It sounds like a pretty amazing trick: rescue empty, used plastic bottles from the bin and turn them into the latest ‘must have’ football kit.
Or how about this for a clever transformation? Take drinks cans, squash them up and transform them into parts for airplanes, trains, cars and scooters.
Old wine bottles into loft insulation – or whisky bottles – plastic into anything from flooring to duvets and broken down games consoles into mobile phones, and so on.
In years gone by, waste from our homes was just chucked into one big bin: cardboard and food scraps, batteries and bottles, the lot.
Ten years ago, only five per cent of Scottish household waste was recycled. Today it’s around 42 per cent. But could we do more?
According to a new Scottish Government ‘Go Greener’ campaign aimed at getting us all to think about how much we currently do for the environment, if we all put in just a little bit more effort, the impact could be huge.
The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. Recycling targets are 70 per cent, with just five per cent heading to landfill by 2025.
To help, a series of videos presented by comic Phil Kay, reveal the ‘Stupidly Simple’ tweaks we could make to our everyday habits which could make all the difference.
Iain Gulland, chief executive, Zero Waste Scotland, says we are getting to grips with recycling. “The good news is that recycling is becoming habitual behaviour in Scottish households.
“When we recycle, materials are converted into new products helping us to conserve important raw materials and protect our natural environment for the future.”
Just because something has been recycled doesn’t mean it sacrifices quality, style or function. Take Nike, one of the world’s biggest sportswear brands – every year millions of plastic drinks bottles are chopped up into tiny flakes, taken to a chemical plant and melted down to make polyester. It is then spun into yarn to make football shirts.
Because it takes less energy to recycle products than to make them from scratch, the environment does not suffer so much.
What’s more, we reduce the need to consume natural resources, cutting down on the need for deforestation, quarrying and mining, helping to protect natural habitats for the future. It all adds up, say green campaigners.
There are other benefits to recycling too. For every tonne of waste sent to landfill, local authorities have to pay landfill tax – and the cost is increasing every year.
Edinburgh tax payers spend £14 million in tax to dispose of around 132,000 tonnes of rubbish. Glasgow doesn’t fare much better – it pays around the same. Indeed, last year’s figures showed two thirds of Scotland’s councils failed to meet a Scottish Government target to recycle or compost half of all household waste and faced bumper landfill tax bills.
Hanna Plant, waste prevention team co-ordinator at Edinburgh-based environmental charity, Changeworks, says, “The possibilities for re-using are endless, with a little creativity.
“Charity shops in Edinburgh are diverse and accepting of almost any sort of item whether it’s clothes, furniture, electrical goods, crockery or books – as long as they are in good condition of course,” she says.
Using Changeworks’ Too Good to Waste Guide and Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map can offer ideas of where to recycle and where to buy.
Meanwhile Edinburgh City Council is currently rolling out a new recycling service across the city, designed to make recycling for the average householder much more straight forward – visit www.edinburgh.gov.uk for more details.
For more information and access to Changeworks’ guides, visit www.changeworks.org.uk
Jayne Wright, 38, lives in Eddleston in the Borders, with husband Chris, 33 and children Emilia, two and 16-week-old Lewes.
With two very young children, a business and a rural home miles from the nearest shop, Jayne has plenty to deal with already, without saving the planet too.
Yet, she is determined to do her bit. “I’m quite motivated,” she says.
“If I can recycle something, then I will. Not much gets thrown away.”
One area of concern for her is the packaging which arrives with almost everything the family buys, in particular, cardboard and paper associated with her home-based portrait photography business.
“My photographic paper comes with cardboard inserted between each sheet,” says Jayne, who runs Jayne Wright Photography. “There’s so much unnecessary packaging, the recycling bin is always full. It’s only collected every other week which I don’t think is enough.”
Borders Council recommend householders put additional recycling material into clear bags for collection or take it to the nearest recycling centre.
On a much smaller scale at home, Jayne has her own mini-recycling system: she keeps and reuses glass jars for her home made jam. A quick scan of her kitchen, meanwhile, reveals the children’s sturdy bowls and plates are made from recycled material.
Jayne is doing her bit too when it comes to one of the big problems of the modern age – Britain’s disposable nappy mountain.
Every year Britain goes through three billion disposable nappies – an average child uses 4,000 before they are potty trained. However, Jayne opted for real nappies for her children, even though she worries the costs of washing them at high temperature wipes out their benefits.
