The Eco Flatsharer’s Guide to Recycling

We all know recycling is important. We now recycle nearly a quarter of our waste, and Councils around the country are doing their bit, in some cases a little over vigorously, providing us with bins and bags and regular collections, as well as local recycling centres.

It’s easy for a family, or professional couple to sort and reduce their waste. But for those of us in shared accommodation, it’s a slightly different story.

You may be living with people you don’t know very well, keeping different hours. You might not have the space to store much recycling between collections. And you might not be able to face dealing with it on your own, if your flatmates are not very motivated.

Here are some tips for taking the strain out of recycling if you are living in shared accommodation – let me know how you get on with them or if you have any more you’d like to share in the comments!

Get everyone on board: although we are getting better at recycling, it’s good to have some handy statistics to persuade doubting flatmates. Did you know that recycling just one tin saves enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours? Or that recycling paper uses 70% less energy than making it from raw materials? Or that 60% of what we throw away could be recycled? Check out for more facts and tips on recycling.

Divide and conquer: ask your flatmates to take responsibility for just one or two types of waste. This helps to spread the load and make recycling easier to do more frequently. Perhaps the flatmate that’s a bit of a wine buff could be in charge of glass. Or the flatmate that starts every day with a newspaper could take charge of paper and card. Recycling one or two materials is a lot less daunting than coping with eight or nine.

Make it easy on yourself: a recycling bin that looks good and fits in with your style is more likely to be used and be a positive endorsement for an eco way of life than lots of overflowing bags. I love Ben the Bin home recycling bins, they offer a smart solution to recycling sorting and storage. Or if you are pushed for space, a set of stacking home recycling bins gives you vertical storage for your recyclables.

The rest of the story: another way to make recycling easier is not to make so much waste in the first place. Reduce and Reuse are the first two elements of the waste disposal triangle, and even more crucial than recycling. See if your household can reduce waste by sharing food shopping; you’ll cut down on food and packaging waste, and save money. Check out for loads of great suggestions for recycling and reusing unusual items. Look at your rubbish and see if there is any particular thing you throw away a lot, and try and come up with an reusable alternative.

Unlock the cash in your home

With an estimated 485,738* students heading off to university, a significant number of home owners and families will be left with empty rooms in their homes.

The good news is that a room could be worth up to an estimated £4,250 tax free under the government’s Rent a Room scheme, and you don’t have to be a homeowner to take advantage. If you are currently renting your home and your lease allows you to take in a lodger you too can also benefit from the scheme.

With an increase in the average number of potential tenants looking for each rental room, homeowners are perfectly placed to tap into this high demand.  In popular cities such as London and Cambridge, the average monthly rent for a room is £520 and £430 respectively, allowing homeowners to benefit from up to an additional income of  £6,240 on average in London and £5,160 in Cambridge.

Cities with the highest rental demand per property

City Renters per room available Average rent pcm (£)
1 Brighton 13.3 419
2 Cambridge 10.5 430
3 Oxford 7.2 400
4 London 6.7 520
5 Edinburgh 5.6 350
6 Aberdeen 5.5 375
7 Manchester 4.8 330
8 Bristol 4.8 360
9 Belfast 4.7 240
10 Bournemouth 4.7 393


The scheme entitles you to rent out a room or an entire floor within your home and it is simple to opt into. If you don’t normally receive a tax return and the additional income from the room is below the tax-free thresholds for the scheme, the tax exemption is automatic so you don’t need to do anything. The HM Revenue and Customs must be informed once the annual rental income is above the tax-free limit.

*UCAS figures 2011

Who makes the best lodgers?

Something that causes great debate between our users is whether existing friends or strangers make the best lodgers or flatmates. On the surface it seems like the answer would be obvious, but in fact it’s not so straightforward. Of course, existing friends can make fantastic flatmates, but this should be approached with caution because there’s a danger of losing them if things don’t work out.

The trouble is that living with someone is a wholly different kind of relationship. When friends fall out it tends to be over the important things in life, but in a household it’s more likely to be relatively trivial things (that in an ideal world no one would ever fall out about). Things like who last bought toilet paper and the maximum time washing up should be left for. Some of us have experienced moving in with partners only to have the honeymoon period brought to an abrupt end once the bickering over domestic chores starts!

The other issue is that, if you know someone well and are very comfortable with them, you’re more likely to take things for granted and abuse the situation – often unintentionally. If, for instance, your friend is struggling for money one month, he or she might think that (out of the people they owe money to) you’re the one who would mind least hanging on. Because they’re your friend you might not feel comfortable saying ‘actually I really do need the rent on time this month because I’ve got to pay the mortgage’.

Out of 100s we polled, only 28% said existing friends make the best flatmates. Most felt that strangers were better, mainly because they’re more likely to know where the boundaries are and it makes it easier to establish ground rules from the outset.

Of course some friends end up living together and loving it so don’t be put off by any of this – all we ask is that you consider the options first as the great thing about taking in lodgers is there are plenty of options.


Two landlords – it’s all about where you live

With The Times reporting recently on the government’s proposed plan for a register of landlords it’s probably time to look at what the difference between types of landlord is and how this should be reflected in how they’re dealt with.

In broad terms there are two types of landlord in the residential sector:

  • Live Out Landlords – Regular landlords who rent out  property they don’t live in
  • Live In Landlords – Those who rent out a room (or rooms) in their own home to a lodger

As we see it the main distinction to make is one of vulnerability. With a traditional let the tenant is more likely to be vulnerable than the Live Out Landlord, whilst a Live In Landlord is more at risk than their lodger. Clearly we’re not suggesting that landlords have less scruples than tenants here as we know landlords do have problem tenants and can suffer as a result. Similarly we wouldn’t suggest that no lodger has ever had a rough time with their landlord.However, it’s important to recognise that a Live In Landlord is in a very different situation than his or her Live Out counterpart.

In many ways a lodger is far more likely to get any problems dealt with as the landlord also has to live in the house and therefore is equally affected if, for example, the boiler packs up.

Obviously this distinction paints the situation with a broad brush. It’s right to legislate in order to make sure landlords deal with tenants in a fair and reasonable manner but, in a time when we’re being constantly told there’s a housing crisis, doesn’t it make sense to encourage homeowners to rent out a spare room without being subject to the same laws as Live Out landlords? Lodgers also help homeowners stay in properties in times of financial hardship and the last thing the government wants is even more mortgage arrears and reposessions. I think we should be encouraging people to take in lodgers and wonder whether over-legislating will simply stop people from doing so.