Darren Hickling

Improving Our Recycling

Published onReading time9 minutes

A few months ago, I prepared to put out our black (non-recycling) bin for collection, but found there was nothing in it to collect! There have been several occasions since where only one or two bags were thrown out in a fortnight, and the amount of plastic we collect has also reduced. Only then did I realise that our small, simple efforts to improve our recycling at home have started to pay off.

I don't know if everyone can do this, or if they should. My family are really happy with the changes and replacements, which are often delivered regularly via subscription. I know there is always more that could/should be done, but if you have ever considered doing the same and are not sure where to start, maybe this list will provide a bit of, err, "inspo". Anyway, let's kick off with:


๐Ÿฅ› Milk

Easily my pet hate: chucking enormous plastic bottles (even when squashed) in the recycling. We have used the brilliant Milkbot vending machines in local farms, but they rely on one of us remembering. Only recently did we decide to go back to the future: milk deliveries! Milk & More provide an excellent service that is easy to update your regulars and one-off purchases, and our children love collecting the new bottles from the doorstep. Use code RNWWS4 for ยฃ5 off from us.

Cleaning Products

Throwing away the wrapping from individual dishwasher tablets wasn't a great feeling, neither was putting the plastic containers of laundry tablets in the recycling. Smol regular deliveries have completely replaced these products, and their multi-purpose cleaner tablets are also brilliant. We are currently trialling more products from EcoVibe around the house.

โœจ Sparkling Drinks

I still enjoy sparkling water from trips to Europe, and while the glass bottles of it are good, they take up a lot of space and are expensive. These were replaced with Sodastream on subscription, and I love their flavours, particularly Blonde Cola and Passionfruit Kombucha. Now owned by PepsiCo, the 7UP and Pepsi flavours are as good the shop-bought products. Longer term, Quooker taps are a thing of beauty.

๐Ÿ‘ƒ Pocket Tissues

Children โ€” and let's face it, adults โ€” can be very snotty creatures. The little plastic-wrapped travel tissues are helpful, but you often need several to cater for a particularly, err, productive episode. I had a late realisation whilst browsing items in a sale: why don't we use handkerchiefs?!

Looking back on this revelation, I'm not sure what took me so long to try them. Maybe it was the connotation that they were the sole preserve of older (wiser!) relatives. Hankies:

  • Can look great!
  • Be made at home: we used old pillow covers and duvet bags
  • Absorb far more substance than expected: including the contents of a squishy toy that exploded awkwardly during a car journey
  • Take up little space in the laundry.

๐Ÿ’ˆ Soap and Hair Products

There plenty of options here if you are willing to experiment with different soap bars. For men, I highly recommend:

  • Saponificio: my favourite soap bars, also create fantastic shaving products.
  • Taylor of Old Bond Street: again, also supply very good shaving products.
  • Lush: immense fun for children in store too.
  • Tropic: their other beauty products have also reduced plastic use at home.

Bars haven't dried out my skin and leave me smelling respectable for hours; I do not miss shower gels at all and have rarely used them in years.


Toothpaste tubes are small enough but still irritating to throw away. Happier use aluminium tubes with a turnkey that squeezes out every drop and reduces it to nothing, plus it tastes great.

๐Ÿ’ช Deodorant

Deodorant cans aren't the worst offenders on this post, but AKT and Proverb offer different, excellent alternatives.

๐Ÿต Loose-Leaf Tea

Switching to loose-leaf tea from T2 was a no-brainer after tasting samples in-store. The in-built carry-cup strainer has been a godsend when needing a longer drink out and about, and even the smaller packets now use compostable wrapping.

Double-Edged Razors

The price and waste of cartridge razors led me to double-edged years ago. I could write a post on this subject, but in a nutshell: the blades are significantly smaller and cheaper, the shave is smooth with experience, and encourages you to spend more on better skin-care products. I highly recommend the combination of a Merkur razor with a Feather blade. I still haven't filled my Mรผhle blade bank in over four years!

๐Ÿšฎ Bin Liners

Compostable alternatives like those from EcoVibe are robust and large enough for us.

Toilet Roll

Not strictly saving much here bar unnecessary packaging, but Bumboo toilet rolls are the first alternative to those made from trees that haven't ruined our delicate bottoms. Longer term, Japanese-style smart toilets are still planned! Bamboo kitchen roll and facial tissues are other quick switches.

