How to reuse and repurpose items instead of recycling

Martin Cooper from The Refill Shop of Ikigai is urging people to refill containers rather than recycling them

Martin Cooper from The Refill Shop of Ikigai is urging people to refill containers rather than recycling them - Credit: Supplied

Martin Cooper from The Refill Shop of Ikigai explains the advantages of refilling over recycling.

How full is your recycling bin? 

If its anything like mine used to be, it's overflowing days before the collection with cardboard, plastic and glass.

In Huntingdonshire we have a pretty good council recycling service, but not all services are created equal and it varies from council to council what you can put in your bin. 

But as today is Global Recycling Day, is recycling really the answer to our environmental problems? 

When we recycle it encourages us to buy more of the same - washing up liquid bottles, plastic bags of pasta, jars of herbs and spices - the list goes on, and this means the materials and energy used to make the plastic or glass continue to be needed.

We don't really think about it, as we are able to dispose of it in what we think is a good way, but that isn't always the case.

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According to The British Plastic Federation, 17 per cent of the UK’s plastic waste goes to landfill, while Greenpeace claim more than half of the household plastic put in our recycling bins in the UK is sent abroad. 

Add to this that recycling labels can be confusing, and very often our bins are contaminated with things that can't be recycled because they are not cleaned properly or have grease on them from the food it's had in them.

So what’s the answer? 

The easiest solution is to reuse what we have as much as we can.

Once you start collecting bottles, jars and packets, you'll be amazed at how many you use and how many can be refilled at your local refill shop. 

From dried foods, oils and vinegars to laundry products and household cleaning, you can refill any container you have.

In my shop I've seen some great reuses - gin bottles for washing up liquid, crisp tins for pasta - anything goes! 

And I also use closed loop suppliers where I can - our olive oil comes in containers that, once empty, go back to the supplier who refills them and sends them back - and the same with all our household and personal cleaning products.  

Even the tins of deodorant I sell can be returned for a reduction on your next purchase and the tins go back to the maker in Cambridge, who use them again. 

So while recycling may seem like our only option, reusing and repurposing what we have by refilling can be just as easy - and reduces the continued production of plastic, recycled or otherwise, using our precious resources.