Five small ways to change your recycling habits and save the planet just a tiny little bit more.


Remember this post? I said at the end of it that I wasn’t going to make ONS All About Poetry any more… so here’s a totally-not-poetry-related post for your viewing pleasure. NB: you should still totally read it.

So… you guys all recycle, right? RIGHT? I like to assume that everyone does, to some extent, because if I did not assume that, I would probably cry and potentially slap people. But although I think most people really genuinely do recycle, it’s pretty likely that right now, most folk are doing the bare minimum they can get away with, ’cause that’s what we humans like to do. HOWEVER, there are several little teeny tiny changes you can make to your recycling habits that will totally make the planet love you more.

1. Recycle the paper off your tin cans
For ages, I used to just chuck used tin cans (that once held beans, soup, etc) into my local recycling bin. Then I read somewhere that — vexingly — sometimes a tin can’t be recycled if it still has food waste in the bottom. This led me to start washing the tins out, usually after doing my washing up — just giving them a quick rinse to make sure they’d definitely stay out of landfill.
One night I was feeling extremely lazy and could not be bothered to go through this process. Instead, after I finished haphazardly washing the dishes, I just dunked the tin cans into the remaining washing-up water and went off to do more fun things. I then forgot about them, and the next morning, got up to find that their labels had unpeeled in the night and were floating atop the now-quite-minging water.
OK, gross, I know. BUT this did mean that I could fish the paper labels out of the sink, leave them to dry off, and then put them into the paper recycling bin. I recently read Edinburgh City Council’s latest recycling handbook and it turns out they actually advise people to do this. Nowadays I always remove the paper labels from cans while washing them out. It takes about fifteen seconds and means double the recycled-ness.

2. Put your envelopes in the right bin!
DID YOU KNOW: you’re not supposed to put paper envelopes in with other paper recycling? ‘Cause I didn’t, until very very recently. Apparently, the gum used to seal envelopes is tricky stuff to get rid of, and paper that’s had the gum on it can’t be recycled as a result. Similarly, window envelopes have glue AND plastic involved. Putting them in with your other paper products means the whole lot could potentially end up in landfill, which makes small furry creatures everywhere very sad indeed.
BUT you can recycle these pesky envelopes — you just need to put them into the right bin. The gum and plastic interferes with the density and purity of recycled paper, but recycled cardboard can cope with it just fine. Therefore, you should put your envelopes in with your cardboard, tins and plastic, where they will be happily accepted into the arms of some big magical machine that turns junk products into shiny new recycled things.

3. Give unwanted stuff to small, indie charity shops.
As a wide-eyed young teenager, I used to volunteer on Saturday afternoons for a Cancer Research charity shop. Even then, before I became a hardcore vegan pain-in-the-ass greenie, I was a bit shocked by the things we apparently “had” to throw out… but as the years passed I convinced myself that times must have a-changed for charity shops. Well… yes and no. Although it does depend on the charity, I recently discovered that many of the larger charity shop chains still have ludicrously strict rules about what they can and cannot sell. Many can’t sell electronic items, or they won’t take clothing or fabrics that are marked, however faintly. Toys and furniture often need to come complete with their original safety labels in order to be accepted. And so on, and so forth.
If you’ve been taking your old togs to a big charity’s thrift store for years, panic not: they don’t just shove everything into landfill. Even in my distant volunteering days, a shadowy figure called The Rag Man used to come around every week or so and take away for recycling any fabric items unfit for sale, and this is still common practice. Also, you can improve your chances of your items being actually sold by taking them into the store during opening hours (many big charities won’t sell on items that have been left on the doorstep for health and safety reasons — a badger might have gnawed on them, or something). But an even better thing to do would be to seek out a smaller, less high-profile charity shop to send your stuff to.
Edinburgh has several such places — there are stores for the St Columba’s Hospice; two Birthlink thrift shops in the Tollcross area; and my personal favourites, the Hospices of Hope shops. Case in point: I recently bought a tablecloth from the Tollcross Hospices of Hope shop, which was priced super low because it was covered in blotches of candlewax (like, really covered). No big charity shop would have put it on sale, but hey — candlewax is super easy to get out, as the Hospices of Hope ladies clearly know. I was able to get a very cute tablecloth for a bargainous price, and they made money for their charity. Smaller charities = less picky = more and better recycling!

4. Find new ways to use old stuff.
Every so often you end up with an item to throw away that you’re not really sure what to do with. A piece of particularly weird packaging, say, or a household item that’s come to the end of a long life. What do you do when you suddenly have, say, a shipping pallet or the bladder out of a wine box sitting in your kitchen? Answer: get thee to Google and look up [item] + “alternative uses.” I promise you, you will be amazed.
Examples? How many of you have a ton of wine bottles sitting around at home? (Don’t lie!) What about vinyl records too scratched to play? An old metal strainer, maybe? Binder clips? Or even — seriously — unused condoms and tampons! THE POSSIBILITIES REALLY ARE ENDLESS!

5. Stop buying new stuff.
I’m actually properly serious. When you buy new, you are almost always:
– Endorsing sweat shop labour
– Endorsing needless animal testing
– Endorsing the use of fossil fuels
– Endorsing dodgy business practices in general
– Paying a huge mark-up on your items
Sorry to get all heavy-handed hippie on your ass, but really. Second hand stores, vintage shops and flea markets are no longer the someone-died-in-this dives they once were. In fact, they’re trendy. Some of them are like boutiques, even! And then there’s eBay. And Freecycle and Freegle, where you get things FOR FREE! Or Gumtree, where you get them for super cheap! These days, 98% of my belongings are second hand and my lifestyle really hasn’t noticed — except I’m way less poor. Win-win, amirite? Pretty much the only things I buy new now are underwear (but only ’cause charity shops don’t stock it!), occasionally books, and stuff that’s local or made by small businesses or craftspeople (hello, Etsy!). Do I sound preachy? WELL GOOD, I AM PREACHING AT YOU. Stop spending money you don’t have on shit you don’t need — the planet will love you!

Got any particularly good DIY or upcycling tips? Recycling solutions? Want to call me a smelly hippie and pelt me with tofu? Head south for the comments box!


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

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