8 Common Recycling Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Efforts

8 Common Recycling Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Efforts

Recycling can do wonders for the environment - providing you're doing it right, that is. Unfortunately, a few recycling mistakes here and there can contaminate your whole wheely bin and render it useless.

Are you making recycling mistakes? Today we're sharing the most common errors to help make your recycling efforts fruitful.

Together, we can make a real positive impact on the environment - get recycle-smart today!

1. Removing labels

remove label recycling
There's really no need.

Are you put off recycling food jars due to their extremely sticky labels?

Guess what? There's actually no reason to remove them at all!

One of the most common recycling mistakes is the misconception that labels must be removed before rubbish can be recycled.

2. Do you have to empty containers before recycling?

And the answer is...yes!

The main problem with leaving liquids and sauces inside bottles and jars is that they can seep into paper and cardboard, and contaminate them.

If you really want to recycle properly and do your bit for the environment, be sure to empty your containers before putting them into the recycling bin.

3. Why is it important to separate recycling?

Many homes around the UK now have 'kerbside sort schemes' - which involve residents themselves sorting recycling themselves into the correct bins. There are also 'two-stream' systems (with paper and card collected in one bin and cans, plastic bottle and glass bottles and jars in another), and 'co-mingled' systems, which use one bin for all recyclables.

4. Lining recycling bins with bin bags

Plastic bags - be that the shopping kind or the bin-bag kind - are not recyclable!

Due to safety reasons, bags aren't always opened at recycling-sorting facilities. This means if you're putting your recycling in a black bin bag, it may not end up being recycled at all.

Do it right - skip the bag!

5. Why washing recycling is important

recycling tin can
Wash it first!

Despite popular belief, your leftovers can't actually be recycled.

Most ready meal boxes themselves can go in your recycling bin, however, the problem lies in their contents. Leftover food, whether it be jam, sponge pudding or lasagne, can leak onto other items such as paper, soak in and contaminate them.

To avoid your recycling ending up in landfill, be sure to give it a quick wash first.

 6. Not removing tape & plastic

It's often tempting to throw your cardboard boxes and envelopes straight into the recycling bin, but this could be doing more harm than good.

Plastic tape cannot be recycled, so be sure to remove it from cardboard boxes first. Similarly, the windows in paper envelopes need to be removed and thrown away in your general waste bin, before you recycle the paper.

These extra steps may seem like a lot of effort, but you'll soon get into the habit - before you know it, recycling properly will be second nature!

7. Recycling the wrong things

It's amazing how many people aren't educated on what belongs in your recycling, and what doesn't. We've listed the most common recycling mistakes below to help keep you on track.

8. Recycling extremely small items

recycling plastic bottle top post it note
If it's smaller than a post-it-note, it belongs in the bin.

If it's smaller than a post-it-note, it can't be recycled.

Once collected, recycling must be sorted. Anything extremely small in size cannot always be sorted properly, and they may end up contaminating correctly-sorted recycling as a result.

The most commonly recycled items that aren't actually recyclable

1. Straws

There's a reason we're discouraged from using straws - unless they're made of paper, they can't actually be recycled.

If you are going to use one, be sure to put it in the bin, not the recycling.

2. Coffee cups can't be recycled

coffee cup recycling
What a waste!

Coffee cups may appear to be made of paper, but they actually contain plastic.

A plastic layer on the inside of your coffee cup is what prevents it from leaking, but also, sadly, makes it unrecyclable.

3. Used kitchen roll

Clean kitchen roll can be recycled (not that we'd recommend doing that!) however once used, it's only good for the bin.

The spillages on the paper can contaminate other recyclables and make the whole load unfit for sorting.

4. Shiny wrapping paper

Even birthdays and Christmas time present an opportunity to do your bit for the environment.

Most plain wrapping paper can be recycled, however, anything metallicized or shiny can only go in the bin.

Remember to remove any lingering sellotape too!

5. Soap dispenser tops

recycling mistakes soap dispenser tops
There's only one place for soap dispenser pumps - the bin.

Whilst your clean soap dispensers do belong in your plastic recycling bin, unfortunately, the tops don't.

Be sure to remove them before throwing them away to enable your recycling to be sorted correctly.

6. Plastic bags

We've already briefly mentioned this, but plastic bags (of any kind), cannot be recycled.