“There’s lots of laundry with two kids, the nappies mean it piles up,” she explains. “But I’d rather that than think of these disposable nappies going to landfill. And it is cheaper.”
She also kept Emilia’s unisex clothes for the new arrival. However, she’s less keen on mending or buying items from charity shops.
In the kitchen, Jayne finds having youngsters who are still learning what they like and don’t like, creates food waste. To help, she’s switched to buying more frozen fruit and vegetables, even if it means she’s had to sacrifice her preference for buying fresh produce in season.
“Thankfully we have a dog which is like a living dustbin, he’ll eat any leftovers we have,” she laughs. “I don’t want to be wasting food. But I do find I end up throwing out salad – no one wants to eat brown lettuce.”
Our energy use is a key area which green campaigners are keen to tackle. And Jayne is conscious that their all-electric heating, her washing machine and tumble drier may be letting them down.
“We don’t have gas, everything is electric. We pay around £130 a month but the house is cold in winter even though there’s wall and loft insulation and double glazing.
“We’re trying to find ways to keep the house warmer and have been thinking about getting a wood burning stove but it’s so expensive.
“A few houses nearby have solar panels, but again, it’s the initial outlay that’s a concern.”
That plus their travel needs, makes being ‘green’ while living in a rural area, a challenge.
Their two cars – a new Skoda Octavia and an older Ford CMax – are a necessity as Chris works in South Queensferry and Jayne needs to get around for work and the children.
“Chris car shares with a friend,” adds Jayne. “There isn’t a shop near us, so if we run out of milk, we have to go to Peebles, around eight miles away. “The bus is quite expensive, £5 for each journey, which adds up.”
She’d get on her bike – the couple are keen mountain bikers – but the busy road to Peebles puts her off.
“There’s a stretch of disused railway between Eddleston and Peebles but it’s not been opened up. It would be fantastic if it were to become a cycle path,” she adds.
“Until then, I’ll just have to drive.”
Laura McGadie (inset) is Head of Home Energy Scotland at Energy Saving Trust.
The Wright family home is off gas and heated by electric room heaters which barely keep them warm in winter. Replacing old electric storage heaters with a modern and hi-tech wood-fuelled heating system in a typical 4-bed detached property could save £490 to £880 a year on fuel bills.
Another heating option is an air source heat pump which could save even more. Both would significantly reduce carbon emissions too.
Subject to eligibility, both systems could also claim payments from the UK Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This can add up to thousands of pounds, offsetting much or all of the cost of the system.
The Wrights may also be eligible for a Home Energy Scotland renewables loan from the Scottish Government. These interest-free loans can provide up to £10,000 help with the initial costs of buying and installing these systems.
Home Energy Scotland will be able to check if they are eligible for a loan of up to £2,500 from the Scottish Government to help with the initial costs of solar panels. If your system is eligible for the UK Government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme, you could also generate savings and receive payments of £610 to £740 a year.
The Wright family would really benefit from a home visit with a Home Energy Scotland renewables specialist advisor who can help them work out what’s most suitable for their property and advise which financial support schemes are available.
Home Energy Scotland’s advisors offer free, expert and impartial advice about energy savings and the support and funding available. Call 0808 808 2282 or visit www.homeenergyscotland.org
Ylva Haglund (inset) is an expert in consumer behaviour, marketing and environmental policy with Zero Waste Scotland.
Jayne is already taking lots of steps to ensure she wastes less – for example switching to buying fruit frozen instead of fresh, and keeping the packaging she uses for her business to a minimum.
To minimise the number of journeys into Peebles, Jayne should check her cupboards and make a list before going shopping. This also reduces the amount of food getting thrown away.
Many people throw away salad leaves sometimes, but putting them in a tub lined with a piece of kitchen paper can keep them fresher for longer.
With regard to second hand clothes, Jayne can be confident she’s getting the best quality by looking out for Revolve accredited stores. Revolve is a national re-use standard from Zero Waste Scotland which aims to give customers an experience comparable with the high street.
“Mending clothes is also a great way to make them last longer. Love Your Clothes offers tips on how to make simple repairs and to care for your clothes.”
Zero Waste Scotland’s work includes promoting recycling, re-use and repair, and helping people to live greener lives by cutting food waste.