Should you have two bins in your bathroom?

By Cherry Wilson
BBC News

Image source, Thinkstock

Our bathrooms are filled with shampoo bottles, toilet rolls and cleaning products which could easily be put into our recycling bins when finished with.

Yet research shows our green intentions are washed away as soon as we step near a toilet.

Now a business group has come up with an idea for how to combat this problem - two bathroom bins.

The Circular Economy Taskforce, who were brought together by Prince Charles's Business in the Community environment charity, says it could boost recycling.

So should two bins really sit alongside your stack of loo roll in the bathroom?

Why should people have two bins in their bathrooms?

Image source, Thinkstock

"It's trying to address the problem that people are less likely to recycle packaging for things we use in our bathrooms than for things we use in other rooms of the house," says Jonny Hazell, senior policy adviser for environmental think tank Green Alliance.

The Recycle Now campaign points to its statistics, which show that while 90% of packaging is recycled in our kitchens, only 50% is being recycled in the bathroom.

"Often homes have one central recycling bin located in the kitchen, so when in the shower or washing your face it can be tricky to remember to transfer it to that bin," it says.

"This is why having a recycling bin or bag in the bathroom might be useful, if there is space."

Business in the Community says two bins could make it easier to separate out the plastics that can be recycled.

"But it doesn't have to be a bin, it could be as simple as a bag on the door handle that you bring down to the kitchen every week," it added.

Where has this idea come from?

While recycling has grown from 12% to 45% in the UK over the last decade, campaigners say the bathroom is an area that needs more focus.

The Circular Economy Taskforce came up with the idea as part of its work looking at practical collaborative ways to boost recycling and re-use rates.

"The bathroom is one of the areas that has come up time and time again in the group as somewhere where both business and consumers can make a difference to help us all reduce our impact on the environment," says Business in the Community.

"Thinking about how different types of bins could boost recycling in the bathroom is just one example of a potential simple solution that could have a big impact."

Why are people failing to recycle their bathroom products?

Campaigners believes it comes down not just to where a recycling bin is located but also to confusion over what can be recycled.

Recycle Now says: "There can also be confusion about what can or can't be recycled with bathroom products.

"For example many people don't realise that bleach bottles can be easily recycled - simply make sure it's empty and put the lid back on.

"Recycling just one bleach bottle saves enough energy to power a street light for 6.5 hours, so the value quickly adds up."

Research from the University of Exeter also found that people who threw away waste in the bathroom saw it as being "dirty" and were less likely to recycle it.

Going through your bathroom bin to separate out what can and can't be recycled can seem off-putting," says Business in the Community.

It added: "There is also a lot of confusion around what can be recycled in the bathroom, for example many consumers are confused by aerosols."

How much recyclable waste comes from a bathroom?

Image source, Thinkstock

A surprising amount. Typical products include:

Plastic shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles, plastic moisturiser bottles (such as for hand cream and body lotion), glass face cream pots (plus the cardboard packaging they come in), perfume and aftershave bottles, aerosols for deodorant, air freshener and shaving foam, bleach and bathroom cleaner bottles, toothpaste boxes and toilet roll tubes.

Is a lack of recycling in bathrooms a real problem?

Every little helps, is the message from environmental and recycling groups.

"In general, the less we recycle, the more water and energy we need to use to produce the materials we use in our daily lives," said Mr Hazell.

Recycle Now says recycling reduces the amount we are sending to landfill and makes use of resources already available rather than making them from scratch.

"Ultimately this means reduced levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere which contribute to climate change," it added.

"For instance it takes 75% less energy to make a plastic shampoo bottle from recycled plastic compared with using virgin materials."

Can two bins have a meaningful impact on recycling overall?

"Ensuring you recycle in the bathroom can make a big difference," says Recycle Now.

"It would save £135,000 in landfill costs if every UK household threw their next empty shampoo bottles into the recycling bin.

"On top of this, if everyone recycled one more toilet roll tube it would save enough cardboard inner tubes from landfill to go round the M25 38 times."

But what if you don't have the space for two bins?

There are other options. Hang a reusable bag on the bathroom door so you can transfer your recyclable items straight into the recycling bin. Or opt for a bin with split compartments which can be used to separate recyclable and non-recyclable items.

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