If you've still not invested in a Bag For Life, now's the time.

7. Glass other than jars/bottles

recycling glass jars
Remember: jars & bottles ONLY!

Glass recycling points have small, circular holes for a reason - only bottles and jars are meant to be put inside.

Anything else, such as glass from windows, does not belong in your recycling bin.

8. Pet food pouches/rice packets

Pet food pouches and microwaveable rice pouches may be convenient, but there's a price to pay: they're not recyclable.

9. Photo paper

Due to the special coating on photo paper, it's not suitable for recycling - don't contaminate your paper bin by including it.

10. Greasy pizza boxes

Similarly to food containers, pizza boxes that are stained with grease and sauce can no longer be recycled.

This is worth bearing in mind if takeout pizza is something you treat yourself to often!

11. Shredded paper

shredded paper recycling mistake
It's just TOO small!

Despite popular belief, shredded paper shouldn't be recycled. As it's smaller than a post-it-note, it's unable to be sorted and could, therefore, contaminate other materials.

The most common items that people don't know are recyclable

12. Kitchen foil and trays

Don't throw your kitchen foil and aluminium trays away - providing you give them a good scrub first, they can go in your recycling bin along with the rest of your metals.

13. Plastic bottle tops

plastic bottle tops recycling
Who knew?!

We're not sure where this rumour started, but plastic bottle caps needn't be removed before you recycle the bottles themselves. The whole thing can be recycled once empty and swilled out.

Who knew?!

14. Empty aerosols (and the caps!)

Aerosols are another mysterious item many people don't really know if they can recycle or not.

Well, turns out you can not only recycle the aerosol - but its cap too! Next time you finish your deodorant, hairspray, or even furniture polish, be sure to pop it into the recycling bin.

15. Empty bleach bottles

Despite the harsh chemicals, empty bleach bottles canin fact, be recycled.

All rubbish, including recycling, is washed thoroughly at a special facility, so there is no need to worry about a drop of bleach or two.

16. Metal lids

metal jar lids recycling
Yes, they're recyclable!

Another recycling mistake many people make is removing metal jar lids.

These too can be recycled - just take care to separate them from glass if you have a 'kerbside sort scheme' in operation.

Editors Note: Recycling guidelines vary from county-to-county. Please check with your local council if you're unsure about what you can and can't recycle.

Do you have any recycling tips you'd like to share with us? Comment below with yours.

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author April on April 16, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for the tips but one of them is confusing and contradictory e.g we CAN recycle plastic bottle tops but according to the image we CAN'T recycle them because they are smaller than a post it note. Which is it? Thanks

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 16, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Hi April, This is why it's important to leave the plastic tops ON the bottles - if not they are too small to be recycled alone! I hope that helps :)

    2. Author Mandy P on April 16, 2018 at 1:42 pm

      My local Council requests that bottle tops are removed from plastic bottles and put in non recyclable bin. I keep them and save them up to craft with, you can make some really funky plant pots, waste bins and containers from them (have a look on Pinterest!). If you have a a council like mine that recycles the bare minimum to comply with the pathetic Government targets it may be worth offering bottle tops to Primary Schools etc.

    3. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Hi Wendy. We love using packaging to craft with too. We'd love to see some of the things you've made! :)

    4. Author Nun Yabiznes on April 18, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      Hi Stephanie, You might want to make and amendment or post script that says to always check with your local recycling company, because where I live, you can NOT recycle ANY container lids on or off jars or bottles. We also have green recycling and we can recycle greasy pizza boxes, shredded paper and used paper towels.

    5. Author Stephanie C on April 19, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Nun, I'm adding a note in now - who knew it could be so complicated!

  2. Author Carol on April 16, 2018 at 8:20 am

    You may not be able to recycle shredded paper in your kerbside bin, but your compost bin will welcome it and you can recycle it that way!

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 16, 2018 at 10:05 am

      Hi Carol, A wonderful tip - thanks a lot for sharing! :)

  3. Author Lesley Reeves on April 16, 2018 at 8:56 am

    I didn't know lids can be recycled - I just throw mine in the rubbish bag, but now will start puting them in the recycling bin. Thanks for that info. I wish all recycling bins were the same - it's difficult to know what is recyclable - my local council tell us not to put yoghurt pots in our recycling bin but the plastics recycling bank at a local supermarket states that yoghurt pots can be recycled there. It's so confusing.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Lesley. We've received lots of comments on this article and most of you seem to be saying the same: recycling is SO confusing and it would be much easier if there were national guidelines!

