Why recycle?
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Date: 12 September, 2005



'Things have changed hugely since the days of off-beige recycled writing paper with the consistency of loo roll.'

These days, everyone is wittering about recycling. Why is it so important?

I started on my favourite website, on my favourite radio programme (ooh, that John Humphrys). According to Roger Harrabin, Britain is fast running out of landfill sites. This is because each household produces about one tonne of rubbish annually, amounting to about 27 million tonnes for the UK each year. Recycling also saves energy, water and resources and reduces pollution.

Buying recycled

Recycling can only work if we buy recycled — everything from kitchen roll to handbags. Things have changed hugely since the days of off-beige recycled writing paper with the consistency of loo roll. Recycled products are now bright and funky and imaginative.

Paper products

Every tonne of paper recycled saves at least 30000 litres of water and 3000-4000 KWh electricity, and reduces air pollution by 95%. Friends of the Earth regard recycling as far more efficient than incineration.

Recycled paper products include products for at home (see this page for a fascinating article about toilet rolls), in the office (have a look at Crazy Colour for ways to introduce recycled paper at work ).

Paper isn’t just made into new paper — it can be made into loft insulation, paints and road surfaces. You could always recycle your own!

Glass products

For every tonne of recycled glass used, 1.2 tonnes of raw materials are preserved. Glass can be recycled into many things — plaster, road surfaces, cement and concrete, bricks, rooting medium for sports turf and even more glass. While you are waiting for the doorstep recycling van to arrive, play the recycling glass game.


Clothes can be recycled by buying ones made from reclaimed fabric or recycled fibres, going to charity shops, exchanging with friends or family (if they are the same size!) or buying from second hand shops. If you shop carefully, you can pick up some good quality bargains.


We generate nearly 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year in the UK, and only 7% is recycled. There are economic issues with recycling plastic, as it can cost more to collect than it is worth, but the more we buy recycled products, the more we can create a demand.

Plastic can be recycled into paper, pens and notebooks, composters and water butts, fleece jackets, paths, OHP film and mouse mats , and even new packaging.


Giving me your car is an obvious way of recycling. Seriously, car recycling is very important, and car manufacturers will be forced to improve recycling under EU directives. Perhaps this might be the way forward!


Reusing rather than recycling is the most energy efficient route — here are a few ideas…
• Carrier bags
• Plastic drinks bottles as bird feeders, mini-greenhouses, and for watering plants.
• Furniture
• Nappies
• Computers
• …and more

Many supermarkets are moving toward returnable plastic trays for transport and display.

Waste that can’t be recycled can be used to create energy .

So… get reusing, get recycling, and watch out for the clothes recycling bins

Suzanne Elvidge is the editor of www.echurchactive.net, effective use of technology for the church.


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