When we talk about making green efforts at home, recycling our own waste, let alone other people’s, it’s pretty hard to do. However, this mother of three has recycled over a ton of rubbish after she’d set up a drop-off point in her garden shed. This way, people can drop items that don’t get collected.
The mother, Liz Pinfield-Wells, built a DIY recycling center after the birth of her third child. When that happened, she realized she couldn’t recycle baby food pouches. She found that many items like chip packets and toothbrushes were not included in the weekly council curbside collections.
Therefore, around four years ago, she set up a drop-off point at the end of her driveway and encouraged more people to recycle by dropping off their garbage there.
As opposed to just some types of plastic, Liz has helped recycle “unrecyclable” items such as multi-layer plastic, chip tubes, or items mixed with metal and plastic line which usually get rejected.
Since then, she’s recycled 1.2 tons of trash and managed to raise money for her local community along the way.
Liz has always been an eco-conscious person and she’s trying to make a change in her community, starting from her family.
“Our family has always done what we can, where we can as a household to help reduce our carbon footprint and recycle as much as possible. We only have a small pot for rubbish to go to landfill in our kitchen and everything else we recycle,” Liz said.
Liz added that her efforts have helped raise awareness in her children about the need to recycle more.
The effects of DIY recycling center
At first, Liz placed only a couple of boxes at the end of her drive. But now, her shed has more labeled bins to help locals reduce their landfill waste. According to Liz, dozens of residents use her drop-off point every week and over 30 different household items can now be recycled there.
“Setting up the recycling drop-off hub in my front garden has hopefully helped the community to recycle more. It can sometimes seem a little daunting knowing where to start with recycling but with every small step, it gets that little bit easier,” Liz said.
As mentioned, the mother has collected more than one ton of waste which she has mostly recycled through a company called TerraCycle.
Each month, she sends the collected trash in vacuum-packed bags to the company, which then processes it and turns it into new items such as watering cans and benches. But before processing, they take the weight of the recyclable material and convert it into points for money.
This money can be paid out twice a year to charity or sports organization of her choice.
In the last three years, Liz has raised more than $1,215 which she has donated to her 14-year-old daughter Zoe’s gymnastic group to buy new equipment. Other than that, he has donated to another local charity to buy woodchips for their community garden.
Liz has a Facebook group which focus is recycling the rejects. Now, the group has more than a thousand members, and the community has collected items like bread wax wraps, hygiene packaging, cheese bags, pens, rubber gloves, printer ink, and used postage stamps. Most of them are sent to TerraCycle.
“The only exceptions to this are items like printer ink or used postage stamps, but they are still all recycled, just through a different company,” Liz said.
The benefits of ‘private’ recycle hubs
Liz’s efforts are a good picture of what happens to most people who wish to do more for their planet, only to find that what they’ve collected doesn’t get recycled. Or they want to contribute positively to the environment, but they don’t know which type of waste that they should recycle.
According to new research, that is the case: more than half of Americans have a guilt trip when they fail to recycle their waste.
The survey had 2,000 participants, and the research found that 58% of them play the guessing game about four times a week when they’re recycling their trash, and 64% would like more guidance on how to properly sort paper, plastic and other materials.
The majority, about 72%, feel that recycling should be the standard. Seven in 10 believe it’s the government’s job to do it. Thirty-four percent also believe that the system can be improved with higher quality sorting machines, while 28% say a better education on recycling is another solution.
From that data, it’s safe to assume that people want to recycle, especially since there are products only available in standard, conventional packaging, like DIY tools or pet food and supply.
Moreover, it can be confusing for potential recyclers about how to recycle certain items—as not everything can be accepted as-is. Only certain products are labeled with guides, which help consumers prepare and recycle the items.
According to the research, the top 5 products people struggle to recycle are: takeaway food containers, water bottles, alcoholic beverage containers, pet food containers/bags, and cardboard boxes.
Where people get it wrong
Recycling isn’t just as easy as collecting plastic, paper, glass, or metal in dedicated containers. It’s a little complicated, and that’s why people give up easily and then feel guilty about it, or they don’t bother at all.
According to this website, here are a few common mistakes when it comes to recycling.
Plastic that has a filmy feel like zipper-locks, bubble wrap, plastic padded Amazon envelopes, garbage bags, wrap from toilet paper, and bread bags shouldn’t be mixed with any kind of plastic as they don’t work in any single-stream recycling system.
This type of plastic can jam machinery, forcing workers to hit the kill switch on the whole operation and manually pull it out of the system.
Other than that, it can tangle up with other recyclables which are actually valuable. When these happen, everything can end up in landfills rather than being repurposed or sold.
Plastic or glass ontainers which are not cleaned, like peanut butter or sauce containers, should be cleaned first before being tossed into recycling bins.
Unwashed containers are unfavorable because they can degrade the materials for recycling, and they can pose health and safety risks to workers who handle spoiled matter and deal with pests that get attracted to the recycling facility.
Similarly, the cleaning rule also applies for metal or tin containers. Any type of metal container should be clean before being disposed of.
Throwing it away should be done carefully as well, so it’s best to save or pile up metal objects like metal spoons, bottle caps, metal jar lids, blades from razors, and wire hangers until we find a scrap metal recycler or hubs like Liz’s which will safely process them.
Won’t stop recycling
Speaking of Liz, the mother of three doesn’t plan to stop recycling and plans to grow her recycling hub even more in some new areas. That way, she and her community can raise more money so they can help more people.
“At the end of the day, through my trustee position and my recycling center, I just want to help people do their bit for the climate emergency crisis.”
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