  4. Author Verifies! on April 16, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Isn’t that a little contradictory saying anything smaller than a post it note can’t be recycled, yet it’s o.k. To leave bottle tops on bottles.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 16, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Hi there, Once the bottle top is ON the bottle, the object is much bigger than a post-it note. That's why it's important to recycle them on the bottle and not alone. I hope this helps :) Steph

    2. Author L on May 18, 2019 at 12:40 am

      Actually my council will NOT accept metal lids from glass jars and expressly direct to remove so it might be wise to correct the blanket statement. Supermarkets accept carrier bags to be recycled (along with other stretchy plastic) as do some other places Lush recycle cat 2 plastic lids like those on milk bottles so please don't advise to throw them away!

    3. Author Joanne A on May 20, 2019 at 10:29 am

      Hi there! You're quite right. Every council will be different, so you should always check the rules for your collections and what recycling facilities are available to you.

    4. Author Robert Carnegie on April 8, 2021 at 11:38 am

      For some industrial re-uses of plastic, what matters most is the colour apparently, unless I was confused by a description of how plastic types are sorted by a mechanical eye - this can use invisible light (infra red or ultra violet I suppose) but that's one reason why black ready meal trays were a problem. Plastics are different "colours" to the mechanical eye. Milk "jugs" and all the caps are plastic type 2, if that does still matter, but most of the bottles (water, lemonade) are type 1. So you could keep a translucent type 2 milk "bottle" and put all the bottle caps inside it, making one large object to recycle. Or organise them by colour again. The part of the bottle cap that stays on the neck presumably also is type 2, but it possibly crosses into your own amusement, and own risk, to do something about that i.e. cut it off. My council provides one bin for glass / plastic / metal with minimal instructions. I assume they're prepared to deal with the issues you mention, but I take labels off cans, then flatten and fold the top of the can, so that other waste doesn't end up inside the can - except for the 2-3 can lids that I put in first (and noting that some cans are probably aluminium instead of steel, but almost certainly not both). I haven't yet worked out how to do that with glass jars... throw them into the bin hard enough is one answer, I suppose. Having recycling that is much cleaner than your neighbour's probably isn't worth doing, because wherever it's sent to, it arrives all mixed together. Maybe someone somewhere spends all day opening my crushed cans and wondering what's wrong with that person.

    5. Author Joanne A on March 24, 2023 at 5:26 pm

      Properly sorting plastics by colour and type is essential for successful recycling. Removing labels and flattening cans can also help, as well as checking with your local recycling program for specific guidelines.

  5. Author Carol Fosbrook on April 16, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Can you add light bulbs and where they go please,.I know batteries go to certain shops that will take them but does everyone?

  6. Author Anne S on April 16, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Actually our local council have said we don’t need to remove windows from envelops anymore

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 16, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Hi Anne, This has just come to my attention to and I'll be changing the article in due course. Thanks a lot for the info! :)

  7. Author jay on April 16, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Some contradictory information here: first you say regarding small items "if it's smaller than a Post-it note it's too small", then you say that plastic bottle tops CAN be recycled. Aren't they smaller than Post-it notes? Rules vary from one local authority to another - it isn't a One Size Fits all system. In my area we have FOUR bins and all labels from cans and jars have to be removed because paper goes into one bin, glass metal and plastic in another. I've lived in some places where only two bins are used. This is why recycling is so confusing.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 16, 2018 at 9:39 am

      Hi Jay, Let me explain - the reason plastic bottle tops should be recycling ON the bottles is because they are smaller than a post-it note, i.e, too small to be sorted. I have recently moved from a property that had a kerb-side sort scheme that you speak of - where ALL recycling is sorted into 4 bins - and they can be quite tricky!

  8. Author Arblemarch J Fruitbat on April 16, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Our local council asks us to recycle shredded paper by putting it underneath other paper in the removable section of the wheelie bin. They tell us that envelope windows can be left on the envelope, but I remove them anyway. I don't share your view that bottle tops cannot be recycled due to their size... If that were the case, the council would have notified us. And the paper labels on cans should be removed because it is easy to do so... There is usually a line of glue but this stays attached to the can if you rip the label off correctly. My polluted paper goes in the compost bin.

