Polystyrene Pollution

The chances are that the last computer, TV, fridge or washing machine, self-assembly furniture or supermarket packed meat or fish you bought came packed with expanded polystyrene foam.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is an amazing substance, invented in 1839, and it is now estimated around 300,000 tons of EPS is disposed of every year in the UK alone – roughly 15,000 Olympic sized swimming pools ! It is difficult and expensive to recycle and is essentially non-biodegradable, being resistant to breakdown by sunlight or micro-organisms, and therefore is set to persist in the environment for hundreds of years; either buried in landfills, across the landscape, or most damagingly in the world’s oceans.

The global polystyrene industry is worth an estimated $20 billion annually, but Eben Bayer and his company Ecovative are on a mission to disrupt and ultimately do away with this industry, EPS packaging, and ultimately EPS pollution.

His alternative product is a mushroom !

Ecocradle is grown fertilized by organic wastes from the food industry and farming, it uses less energy than EPS and non of the hazardous precurser chemicals.

At the end of its life is can be easily broken down and composted in the customer’s own garden.


Photo by Complexify via Flickr

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Unsubscribe to Save Time, Stress, Waste & Money

Guest post by Rachel Papworth – decluttering coach and blogger at Green & Tidy, helping people with WAY too much stuff declutter and create homes they love, homes that support them to lives the lives they want to live.

A crucial element of managing clutter is mindfulness: noticing how you use your things, how you move them around your home, how you use your home. And constantly tweaking how your home is set up so that it works efficiently for you.

On Clear Your Clutter, Stay Clutter-Free and Live the Life You Want, I recommend that you don’t just delete unwanted emails, you make a point of unsubscribing. And you don’t just put unwanted mail in the recycling, you contact the company that sent it to you and request to be removed from their mailing list.

Of course, this only relates to companies that you’ve dealt with in the past. Stop direct mail from companies that you haven’t dealt with by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.

After writing my last blog post, about noticing how far I applied my own coaching when I decluttered my loft, I became even more mindful than usual. And, one day, I noticed myself slipping an unread catalogue from Dell computers into the recycling bin in my mail-opening station.  I realised that action had become automatic. I bought a computer from Dell years ago and, ever since, every time they send me a catalogue, I put it straight in the recycling bin.

So I pulled the catalogue back out, found an email address on it and sent an email asking to be unsubscribed. Within two days, Dell mailed back to confirm my unsubscription request.

Then I got rigorous about cancelling unwanted stuff that arrives through my door. I’ve cancelled sales catalogues from organisations of which I’m a member, hard copies of programmes from local theatres and cinemas (especially those that email me weekly, I don’t need hard copies too), catalogues from companies I’ve bought stuff from in the past . . . no more unwanted catalogues, less paper being wasted and less for me to do. Plus less temptation to flick through the pages and buy more stuff !

It takes a couple of minutes to email or phone each company. Time that I’ll get back cumulatively as I save a few seconds each day, not picking up catalogues from the mat and putting them in the recycling. As we rely less and less on snail mail, and more and more on electronic communications, cutting out catalogues and marketing mail means that, some days, I receive no snail mail at all.

Speaking of electronic communications – I got rigorous with my email inbox too. I noticed how often I was scanning and then deleting mails consistently from the same organisations. Given that I recommend to others that they unsubscribe rather than just delete, I wondered why I wasn’t practising what I preached.

So I took a look. I noticed that the emails in question usually related to my other business, Papworth Research & Consultancy Ltd. And that I was choosing not to unsubscribe due to a fear of ‘missing out’. What if, sometime in the future, there was something useful in one of these emails? Plus I was anxious about why I wasn’t finding them useful? Was it because I was out of touch, unaware of what was currently important?

Once I’d identified these fears, it was easy to let them go. Sure there might be something that I’d find useful one time. It’s not likely though, given how many such emails I’ve scanned and deleted. And how crucial would it be anyway? If the information was essential to me, I’d come across it elsewhere.

