How can I recycle more stuff on my own?

We’ve had an email from Melissa:

I’m Melissa from Argentina. I love recycling but there are not many things I can do here.

That’s why I’ve got to ask you… Is there any way of recycling more stuff on my own??? I recycle paper, bottle caps and cardboard.

In my country there aren’t a lot of places where I can recycle and I think that’s because people (not everyone) don’t care about that.. That’s very sad!

It is very sad – but an interesting question: these days so much recycling in the UK etc relies on local council provision (or in some areas, on supermarkets/other businesses) – how would we recycle if those systems weren’t in place?

I think we’d reuse more – a plastic bottle repurposed as a plant cloche doesn’t need recycling, neither does a glass jar reused for homemade preserves, a t-shirt upcycled into a shopping bag or scrap paper clipped together to make a notebook. We know that we should reuse before recycling – but I think that would be even more apparent if there wasn’t an option to recycle. Despite the name, this site is more about reusing than recycling – because it should come first and is easier to do on an individual level.

What we think of as proper recycling – breaking something down and making something new from the base material – is a lot harder to do at home, especially without specialist skills or equipment. It would probably be easier (but not exactly easy) to work with local authorities/community groups to set up recycling schemes working with local recycling/reclamation companies. Does anyone have any experience/advice about doing that sort of thing? Or are there any things that can easily be recycled (not just reused) at home?

Any other thoughts/advice for Melissa?

(Photo by septober)

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3 Responses to “How can I recycle more stuff on my own?”

  1. Kate Hind says:

    Hi Melissa,
    I agree that reusing things is the best way, and buying things that have a long life, for example instead of using plastic bottles use reusable life long bottles. Instead of throwing out old clothes, give them to people who could use them, reinvent them, or turn them into other things like cushion covers. A wormery is a great way to break down food waste, cardboard, paper, organic waste, and gives you great compost for your garden. Glass bottles can be reused easily, and turned into candle holders, used in the garden to line paths, used in cages to make walls (See Centre of alternative technology) etc… In your community you can work together maybe to collect lots of items to make into things for the community, like a community garden etc…
    Good luck!

  2. Dani says:

    Paper of any sort could be recycled into writing paper, or used to make ‘bricks’ for a fireplace.

    Glass could be used in foundations or floor slab of a house, or as glass bricks in a wall, or broked down and used in a countertop – that makes a brilliant speckled work surface. Don’t forget though that you would need to smooth over the top before it sets to ensure that the sharp edges are embedded in the concrete.

    Tins could be used as plant containers.

    Plastic, as always, is the main problem…!

  3. Plastic bags or sheeting can be cut into strips or loops and used in place of fiber for many projects (“plarn” can be crocheted/knitted/woven, just like yarn or string).

    Some flexible plastic containers (#6 is what I’ve seen, but I’m not sure if that’s an international coding system) can be cut, colored, and baked into hard plastic shapes for jewelry and other uses.

    I’ve also read about plastic bottles being filled with concrete and used as a building material.

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