    1. Author Shirley on March 25, 2022 at 1:24 pm

      In my city they say leave the lid on the bottle and then it is not too small. They also say that the paper labels on cans do not have to be removed, they have that covered so all are different based on the company doing the recycling so one rule for all does not fit. Check your local rules and go by them as that is what caused our recycling plant to catch fire is that someone was throwing in batteries. It was down so long and now that it is back and running we want to help keep it running as long as we can by obeying their rules.

    2. Author Joanne A on September 28, 2022 at 3:31 pm

      We agree!

  9. Author Debra Jeffery on April 16, 2018 at 11:20 am

    We have been told by our local council to use plastic carrier bags for putting the food waste in. Although we buy the bio-degradable bags for our. But this is confusing, why do you say we can't use carrier bags but the councils do. I think all councils should be the same at collecting stuff. it is so confusing all around the country it is different.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      Hi Debra, Biodegradable bags are the only bags you should use in your small bin. Some recycling collectors may be happy to empty the contents out of the bin and plastic bag in one go, meaning this isn't an issue. We agree, it can be very confusing!

  10. Author Smudge on April 16, 2018 at 11:45 am

    For foil and aluminium trays, it depends on your local area whether these can go in the recycling. Same with the aluminium tubes that hold things like tomato puree. Aluminium really should be one of the easiest and cost efficient things to recycle, but some councils just don't have the facilities to process it, and tell their residents to put these items in general household waste.

  11. Author Anne on April 16, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Hello, I always read your tips and find many of them both interesting and useful, but the tips on recycling are confusing and misleading, as it depends on where you live and the contract your local authority has with their recyclers. I have checked today with my local council who tell me that 1) we do not have to take the windows out of window envelopes; 2) there is no limit to the size of items to be recycled and therefore 3) we can continue to put shredded paper into the recycling and bottle tops do not need to be attached to the bottles; 4) coffee cups, and indeed fruit juice cartons, can be recycled; 5) tops of soap dispensers can also be recycled. Perhaps a note a note at the end of the article, suggesting readers check with their local councils, may be a good addition.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:55 pm

      Hi Anne, Although this article was written with the best intentions, and after much research and talking with our own council, it does seem that guidelines vary from area to area. Thanks for pointing this out and I'll be sure to add a note in :)

  12. Author Robert Walpole on April 16, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Why should we bother? 99% of the world does not bother, and us recycling the other 1% achieves next to nothing. The whole thing is just too complicated. Government should put pressure on manufacturers to only use packaging that is easily recycled.

    1. Author Jo Ela on July 23, 2019 at 9:32 pm

      well said!

    2. Author Joanne A on July 24, 2019 at 9:04 am

      I can understand your point of view - the government should definitely do more to tackle this issue.

  13. Author Louise Comb on April 16, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Thank you Stephanie for another interesting and useful article. I didn't know that we could recycle bottle lids if they're attached to the bottles, and I've always wondered about things like pizza boxes and whether a bit of food residue means not putting it in the recycled. XXX

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      Hi Louise, I'm so glad you enjoyed the article! Even I was reminded of a few good-recycling habits writing this one. Hope to see you again on the blog soon :)

  14. Author Brian Goospeed on April 16, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Hi, Our Recycling Centres will take shredded paper, I also remove can labels to put in with the paper. Most of our bottle caps have to be removed although the staff are always helpful with advice if asked.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Brian. That's interesting! It's fascinating (if a little confusing) to see that the guidelines seem to vary from place-to-place. Thanks for sharing :)