As for feeling concerned that I didn’t find the emails useful or interesting, the fact that I don’t is just an indication that they’re not relevant to the bits of my work that I’m passionate about. No-one’s interested, or an expert, in every aspect of their field. And trying to be is a surefire way to lose business, since you won’t be able to bring enough energy or knowledge to any one area.

Since then I’ve been clicking the unsubscribe link in emails, unsubscribing from groups on LinkedIn and other networks and altering my email preferences on a variety of websites.

Again, this takes a little time. Not only will I get the time back though, as I don’t have to deal with unecessary emails, I’ve also noticed a reduction in stress – both because there are fewer emails for me to deal with altogether, and because I receive fewer emails which trigger a sense that I should be finding them useful.

Join me in unsubscribing.

Rachel Papworth runs Green and Tidy. She helps people with WAY too much stuff declutter, and create homes they love, homes that support them in the lives they want to live. Rachel is a trained coach, with a degree in psychology, and self-obsessed decluttering and organising geek, she loves the way decluttering your mind and your stuff is interlinked and the contribution decluttering makes to living a low-impact life. For more tips on having a home that supports the life you want, subscribe to her blog at Green and Tidy, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Photo by Charles Williams, via Flickr

Meet Ellen MacArthur

The next few ‘Foto Friday’ posts will focus on individuals who are currently working in their own way to try and make a positive difference in the world.

Dame Ellen MacArther holds the world record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the globe, and after leaving professional sailing in 2010 set-up the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The Foundation works with schools and businesses to promote the idea of the circular economy – including cradle-to-cradle reuse of materials, sustainable resource use, replacement of fossil fuels and building better communities.

The Foundation’s Sense and Sustainability handbook for schools is available for download.

Photo Wikicommons

Eco-Decluttering – What to do with it ? G to Z

Guest post by Rachel Papworth – decluttering coach and blogger. Third and final post in a series on eco-decluttering – Read parts One and Two.

I’m Rachel Papworth, from Green and Tidy. I help people with WAY too much stuff, declutter and create homes they love, homes that support them to live the lives they want to live. In this final post of the series, I look at more specific types of ‘ex-clutter’.


Glass is collected by all local authorities both from kerbsides and glass banks.

However, if a bottle is returnable, return it rather than recycle it. So return milk bottles for example. Remember, reuse is higher up the hierarchy than is recycling.

Wash bottles and jars and remove lids. Metal lids can go into can banks. Click here for advice on disposing of corks.

When using bottle banks, put the glass in the correct banks by colour. Blue glass goes in with green glass.

Only use bottle banks during the day, to avoid disturbing people who live nearby.

Reuse or recycle the bags and boxes you brought the glass in. And of course, avoid littering the area around the glass bank with them.

Glasses (spectacles)

Vision Aid Overseas collected unwanted glasses (though not cases). Every optical practice in the UK and Ireland can get glasses to Vision Aid Overseas free of charge. You can phone Vision Aid Overseas on 01293 535016 to find out which optical practices in your area collect for them.

The highest quality glasses (about ten per cent of those collected) are used in its international development programme, while the remainder are recycled.

Broken jewellery

Single earrings, broken chains, jewellery with bits missing, stopped watches…Bags of broken jewellery go fast on my local Freecycle, taken by people and charities that remake the pieces into new jewellery.

Or you can post it to Marie Curie Cancer Care, Freepost, Central Recycling, where donations are hand sorted by a professional recycling company, which sells valuable pieces and breaks-up/melts down damaged items for sale to a specialist scrap merchant.

Another option is to request a freepost bag from Jewellery Recycling. Pop your broken jewellery in the bag and send it back to them. They’ll sort it and turn it into cash for charity and you can specify the charity (or type of charity) you’d like the money to go to.

Jam jars

While glass jars can be recycled in the same way as other glass, and metal lids can be recycled with cans, jam jars can also be reused. And remember that reuse is higher up the hierarchy than recycling.

