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Reuse vs Recycle – Which is Better for the Environment?

Should you reuse or recycle is a question asked when trying to reduce your carbon footprint. Although we are aware of what needs to be done, many of us still struggle with practising the best ways of truly making a difference to the planet. Here’s a short breakdown to help.


Food Packaging: Reuse and Recycle

When it comes to grocery shopping, it’s incredibly difficult to avoid packaging, despite the rise in refillable options from both independents and supermarkets. The minefield of different types of packaging and what can and can’t be recycled is hard to navigate so it’s better to avoid prepacked food where you can. Examples include:

  • Loose fruit and veg in paper or reusable or biodegradable bags.
  • Butchers section for meat where you can take your own reusable wraps or boxes.
  • Loose items in freezers. Delis, farm shops and independent stores often have loose freezer items to select from.


Clothing: Reuse

Clothes should have a longer shelf life but the increase in fast fashion has meant textiles ending up in landfills are now one of the highest polluters of the planet. Clothing should be reused where possible as textiles can take over 200 years to decompose and the dyes and fibres that are released, have a knock-on effect for even longer.

Find ways to reuse your clothing even when they’re past their best is relatively fuss-free;

  • Look for a local seamstress who can repair ripped items, adjust the size of your clothes, or even turn them into something brand new.
  • Research artists who can paint funky designs over stains or marks. We Are Hairy People provide a service, including personalised pet portraits on clothing.
  • For good quality clothing, donate to charity and let someone else get enjoyment from your garments.


Furniture: Reuse

Most well-made furniture shouldn’t have to be thrown away but can be reused in different forms. Many programmes are showing how items that were destined for the tip can be transformed into new and exciting pieces.

  • Sofas, chairs and footstools can all be recovered and transformed at a small cost.
  • Cupboards, drawers and wardrobes are perfect for upcycling into new pieces. Adding different handles, painting a new colour or adding different feet can give items a new look.
  • IKEA hacks are a great way to reuse furniture that maybe was created to last. Research how people have used DIY furniture to make something unique.


Single-Use Plastic: Recycle

This is a broad spectrum, but most single use plastic is just that, one time use. Plastic bottles that are reused and subjected to different temperatures can be unhealthy for you and the environment. Some people repurpose single use plastic and reuse it in inventive ways such as plant markers, hair curlers or as cooking apparatus, but eventually, the durability ends and it’s then more likely to end up in the bin, adding to the problem.

Understanding more about the type of plastic you’re buying and whether it’s able to be recycled is step one and opting for alternatives is always preferred, but sometimes it’s not possible.

Paper: Reuse and Recycle

Most paper is best to be recycled as it can be done many, many times before it’s unusable. Also, the process of recycling paper uses 40% less energy than making it from scratch. Paper products can almost always be recycled and are widely accepted through most household recycling schemes so here’s what you can add;

  • Newspapers
  • Cardboard – any food contaminated cardboard can’t be recycled
  • Magazines
  • Printer paper
  • Toilet roll tubes, tissue boxes

But, if you can reuse paper then it’s also best to do so. Reuse paper products such as:

  • Wrapping paper. If it doesn’t pass the scrunch test, then try to reuse it. According to Recycle Now if you scrunch paper and it doesn’t spring back, it can be recycled.
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Packing paper

Generally, reusing an item is better for the environment as it slows the demand for constant production and gets the most out of an item before it’s discarded. In some cases, however, recycling needs to occur, and you should always opt to recycle over simple throwing it in the bin. We hope our guide has made it clearer in terms of what you can reuse and recycle and help make a different to the planet.