According to the 2008 Guinness Book of Records, the UK has the third worst recycling rate in Europe. This appeared in the entry headed “Largest Fleet of ‘Spy Bins’”– our government popped hidden spy cameras into about half a million household rubbish bins to see what we were chucking out. While this certainly has potential for a new sort of reality TV show that is probably a whole lot better than a lot of the junky American reality shows about, it should make us stop and think about what we’re doing. Because it’s not enough to keep your home spotless and sparkling – we need to keep our country clean, too.
It’s at this time of the year that we are most likely to commit sins of the rubbish variety. Many of us follow the good old tradition of spring cleaning – the only time that a house gets more thoroughly done over is when the time comes for the end of tenancy cleaning binge. And it’s all too tempting, when we’re confronted with a stash of old newspapers, old clothes and other junk to just throw it all in the bin and not give it another thought. However, this habit of just sticking it in the bin is what’s putting us in the books for all the wrong reasons.
Recycling is not that hard. Nor is reusing things for a new purpose around your home. And nor is cutting down on the amount of waste stuff you have in the first place. While there’s many areas that relate to the three Rs (reusing, recycling and reducing), here are some tips related to cleaning and household chores that will help you do your bit to improve our national rubbish rate.
* Save old clothes for use as cleaning rags for dusting and polishing. This cuts down on waste in two ways. Firstly, you’re not using a paper towel for, say, cleaning bathrooms, followed by throwing it into the waste. Secondly, you’re finding a new use for an item that would otherwise be thrown out. Old T-shirts are excellent for cleaning glass, as the material used for your average T-shirt is usually absorbent and lint-free.
* Look out for domestic cleaning products that multi-task. Instead of having one product to clean the fridge, another to clean the oven, another to clean the bath, another to clean the toilet and so on, look for products that will do more than one thing. Natural cleaning products are the winners here, as most of the ingredients used for making these have other uses, and are easier to buy in bulk than commercial cleaning products (usually, it’s only the professional cleaners who are able to get bulk quantities of these). This cuts down on the amount of packaging that is knocking around. And if you do buy some commercial cleaning products, recycle the bottle or container it comes in (or re-use it – those pump action bottles should be saved and rinsed out for storing and dispensing your home made cleaning products.
* Set up a recycling system. All you need is a couple of storage bins, and you can keep these near your regular rubbish bin. It’s best to have one for paper/cardboard, one for metal and one for plastic, unless you’re lucky enough to have a local council scheme that allows you to put all your recyclables in one bin. Have a totally separate system for organic waste – compost this. Composting means that rubbish bins become less smelly, which means less cleaning and stink-busting for you.