Jam jars with lids can be used to hold homemade jam while jars without lids can be used as candle holders. If you don’t want to use them yourself, you could offer them on your local Freecycle.

Light bulbs

Put incandescent light bulbs into landfill, not glass banks.

Low energy light bulbs on the other hand must not go into landfill as they contain mercury. Contact your local Council to ask where to dispose of them.

If you break a low energy light bulb:

  • Open a window or ventilate the room.
  • Put the broken bulb in a sturdy (though not necessarily airtight) plastic bag.
  • Wipe the area with a damp cloth and place the cloth in the plastic bag with the broken bulb.
  • Use sticky tape to pick up small residual pieces of powder from soft furnishings, and add the tape to the plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag.
  • Place the bag in another, similar bag and seal that one too (this minimises cuts from broken glass).
  • Dispose of the sealed bag as advised by your local Council.

Mobile phones

There are loads of organisations that will buy your mobile phone and either sell it on to developing countries or, if it’s beyond use, recycle it. And there are a variety of websites that enable you to find the best deal for the make and model you’re looking to sell. Just type ‘sell mobile phone’ into a search engine.

Organic kitchen or garden waste

Here’s Recycle Now’s guide to composting. If you don’t have a suitable space for a compost bin, an option which takes up less space, and can even be kept inside is a wormery.

Contact your local Council to find out whether they collect organic waste for composting (and encourage them to do so if not!), and/or where to take garden waste.


Community RePaint is an award-winning UK network of over 50 community-based paint reuse schemes, managed by an employee-owned, non-profit distributing environmental consultancy called Resource Futures. Unwanted paint is redistributed to local charities, community and voluntary groups and individuals in social need.

Find out what type of paint you can donate here and where to donate here.


It’s easy to get most paper recycled. Most, if not all, Councils collect it, plus there are paper recycling banks all over the place.

There’s no need to remove staples, glue, paper clips (though you could remove them for re-use) or plastic windows from envelopes, unless you are specifically told to by your Council.

Not all local authorities recycle envelopes as some paper mills can’t process the types of glue used in envelope production. Check directly with your Council or Recycle Now.

Plastic windows aren’t normally a problem for paper mills as the window can usually be screened out during the manufacturing process. Check your Council’s recycling guidelines to see if you need to remove these.

Padded ‘jiffy’ envelopes can’t usually be recycled. You can reuse them though. Just stick a piece of paper over the old address. And, if you’ve got a lot of them, I find it easy to get rid of them through Freecycle.

You might like to remove stamps though.

Shred any paper with personal information on it, to protect your identity from theft. There is conflicting advice around as to what counts as personal information. Some people go so far as to shred anything that has so much as their name, or their email address on it. Some also feel that you should shred credit card receipts that show only the last four digits of your card number.

There’s also conflicting advice about how to shred. Some people feel that a strip-cut shredder is adequate, others than you should use a cross-cut shredder (which cuts in two directions, reducing paper to diamonds rather than strips).

Bear in mind though that shredded paper is less valuable for recycling than non-shredded paper and that this is even more true of cross-cut shredded paper. The reduction in the length of the fibres reduces the quality of the recycled paper that can be produced.

Not all Councils collect shredded paper. If yours doesn’t, you might be able to avoid sending it to landfill by using it as animal bedding (mixed with straw) or composting it. Or you could offer it on Freecycle for such uses.

If you are shredding credit card receipts, remember that thermal paper can’t be recycled, so you shouldn’t put the pieces in with other shredded paper going for recycling.

Opened cosmetics and toiletries

It’s worth offering these on Freecycle.


Plastics present several recycling challenges, including the fact that different types of plastic can’t be recycled together. The different types of plastic are identified by Plastic Identification Codes (PICs), as shown in the table on this webpage.

