Deciding what to and what not to put in your recycling bin isn’t always as straightforward as you’d think. Over two thirds of households in the UK put items in their recycling that can’t be recycled. This in turn slows down recycling performance and can be very costly. So, we’re here to give you a helping hand to get your head around recycling dos and don’ts. The planet can thank us later.
General bits and pieces around the house can certainly go in your home recycling bin. This can include empty deodorant cans, plastic bottles (rinsed out), envelopes, cardboard and paper, yoghurt pots, fruit and veg trays, clean meat trays, glass jars and tin cans. Remember though, it's always best to give anything dirty a quick rinse before you pop it in the recycling bin.
These can be recycled, but don’t put these in your ordinary recycling, take them to a specialist shop or a charity if you have time to pop to your local. This can range from mobile phones, to VHS tapes, to games consoles and CD's.
Whilst charity shops are great for passing on your unwanted clothes to, 90% of the clothes that aren't sold on by charity shops end up in landfill. Even corporate giants are launching initiatives to help save the planet. H&M has a service where you can pop in and drop off unwanted clothes that they will send off to be re worn, reused or recycled. Alternatively, Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe initiative will take your old trainers and recycle them into new pairs for those in need.
Unfortunately, those horrible thick plastic boxes you sometimes get around make up products can’t be recycled. But you can drop your empty compacts, lipstick pots, you name it, to certain beauty brands such as M.A.C and Lush who will recycle them for you. MAC even gifts you a free lipstick if you hand in 6 empty cosmetic containers, through their Back to M.A.C scheme.
PLASTIC BOTTLE TOPS
Although on the whole, most plastic bottle caps can be recycled, it is very dependent on your local recycling. Some centres like you to keep them on, and some like you to bin them all together. The most important thing is that you check with your local recycling before hand. You can check on your council's website, or just go to Recycle for London, where you can find about your local recycling anywhere in the country.
TOILET PAPER / KITCHEN TOWEL
Despite being made from paper, the bad news is that the fibres in these products are too short to be recycled. The good news is that both these items are compost friendly, so they can quite happily go into your food waste bin.
If you purchase a tea or coffee from a takeout (like the Starbucks one below) with the idea in mind that you can pop the cup in the recycling bin - you are mistaken. The cups actually have a plastic film on the inside which is non-recyclable. Why not buy a KeepCup instead? No need for anymore takeaway cups, plus most coffee houses now give a discount for using a reusable one.
BOTTLES AND CONTAINERS THAT HAVEN'T BEEN RINSED OUT
This can be anything from greasy takeaway containers to shampoo bottles. These cannot be recycled unless you wash them out. But if there are any stains on the packaging, such as a pizza box, unfortunately it’s a no no for the recycling plant.
SHINY AND GLITTERY PAPER
Remember that mountain of Christmas wrapping paper you put in the recycling? Well, if it was coated with anything glittery or shiny or laminated it can’t go in the recycling. Next time, avoid purchasing these types of wrapping paper and go for ones with a matte finish. Or you could go super efficient and use newspaper instead. We're sure nobody would mind.
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
Don't worry, recycling is a bit of a mind twist so if in doubt, check the label on the packaging to see if there is a recycling symbol. This will determine whether it can be recycled or not. Black plastic technically is recyclable. However, they tend to be sent to landfill as the light beams in the recycling plants cannot detect the plastic. The best thing to do is to stop purchasing products that use CPET black plastic such as microwave meals.
Top tip: visit Recycle for London, which lets you know what you can and cannot put in your local recycling - just type in your postcode (anywhere in the UK) and they'll do the rest for you. Always question if you can reuse something, pass it on to family or friends, or stop purchasing it altogether. We've done this, by taking the step to plastic free packaging, which you can read more about here. Be kind to your planet: reduce, reuse, recycle.