  15. Author Donatello46 on April 17, 2018 at 8:39 am

    Some observations on this blog: While I don’t line recycling bins with bin bags, I DO use a carrier bag for paper in my “black box”. The reason is that there are often small(ish) pieces of paper and they can often get blown away down the street, I’ve discussed this with my recycling bin men and they are quite happy to tip the contents into the paper segment of their wagon and return the carrier bag with the box. To check if wrapping paper is recyclable, scrunch it up, if it unfolds when you release it, it is NOT recyclable. Your neighbourhood recycling centre should have a “hard core” skip and you can dispose of other glass, including broken glass in that (but, obviously, BE CAREFULhandling it). A local animal sanctury is grateful for any shredded paper I can provide - but NOT the shiny magazine type paper because it can contain harmful chemicals - they use it for bedding for small animals. The advice at my local neighbourhood recycling centre is to squash the bottles then replace the cap to cut down on the space they occupy in the skip. I didn’t know about recycling aerosol cans and caps, I thought that they may be hazardous due to the fact that, even when apparently empty they still have some pressure in them. There is, currently, no facility in my kerbside recycling arrangements for aerosols, so I’ll have to speak to the staff at my local recycling centre to find out which skip I can put them in. Good stuff Stephanie, I always enjoy reading the tips that you and yor colleagues publish.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Donatello, good to hear from you! Really great tip about the wrapping paper - in fact, I think I may add this to the article if that's ok with you! Taking shredded paper to the animal sanctuary is also a novel idea - I used to keep horses and we would often use shredded paper for bedding, so perhaps this could be an option too? Thanks a lot for your comment - some wonderful advice given as usual!

    2. Author Donatello46 on April 20, 2018 at 9:26 am

      Of course it's OK with me and shredded paper, of the right kind, can possibly be used for any animal (including horses and ponies). We used to keep pet rats and used shreddings for their bedding as well as, in the past, for guinea pigs and rabbits all of which sometimes used to eat the shreddings, hence the warning about glazed paper.

    3. Author mysteryDave on November 6, 2018 at 1:05 am

      It is a shame that recycling varies do much fun one local authority to another and that side recycle items are not collected and still need to be taken to a recycling bank ( eg LDPE/HDPE #4 plastics such as carrier bags) Bottle tops is understandably confusing as it can vary from bottle to bottle. Many such as plastic milk bottles the top is made from the same plastic as the bottle and should be left on. Some such as cleaning spray nozzles are made of steel different materials such as different plastics and also usually contain a metal spring. These cannot easily be separated for recycling so will be thrown away. Black plastic trays is another source of confusion. These often go to landfill not because they cannot be recycled but as the automatic sitting machines at recycling centres can't read through plastic recycling symbol to sort them properly. This does not mean they're black plastic in the bin, recycle anyway, the machines will identify and recycle what they can and the rest good to land fill. I'd suggest similar advice with small items. In the recycling centres sorting they will sift out smaller items and keep everything large enough to recycle. If it is not much smaller than a post it note (eg small jar lids) then put it in your recycling anyway. Let the council have a chance to recycle it if they can. If you throw it straight in the household waste then it definitely won't be recycled.

    4. Author Joanne A on November 6, 2018 at 9:10 am

      Great suggestions, Dave!

  16. Author Sue on April 17, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Hi, we have been asked to remove plastic bottle caps as they are not recyclable, so have been taking these off and putting in normal rubbish bin.? (Pendle borough council)

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Sue, It looks like some areas have differing guidelines. If in doubt, speak to your bin men or local council who should be able to help.

  17. Author Rachel on April 18, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Hi - I live in S Devon and we can put out shredded paper, use bin liners for our food waste, and don't have to remove plastic windows from envelopes. We can't recycle aluminium yet but I give it to my sister in Manchester because she can - & she gives me her plastic as she says she can't recycle it there! It's such a shame the whole system isn't standardised in a way that maximises recycling. Plastic milk bottle tops can be collected for charitable fund-raising (company easily found online) but I don't know yet how you get them to the recycler.

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 18, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Hi Rachel. Isn't it interesting that each part of the country seems to have a different system - if a little confusing! It's great that you save your aluminium and do an exchange - what a commitment. The country needs more eco-friendly people like you :) Thanks a lot for your comment.

  18. Author Susan Bowden on April 20, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    Our council sends out a booklet with collection days and recycling info. It has no rule about size, asks for lids to be recycled separately, and it all (including shredded paper) goes in the recycling bin. The only things they can't recycle are carrier bags, black bags, film, polystyrene and glass other than jars or bottles. We have a bin and a kitchen caddy for food waste. The local recycling centre takes everything else. We have 3 wheelie bins (general waste, recycling and garden) and the food caddy but the next town has 5 (!) and a paper box but no food bin - best thing is to check with your council as things can change and not all councils tell you!

    1. Author Stephanie C on April 24, 2018 at 10:15 am

      Hi Susan, It's great that your council sends information (although isn't it ironic that this is more paper!) Interesting information - thanks a lot for sharing :)

  19. Author Stella on May 5, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Hi, I was told ages ago that it was ok to recycle shredded paper, but now after just reading this, I'm not so sure. Thanks for all your helpful tips.

