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Myths and facts about recycling

"Waste separation is pointless, everything ends up in the same pile anyway." You might have heard this statement multiple times, and have gotten the impression that plastic, organic, and other waste doesn’t actually go through a recycling process. Are we wasting our time separating waste? Let's fact check some myths.

What is actually recycled?

"Only plastic is reused, and everything else is worthless". Most of the waste we produce every day can be recycled and reused in new ways. However, according to the German environmental aid organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe, only two-thirds of the packaging that should end up in the yellow bag ends up there and only about 40% of what ends up in the yellow bag is recycled. Plastic can be melted down, and a plastic bottle may be a soap dispenser or another type of packaging in its next life. The same applies to used glass. Today, it may be a milk bottle, tomorrow you may be pouring yourself a glass of wine with it. Paper waste is not worthless, remaining a valuable raw material which can be used to create something new because ink can be removed from paper. Even organic waste can be reused.  It can either end up in a compost heap and serve as fertilizer next spring, or it can be fermented into biogas and become a new energy source. Only residual waste is burned because of its lack of use. Conversely, this means that we have to separate our waste as much as possible in order to generate as little residual waste as possible. Because that is the waste that has little value. To make these recycling processes possible, we must make sure that everything does not end up in the same bin - waste separation is key!

Myth or truth? - Facts about recycling

In the following, we will take a brief look at a few statements that we’ve come across again and again, and clarify what is true or false. Are some products as good for the environment as we think, and is rubbish really rubbish? Let’s reveal the myths!

"Paper bags are environmentally friendly"

This statement isn’t as true as we'd like it to be. Paper bags require large amounts of water and energy to produce. They also need to be strong enough to carry heavy purchases without tearing immediately. This is not possible without a little chemistry, meaning paper bags aren’t just paper bags. They’re far worse than their reputation suggests and sooner or later they too will end up in the trash.

A paper bag consumes many more resources during the manufacturing process than a plastic bag. The clearest advantage over plastic bags is that paper is biodegradable. A great deal of plastic ends up in the sea and harms not only the sea creatures but also ourselves, as it gets back into our food chain.

The best solution here, is to switch to shopping bags or baskets that can be used permanently, making an additional contribution to waste avoidance. The environment will thank you

"Glass is glass, don't bother with lids"

Anyone who thinks that there is no difference between the different glass colours is wrong. It makes sense for there to be three different glass recycling containers, where you can distinguish between brown, white and green. The reason is obvious. Glass is recycled and reused, but for this to be possible, it must be sorted. When the glass splinters of different colours mix in the container, the material becomes worthless. Who wants brown, white, and green spotted glass?

Since it is possible nowadays to have larger materials such as lids or corks filtered out of the cullet by the plants, the statement that lids in containers are not a problem is not a myth. Although they don’t belong in the container for used glass, they should still be put in the yellow bag. Even if it is not necessary, you should take care to dispose of the container without a lid or cork and ensure accurate waste separation here too.

"Disposable coffee cups are bad for the environment"

This is true. The sheer amount of used disposable cups we use especially contributes to this problem. After we drink our hot beverages, they usually end up in the trash can. Sometimes they don’t even make it inside. Recycling is not an option here! Similar to the paper bags, the production process plays a major role in the problem. Huge amounts of water and energy have to be used to produce all the disposable cups we use. In Germany alone, according to the Federal Environment Agency, this figure is well over two billion a year and represents a large burden on the environment. It is, therefore, better to use a returnable cup that you can bring along yourself and also reuse. Some coffee suppliers will also offer a small discount on their hot drink if you do this.

"The yogurt cup can go into the yellow bag"

Yes, but there are a few things you should be aware of. The cup itself is usually made of plastic and definitely belongs in the plastic waste. The lid of the yoghurt is usually made of aluminium and should be removed from the cup before disposal, as these two materials are processed separately. Packaging often consists of different materials (composite materials) and are not entirely made of plastic or paper. In such cases, the different materials should be separated as much as possible and sent to the appropriate recycling system, as this is the only way to keep the waste pure and recyclable. You also don’t have to  wash out a yoghurt pot to remove the last residues. The plastic is cleaned before it is recycled and reused.

Conclusion: Does recycling help at all?

The answer is a resounding "yes"! If you put your waste in the bin where it belongs, it can be recycled, and many materials can be reused. Waste is therefore not just waste, but can still be valuable to society. Whether it’s used glass or packaging that ends up in the yellow bag, much of it has the potential to be recycled and reused. At the end of the day, these are potential resources, and we should make full use of them!

Waste separation made easy

From our fact check, we can see that accurate waste separation is the basis for recycling. It’s certainly good for the environment. That's why we at Hailo do everything we can to make it easier for you to handle waste correctly in your everyday life. Many of our bins are equipped with integrated waste separation systems that make it simple to separate waste into residual waste, plastic, organic waste and paper. The pedal bins from the Hailo eco range offer different ways of separating depending on your needs. You can choose between two or three integrated units that can be separated from the bin. There are also different bucket sizes with different volumes, depending on the space available. We offer both built-in and free-standing bins for waste disposal. If  you want to separate and collect large quantities of waste, such as paper or plastic, the large-volume Big-Box waste bins are a good choice. Placing two or three next to each other in the garage or cellar, provide an ideal "interim storage" for these types of waste. We’re sure you can find the right product for you, and waste separation can become part of your daily routine from today!

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