Nonetheless, more and more local authorities are now accepting plastic bottles via recycling banks or kerbside collections. When recycling plastic bottles, you will usually need to remove lids (and put them into landfill) and wash & squash the bottles. If they have a loosely-attached paper label, I remove this before washing, and put it in the paper recycling.

Reduce the number of plastic bottle you use by avoiding buying bottled water. Buy a good quality water bottle instead and fill it with tap water. UK mains tap water supply is totally safe to drink and of extremely high quality: one of the best in the world. In taste tests across the UK, people can rarely tell the difference between bottled water and tap water if they are served the same way (fresh from the mains and cool).

Some also accept carrier bags. And there are carrier bag collection points in most Sainsburys, Tescos and Somerfields. Try to reduce your use of carrier bags though. Take durable shopping bags with you when you go shopping and turn down offers of carrier bags. Remember reuse is higher up the waste hierarchy than reuse or recycling.

Contact your local Council or check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out what plastics are recycled in your area.

Printer and toner cartridges

Printer and toner cartridges are collected by a wide range of local and national charities, to raise funds. Some such organisations are listed here.

Safety pins

Some dry cleaners will accept safety pins as they use them to attach labels to garments.


Most UK Councils collect food and drink cartons, otherwise known as tetrapaks. Check Recycle Now‘s searchable database for the situation in your area.


In some local authority areas, there are Toy Banks on the street for complete, reusable toys, including teddies, dolls, games and battery-operated toys. The toys are distributed within the UK or taken to Pakistan, where they are cleaned, repaired if necessary, and sold on at affordable prices, to raise money for charity.

Used stamps

Many local and national charities collect used stamps to raise money. Just put “used stamps” into an internet search engine.

Vinyl records

Some charities, such as Oxfam and the British Hearth Foundation, run specialist charity shops for music, including vinyl records.

Anything else?

I’m committed to helping people reduce their environmental impact. If you know of other ways to move on unwanted goods, please tell me about it via my contact form so I can spread the word.

And, if there’s something you’re struggling to find a way to dispose of, let me know and I’ll see if I can find an eco-friendly solution. You’re probably not the only one. Visit my site at Green and Tidy.

Photo by London Looks via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES Eco Friendly Decluttering , Eco Friendly Decluttering: What to Do With It ? A to F

Eco-Decluttering – What to do with it ? A to F

Guest post by Rachel Papworth – decluttering coach and blogger. Second post in a series on eco-decluttering – Read Part One here.

I’m Rachel Papworth, from Green and Tidy. I help people with WAY too much stuff, declutter and create homes they love, homes that support them to live the lives they want to live. In this second post of a series of three, I look at a number of ways to move on specific types of ‘ex-clutter’.


Reduce being higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling, reduce your battery use by using rechargeable batteries wherever possible, recharging your batteries with a solar powered recharger, running electrical equipment from the mains whenever possible, and buying appliances that use renewable energy, such as wind-up or solar powered devices.

Shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year (approx 345 x four-packs of AA batteries) are legally obliged to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store.

Check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out how to recycle batteries in your area.


Recycle Now provides information on how to dispose of unwanted bicycles.


Charity shops do a brisk trade in books and some, such as Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation, have specialist shops to sell them.

Contemporary fiction sells well at car boot/tabletop sales.

There are a variety of websites for giving away and trading books. They include BookCrossing, Read It Swap It, BookMooch and BookHopper. While they’re not the quickest way to move books on, they can be fun. And, as this article explains, I found that becoming a Bookcrosser cured my tendency to hoard books.

Brita water filters

Click here for Brita’s searchable database of shops with recycling bins for its filters.

Candle wax

Offer candle wax on your local Freecycle networks. People take it to make into new candles.


Wash and squash food and drink cans and put them in a can bank or your Council’s collecting boxes. I remove paper labels before I open food cans and put the labels in the paper recycling.

CDs, DVDs, audio cassette tapes, VHS video cassette tapes, computer games, hard drives

MusicMagpie buys secondhand CDs, DVDs and games, to sell on.