    1. Author Stephanie C on May 10, 2018 at 11:50 am

      Hi Stella. Check with your local recycling who will be able to give your exacting details on this.

  20. Author Natalye harries on May 17, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    If where you live will not take shredded paper (they do here in Wales) the PDSA, and other animal charities will take it for bedding ... our local PDSA are more than pleased to take it off your hands....

    1. Author Stephanie C on May 18, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      Hi Natalye. Thanks for pointing this out - great idea!

  21. Author Nicholas Perry on July 19, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    5. It's important to wash my recycling 15 'All rubbish, including recycling, is washed thoroughly at a special facility, so there is no need to worry about a drop of bleach or two.' ???????

    1. Author Joanne A on July 24, 2018 at 4:01 pm

      Hi Nicholas! We recommend giving all recycling a basic clean so that you aren't contaminating it with leftover food waste. Food waste can cause recycling to be rejected.

  22. Author Nooshin on July 26, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Can I recycle bottle of water(500mill)and it should be with it's label?

    1. Author Joanne A on July 26, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Yes, you can. Just empty out the contents and pop into your recycling bin. The label can be left on. Hope this helped!

  23. Author Helen Krieger on September 30, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Stephanie, Thank you so much for your blog. It's very interesting and informative and I've gather some ideas for a recycle education event I'm holding for my neighbors. I do have one suggestion for you. I live in the America ( please don't boo me - I'm a strong supporter of the environment, social justice, etc.! ) and some of our standards vary from yours. For example, we can recycle shredded paper as long as it is placed in a paper bag first. So my suggestion is that maybe you could put an indication at the top of your pages declaring your country. That may help someone in the another country reading your information and not realizing it doesn't apply to them. I did see you mention the UK in item # 3 so that is what tipped me off to observe for differences. Thanks again for the information you provide. You do a lovely job!

    1. Author Joanne A on October 3, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Thanks Helen! We'd never boo you! That's a great suggestion.

  24. Author Darren Cross on January 9, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    But in reality the majority of recyclable material will actually go to landfill or be burned by the recycling companies now as it is a cheaper option. This is well documented in almost every country in the world now that China has stopped accepting glass and plastics. One tonne of glass goes for as little as $10-$20 now, compared to 10 times that amount 1-2 years ago. Your recyclables will be collected, sent to the recycling facilities to be sorted, then stock piled, or simply sent to landfill or burnt. Just google sweden burning plastic to see an example...

    1. Author Joanne A on January 10, 2019 at 9:38 am

      Hi Darren! It's such a shame that this happens. That's why it's always best to hunt out plastic-free packaged products and to do your best to reuse as much as you can.

  25. Author Lesley Matchell on July 22, 2019 at 8:41 am

    Before recycling glass jars consider posting on local community Facebook pages or listing on Freecycle/Freegle sites. Lots of people want them for jam, pickles etc.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 22, 2019 at 11:13 am

      That's a great idea, Lesley!

  26. Author Tracey on July 22, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Hi, sorry if this has already been asked...you day no food particles to be left in ready meal Barton’s but it’s ok if bleach is in bottles because it all gets washed...is it just me being thick ?

    1. Author Joanne A on July 22, 2019 at 11:35 am

      Hi Tracey! It's much easier for liquids to be washed off of recycling. Food, on the other hand, can dry up and be hard to shift.

  27. Author Sylvie on July 22, 2019 at 10:52 am

    You can possibly go onto your local council site and find out what can and cannot be recycled.Just this week I found an article in our council news leaflet saying that we can now leave the plastic window in envelopes. I save bottle lids for the local school, all plastic bags and even the blasted things that come with shopping catalogues, bread bags, in fact any clean bag from produce and can go back with your returned plastic bags if you have your shopping delivered from Morrison’s and other supermarkets. It must be said that all this is actually very time consuming for young families, they can all be taught to help

    1. Author Joanne A on July 22, 2019 at 11:34 am

      That's very true, Sylvie!

  28. Author Beryl on July 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    I put any small plastic lids in a larger plastic container with a tight fitting lid like an ice cream tub and put this in the recycling.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 23, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Beryl!