๐Ÿ› Composting

We have been able to compost food for a while, but after more research, have been feeding the compost bin with more material. There is a balance to this, but we have a mature compost that breaks down waste surprisingly quickly, including shredded confidential papers.

๐Ÿ› Takeaways

We wash and return the plastic containers to our brilliant local curry house. The best way to return them is, of course, whilst collecting another order ๐Ÿ˜

Infrequent Purchases

Reducing single-use plastic has been one of our main aims, but we took aim at some reusable plastic products too:

๐Ÿšฐ Water Bottles

Our children have selected and destroyed plastic bottles in a matter of months. Cue research and an order from onegreenbottle: we've ordered more since for the whole family and love their durability, designs and the option to switch the drinking cap.

Takeaway Coffee Cups

Plenty of options here, but we love Keep Cup for their children's sizes.

These Need to Go!

Some plastic seems so unnecessary. To me, the worst offenders are:

๐Ÿท Plastic Tags

Why use plastic to hold a price label in clothing, just use string!

๐ŸŽ Plastic Wrapping and Filling

Compostable bags and cardboard fillers have been available for some time.

๐Ÿ“ง Windowed Envelopes

Print on the envelope, or send an email!

๐ŸŽ’ Grocery Bags

We've all forgotten our shopping bags when popping out for a quick trip to the supermarket, but why lumber us with more plastic bags? Co-op have provided compostable bags for some time, others should follow suit.

Non-Compostable Coffee Cups

If local businesses selling in the middle of nowhere can provide compostable coffee cups when you are in a bind, why can't global corporations? Rhetorical question of course, but we have been avoiding these companies when shopping in city centres and malls as a result.

What's Next

There is always more that can be done. We have struggled with the list below, but have at least identified them as improvements:

๐Ÿ Local Seasonal Produce Deliveries

Tomatoes from the UK taste better in the UK, just as strawberries in Croatia taste better in Croatia. When they are out of season at home, it is time to move onto something else, not accept alternatives from abroad that are hardy to survive transportation but lose flavour as a result. We haven't always adjusted our meals with the seasons, but are trying to do so with a mix of local and delivered goods.

๐Ÿž More Homemade Bread

We had a bread machine long before lockdowns made them cool ๐Ÿ˜Ž You can't beat the smell, let alone the flavour. I am gradually remembering to use it on a more regular basis and keen to try flour from local mills in addition to convenient bread mix packets.

๐Ÿ“… Better Food Planning

Food packaging comprises most of our non-recyclable waste. If we cooked in bulk ahead of time more often, we could make a decent reduction here, and possibly save money. The problem has always been investing the time to try more meals and scheduling them in.

๐Ÿช Reduce Snacking

A simple way to reduce waste would be to eat less pre-packaged food in-between meals. Easier said than done, so must work on my discipline.

๐Ÿ˜ Other Dental Products

We are currently trialling eco-friendly toothbrush heads, inter-dental brushes and other products from Brushd.

๐Ÿ“š Further Research

Like most subjects, there are fantastic sites with plenty of options on further reducing waste.

Other Random Benefits

The effect of the changes above is more than the sum of its parts, these are some of the extra plus points:

๐Ÿš— Fewer Unplanned Shopping Trips

Now that many of our consumables are delivered regularly, we make less unplanned drives to a local shop to collect an essential that has been forgotten. This obviously saves time, a little fuel and unnecessary spikes in my blood pressure when a child declares that we have run out of toilet roll, a fact everyone neglected to share days ago!

๐Ÿ’ท Supporting National Businesses

Not all the changes here have reduced global product use, nor is that necessarily a bad thing. However, we are happier supporting businesses that concentrate on one or few things and do them well, with (hopefully) less transportation of goods.

๐Ÿค‘ Referrals

Some of the links here are referrals, meaning that you can save money and earn us credit for signing up. You can then pass that same benefit onto your friends, family and colleagues, and continue to win!

๐Ÿ”š In Summary...

There are so many alternatives that cut down on waste, so please shop around and give them a go if you haven't already.

As ever, always happy for feedback, so please let me know if this post has been helpful and pass on any more advice.