave it for 6-9 months, then unpack the compost by lifting off the sections of the bin.
 
 
Loo Blade loo cleaner won't revolt you... so put away the bleach
Make sure all your bulbs are LEDs. They last far longer than CFLs
Olio is a food sharing app that means your unwanted food can go to a needy neighbour. olioex.com
Greenscents cleaning products are made from biodegradable materials and made in Somerset
The Wisp one-handed dustpan and brush. The brush has a telescopic handle so you don't have to bend down all the time.  buywisp.co.uk
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Eco good habits to get into and to train your kids of whatever age to follow suit:

1/ Cut down on use of bleach and other chemical-filled cleaning products. Switch to more eco friendly products such as Ecover, Green Scents or supermarkets' own brand eco cleaners. Oh and get a steam cleaner for floors and showers. We can't recommend our Karcher steam cleaner highly enough.

2/ Lots of us reach for the bleach when it comes to the loo but the Loo Blade - designed by Scotland and made in Germany - is terrific. It doesn't make me want to retch in the way that loo brushes do.. 

3/ Don't overbuy food. Use up what you've got before doing another supermarket shop; or if you have food you can't eat, download the Olio app and you'll find local people happy to take it off your hands. Olio is a briliant idea.

4/ Buy less stuff and you'll feel virtuous, believe me. And a less cluttered home an ensure which is great.

5/ Energy - use less. I have grown to love my 5-minute shower timer, which looks like an egg timer and is attached to the shower wall with a suction pad. Lights...well don't leave them on when you leave a room.. Kettles..yes, the boil enough for how ever many cups of tea you're making. And is your loft insulated? Go on, go and check and if it's not, can I recommend sheep's wool insulation from Thermafleece.

6/ Grow your own veg and fruit in pots and grow herbs in your kitchen. Water with water you've collected either in a water butt or from your shower if you have one of those useful window vacs. And have lots of pot plants indoors for better air quality.

7/ Use the car less, walk more and consider joining a car sharing pool if you live in a big city.

8/ Repainting? Graphenstone paint from Spain is very eco friendly and hard wearning because it contains graphene.

9/ And for quick cleaning with no electricity consumption, can I recommend something called The Wisp, a one-handed broom and dustpan that really does gather up all the stuff you sweep into it. 

10/ Do take your bamboo travel cup into your local coffee shop because you won't be using an essentially unrecyclable plastic-lined paper cup and more coffee shops are giving a discount - eg Pret A Manger's discount is 25 pence off the price of a cappuccino. 

11/ And likewise carry a water bottle with you and do your darndest not to buy plastic bottles of water.

12/ We no longer have a tumble dryer and we don't miss it. We have a washing line and an airer in the bathroom and clothes dry just fine.

Er..there are no doubt lots more things we could be doing to be more eco down here in Kent, but we're very proud of ourselves for having got to grips with the above!

 

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