  29. Author Jane Thompson on July 22, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    When recycling a wine bottle, should I remove the metal screw top? I have done so and recycled the bottle as I’m never sure?

    1. Author Joanne A on July 23, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      Ideally, yes - but always check with your local council for their specific guidelines.

  30. Author Lesley Reeves on July 23, 2019 at 6:41 am

    A woman at work has got us all collecting plastic bottle tops - apparently a charity uses them to make equipment for people with brain and spinal damage. It can be any plastic top at all, from a soft drinks bottle or bottle of water to washing up liquid and shower gels, as long as it's plastic she wants it. It's a good idea as otherwise they just get chucked away as our council won't take bottles with lids on.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 23, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Great idea!

  31. Author Susan Bowden on July 27, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    All councils have different rules. Ours sends a booklet out every year explaining theirs. We can recycle everything here except plastic bags, window glass and contaminated waste. We also have a small bin plus a kitchen caddy for food waste, collected weekly. Shredded paper and loose lids are acceptable, too. The next council along has more bins but takes less recycling! All our recycling goes in the same bin. If in doubt, check with your local council's waste and recycling department, hopefully they'll help. Don't guess - you can spoil a whole load!

    1. Author Joanne A on July 29, 2019 at 10:12 am

      It's so true, Susan!

  32. Author Ann on September 29, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Make ecobricks by filling plastic bottles with non recyclable plastic, eg carrier bags, sweet wrappers, crisp bags, net bags, polythene wrappers the list is endless.

    1. Author Joanne A on September 30, 2019 at 11:15 am

      Yes, this is a great idea!

  33. Author Margaret Jeal on September 29, 2019 at 9:15 am

    It is confusing as every council has different recycling. We can recycler paper , cardboard , aluminium cans and plastic bottles at the kerbside, but no bottle tops/ lids whatsoever ever. Glass bottles have to be taken to a bottle bank at the supermarket, plastic bags also go in a bin at the supermarket. Plastic Milk bottle tops go to a charity to raise money, all other plastic tops can be taken to Lush stores as they recycle them. Paint tins, electrical goods go to the local recycling facility ( we cannot put them in the local rubbish collection Shredded paper goes into the compost bin! It is a minefield and why can’t there be a national recycling guidel.

    1. Author Joanne A on September 30, 2019 at 11:13 am

      It also really doesn't help to encourage people to recycle when you have to go to several different places to correctly process your waste! Not everyone has a car to make transporting bags of recycling easy.

  34. Author Lesley Bound on September 29, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Stamps can also be sent off to charities and computer ink cartridges recycled, if you collect Tesco points they have free envelopes for sending them off in store. Totally agree the lack of consistency per council is frustrating, would make life so much easier. My block of flats is currently part of a trial here in London for communal food waste bins, they've normally only collected from houses before, really hope it's successful as being in a flat have no garden to make compost so it always just went in the bin : (

    1. Author Joanne A on September 30, 2019 at 11:07 am

      That's good to hear, Lesley! I'm sure a lot of the inconsistency is due to cost. It's sad - more needs to be done!

  35. Author Marlene on September 29, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    You can take plastic milk bottle tops to Mencap charity shops for whole load collection, but not fresh juice tops. Apparently, they tell me they are a different grade of plastic so can't be mixed!

    1. Author Joanne A on September 30, 2019 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for sharing, Marlene! It's frustrating when there are so many rules.

  36. Author Ex- Dairy Retailer on September 30, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Why not get your milk from your local milk man! Most still deliver in the original recyclable GLASS bottle. Just rinse & return, on your doorstep .They have a “life” of approximately 5 deliveries.

    1. Author Joanne A on October 2, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      A great idea! I looked into this the other day for my area and found that you can also get fruit juices, dairy-free alternatives and more.

  37. Author Andrew Buck on April 16, 2020 at 11:43 am

    I have seen articles that say paper/card recyclers can easily remove non-paper/card materials (e.g. tape, plastic labels and envelope windows). This is done as part of their process by skimming it off the pulp that the paper and card is made into during the recycling process. For individuals, removing these is quite a fiddly and time consuming job and since the tape etc. can’t be recycled in another scheme (like plastics), it makes sense just to let the recyclers handle it, who probably end up landfilling it, just as it would end up if the individual removed it. Conversely, if you leave labels on tins/jars as suggested, do the metal recyclers recycle this paper? If not, wouldn’t we be better off removing them ourselves, as often they are larger than a post-it note and so could be recycled.

