Updated: Mar 22
Blue bins are prone to contamination, rendering our recycling efforts useless. Here are five alternatives for your recyclables to ensure they end up recycled.
An urban myth seems to suggest that blue bins are just “for show”, and that they get picked up by the same waste truck. So, why bother?
Debunking the myth, the blue bins—though collected by the same waste management company—do indeed undergo sorting for recyclables. On the contrary, contents from the general waste bins go straight to the incinerators. Therefore, there is a point putting recyclables into blue bins.
However, the challenge is that efforts can often go to waste (pun intended). Our blue bins have a notoriously low recycling rate of 40%, largely due to contamination. Throw in a half-empty can of coke and the bin might as well be sent straight to the incinerator.
Thankfully, there are avenues for recycling that are not “commingled”.
Here are five ways that we can be more assured that our items will indeed be recycled.
1. Our rag and bone, ‘Karang Guni’ man
There aren’t too many of them around nowadays. Or so, we think. Those who have grown up in the 90s would recall the honking and carolling of the karang guni man. We hardly hear them anymore.
But they are still around. Some have gone digital, like Gravo. Others continue to collect, with the support from organisations like Bread and Butter. They typically collect second-hand items such as cardboard, old electronic items and clothes.
They are a great avenue for valuable recyclables because they will only take items that have recycling value. So you can be rest assured that they will sell the items to proper recyclers. On top of that, you are contributing to their income. That’s killing two birds with one stone!
2. Charitable organisations
We know the Salvation Army takes in used clothes—for resale locally and internationally. They naturally have the means to recycle items that are no longer in wearable conditions. In case you need reminding—clothing items should not be thrown into blue bins.
Tzu Chi, for example, also takes in pre-loved wearables like bags and shoes. But they also collect glass materials for recycling. They currently run eco-points in 40 neighbourhoods every third Sunday of the month!
3. Independent community projects that reuse, repurpose or recycle
Recycling helps circulate resources back in use. But reusing and repurposing are alternatives exhausting less energy that should always come before recycling. There are many initiatives within the community that require items that you no longer need.
The bakery regularly requires containers for selling cookies. Our seller of handmade jewellery requires materials for packaging her creations. And students often can create projects out of materials like cardboard and used magazines.
You can support their initiatives by browsing the different initiatives on the Upcircle app and contributing recyclables to them.
4. Brands and businesses that take back recyclables
Brands and businesses are increasingly getting involved in the end-of-life management of resources they put in the hands of consumers. Nespresso, for example, takes back their aluminium capsules for recycling in store or upon your next order delivery. Online retailer of contact lenses, Two of a Kind, started Project 2x2, to take in contact lens blisters from any brand for recycling. IKEA is implementing a scheme to buy back used furniture from consumers.
Find out if the brand you support has similar initiatives. Some of these initiatives can also be found on our Upcircle app!
5. Reuse, repurpose or upcycle yourself
Before you throw something away or put it into the recycling bin, think again. Is there another use for this item? Could you use the beautiful glass bottle as a vase? Might your takeaway container be the perfect nursery for growing your indoors tomato plant? Do you really need to buy new rags for cleaning the oven or can you simply use your torn t-shirt?
Be creative and start looking around for ideas. There are plenty of 5 Min Crafts videos and Pinterest pins to get your upcycling gears in motion. Start browsing some ideas and more will come to you (via the apps, too!).
There are many ways to ensure that resources continue circulating in use. Share some of your ideas with us through our app or tag us on our Instagram account @Upcircle.app!