the recent release of the Lion King and the circle of life got us thinking. What about the recycling circle, or loop? For many, being able to pop something in a kerbside bin or to send it off to Teracycle provides peace of mind that their waste may avoid ending up in landfill or worse, the ocean.

But, how many times can different materials be recycled before that becomes their fate?

Plastic – Most plastics can only be recycled a couple of times before they have to be downcycled into a lower quality product. For example, plastic may be used to make clothing. However, once downcycled in this way, that plastic cannot generally be recycled again so ultimately it will become waste. Utilising recycled plastic is of course far more environmentally friendly than using new plastic though. Sadly, worldwide only around 9% of the plastic ever produced has ever been recycled, further hitting home the problem of our over reliance on it. Remember that only certain plastics can be recycled in your kerbside boxes so do check.

Paper – On average, paper can be recycled six or seven times. Every time it is recycled, the fibres within paper become shorter, eventually reaching a point that makes recycling impossible. It can then be used in items ranging from newspapers to egg boxes. Recycling paper uses up to one third less energy and a tonne of recycled paper can save 32,000 litres of water.  In the UK, around 80% of paper is recovered and recycled.  You can of course also place paper in your home compost bin.

Glass –Can be recycled time and time again and the process is one third more energy efficient than producing new glass. So, next time you polish off a bottle of wine, you can feel a little less guilty!  Just remember to save up your used glass bottles and jars and to take them to a local recycling bank.

Aluminium – There are no limits to how many times it can be recycled without degrading. It is estimated that around 65% of the aluminium ever produced is still in use today. So, if you’re buying a soft drink on the go, pick up a can rather than a plastic bottle. And recycle it in your kerbside boxes.

Metal – As above, it can generally be recycled indefinitely. If more people disposed of metal items correctly, we could dramatically reduce the need to mine for metals and help our planet enormously. For example, one tonne of recycled steel avoids the need to mine one and a half tonnes of iron ore.

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