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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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 can, in 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
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.