The Recycling People take CDS, DVDs, audio cassette tapes, VHS video tapes, computer games and hard drives, for recycling. There is a charge for recycling audio cassettes tapes and VHS video tapes. As they charge a standard rate up to certain number of items, if you haven’t got the full number of items you’d be paying for, it would be worth banding together with others and splitting the cost.

You can send CDs and DVDs (at your own expense) to RecyclingCDs to be recycled or refashioned into clocks.

Gardeners use CDs and DVDs as bird-scarers so they’re worth offering on Freecycle, even if they’re not playable. Make sure they don’t contain personal data though.

Charity bags

All those charity bags that plop through your letterbox can easily become clutter. Of course, one way to avoid this is to fill them up and put them out for collection. Watch out for scams though.

If you haven’t got stuff to go in them though, or you don’t want to dispose of your stuff this way, you’re stuck with them as empty bags are rarely collected in my experience.

You can also recycle them in the same way as carrier bags.

If they’re from a charity that has a shop near to me, I usually drop them back in when I’m passing in the hope that they’ll be reused (as reuse is higher up the waste hierarchy than recycling).

Clothes, shoes and textiles

Charity shops and on street Clothes Banks and Shoe Banks are an obvious place to take unwanted clothes and textiles.

Do your clothes need repairing? Maybe you’d wear them if you had the time or skills to mend or alter them. If so, how about joining a Local Enterprise Trading Scheme or Time Bank. You build up credits by offering another skill and could spend them on having your clothes altered or repaired.

Most charity shops will also accept unwearable/unusable clothes, which they sell on as rags for recycling. Just label the bag ‘rags’.

In some local authority areas, bras can go into a Bra Bank from where Against Breast Cancer will collect them, sending wearable ones to traders in developing countries, and recycling unwearable ones.

Similarly, you can post unwanted bras to BreastTalk, which sends wearable ones to homeless and under-privileged women in the UK and overseas, and recycles damaged one into quilts for homeless charities and the emergency services.

Don’t forget that textiles made entirely from organic fibres (wool, silk, cotton, hemp, linen/flax) can go in your compost bin or wormery, and can even be made into wormery moisture mats.


Are they the type you get from the dry cleaners? Some dry cleaners will take them back for reuse.

Otherwise charity shops are often glad of them for displaying clothes for sale.


Recycle Now provides advice on what to do with unwanted computers.

Corks from wine bottles

Even if you don’t fancy making a cork board (a noticeboard made out of used wine corks) yourself, someone in your area probably does so collect up your corks and offer them on Freecycle.

Some bowling greens put used corks in the ditch around their greens so it might be worth contacting your local club to see if they want them.

Electrical items

Electrical items can be problematic for charity shops because they have to pay to make sure they will pass a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) before they can sell them. And, if they can’t, they’ve lost money. Nonetheless, some charity shops do take them (and even collect them), including the British Heart Foundation and Emmaus.

Broken/not-working electrical items might be useful to Freecyclers for parts.

Otherwise, contact your Council, or check Recycle Now‘s searchable database to find out which municipal recycling sites have a section for electrical items.

Electrical items go through an impressive range of processes to sort out the various types of material they contain.


Food can be offered on Freecycle, even if it’s opened or out of date.

Alternatively, raw vegetable matter can be composted in a compost heap/bin and all types of food (including meat and cooked food) can be composted in a worm composter.


The Emmaus movement enables people to move on from homelessness. Residents work full-time collecting, renovating and reselling donated furniture. This work supports the community financially and enables residents to develop skills and rebuild their self-respect. This page gives information on what goods your nearest centre takes and whether they collect.

The Furniture Reuse Network is a national body which supports, assists and develops charity reuse organisations across the UK. Its website has a searchable database of reuse organisations with social and/or environmental aims.

Photo by Timtak via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – Eco Friendly DeclutteringEco Friendly Decluttering: What to Do With It? G to Z