    1. Author Joanne A on April 11, 2023 at 11:39 am

      Paper and cardboard recyclers can easily remove non-paper/card materials, so individuals do not need to remove the tape, plastic labels, or envelope windows before recycling. Metal recyclers do not recycle paper labels on tins and jars. Still, removing them before recycling is unnecessary as they will burn off during the metal recycling process.

  38. Author MARLENE WILKINS on February 25, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    Mencap charity shops will take clean plastic milk bottle tops.

    1. Author Joanne A on March 30, 2021 at 3:07 pm

      Great tip!

  39. Author Colin Hartridge-Price on March 10, 2021 at 10:03 am

    Many thanks for your comprehensive information on recycling. I wanted to share this with local flats so I checked with our local council (London Borough of Southwark) a couple of the recycling issues you mentioned. I realise your aim was to give advice on how to be an exemplary recycler. The Waste Manager had the following to say: Removing tape and plastic -- "The main worry is that by adding effort to the recycling process, some people wouldn't bother. It's better that everyone recycles cardboard with some tape thrown in, than that some people recycle more carefully by peeling off all the tape, and the rest do not bother. The pulping process in the recycling mill filters out the tape and staples and other physical contaminants. It is better if people do remove them, but it is okay if they don't. A much more useful tip is to tell residents to flatten cardboard boxes so that the recycling bins have enough space to last through the week. People are more likely to do that because they see how it benefits them." Straws -- "No straws are recyclable (even if made of paper) as they are too small to sort." Soap dispenser pump tops -- "These can be recycled, but not easily. The best choice is a refill that re-uses the pump top bottle but if they are recycling it they can put the top in too." The Waste Manager suggested an addition to your list of "The most commonly recycled items that aren't actually recyclable" -- "No Textiles. You can take these to a charity shop, or find a textile bank on your council website, but never in the recycling bin. They get tangled in the sorting machinery and damage the recycling plant (and are then too damaged to recycle anyway)." I guess he is speaking from experience! I hope the above is of interest. Regards Colin Hartridge-Price

    1. Author Joanne A on April 26, 2023 at 10:21 am

      Thank you for sharing this valuable information, Colin! It's great to hear from the London Borough of Southwark Waste Manager and get their perspective on some recycling issues.

  40. Author Sophie on April 13, 2021 at 8:03 am

    Pet food.poucjes can be recycled!

    1. Author Joanne A on April 16, 2021 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  41. Author Su Toon on April 22, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Hi, I live in Leicester and basically we are one of the few areas where we can put EVERYTHING that can be recycled into the one bag, making it far easier to recycle. It is a shame that more areas don't adopt this easy-to-follow approach!

    1. Author Joanne A on May 10, 2021 at 5:21 pm

      That's very practical, Su!

  42. Author Dario on June 19, 2021 at 3:12 pm

    In the U.K. There is a company called terracycle who recycle items you may not be able to with a roadside collection- it might take a bit of effort but cat food pouches,crisp packets and tassimo pods are just a few items you can recycle.

    1. Author Joanne A on July 5, 2021 at 3:05 pm

      Excellent suggestion!

  43. Author Jane on October 13, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    Those food boxes, greasy fish and chip wrappings and sandwich bags, if only paper and card, can go into food waste as they are compostable!

    1. Author Joanne A on January 10, 2023 at 4:54 pm

      It would be great "brown" material for a compost heap, as long as it hasn't been coated in plastic or wax.

  44. Author Steve Hargreaves on February 26, 2024 at 3:35 pm

    I think it would be helpful to hear from the firms who do the re-cycling in each area as it s their machinery that will be getting fouled up when wrong iems are sent to them. Councils don't seem bothered - perhaps the re-cycling firms should get onto the councils as well.

    1. Author Joanne A on April 15, 2024 at 10:50 am

      That would be helpful for all involved.

  45. Author Karen on March 23, 2024 at 1:28 pm

    The Bodyshop have recycling bins for the fiddly parts such as the little pumps of beauty/skin care bottles and claim they not only take donations of those from their own branded items, but from other brands too.

    1. Author Joanne A on April 15, 2024 at 10:14 am

      That's great!


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