Ever puzzled over what you should be putting in your recycling or wondered if you should be keeping the lids on jars or separating them? We’ve covered what you can recycle in the UK and how. We’ve also thrown in some little known things that shouldn’t be going anywhere near your recycling bin and a few tips to recycle even more.
What can you recycle in the UK?
Depending on where we live, city to city and town to town, what’s easily recyclable will change. On the whole, though, these are the most common materials here in the UK.
Paper and cardboard are two of the most widely recycled materials in the UK and the positive news is that a lot of what we have in these materials can go straight into recycling. Boxes that you’ve received through the post, newspapers and letters and envelopes can all go into your paper bin.
A word of warning though, not all paper and cardboard is created equal. Soiled paper and cardboard (e.g. greasy food packaging) will contaminate your recycling and anything with foil or glitter (wrapping paper and birthday cards) also can’t go in. It’s also worth noting that a lot of shredded materials won’t be recycled as they’re too small for sorting processes.
There are a couple of simple ways to ensure that you’re recycling the right types of paper and cardboard. Firstly, check for a label that tells you, then remove any contaminants (so any sellotape, or stables) and finally do the crunch test. If you can scrunch some paper into a ball and it stays scrunched it’s much more likely that it can be recycled. Try this test on something you know can’t be recycled like foiled wrapping paper and you’ll see it spring right back!
Metal is widely recycled. Think drinks cans, screw-top lids from wine bottles (the lid can be left on the glass bottle), takeaway containers, biscuit tins, food tins, and tin foil.
With all of these, empty the items and rinse them. Labels can be left on, and are removed from the material during recycling. If you have foil, it’s best to scrunch this up in a ball so that it is more easily detected by the people and machines that are processing your rubbish.
A scrunch test can be applied to metal too! Laminated foil, like pet food pouches, which spring back after you scrunch them up are not readily recyclable.
Did you know that the metal lids on your jam jars etc shouldn’t be put in with your metal? Metal lids and caps are different types of metal and are recycled in different ways. Putting the lids and caps back on glass bottles and jars makes the process easier moving forward. Therefore, once you’ve washed them out, put the lid back on!
Glass bottles and jars are recyclable, and as we’ve mentioned above, you should leave the metal caps and lids on. Simply empty and rinse and replace the original lid. Don’t however use the same rule for corks, corks should be removed but they can just go straight into the compost instead of in the bin.
Certain items like household cooking materials like Pyrex dishes and drinks glasses can’t be treated in the same way as bottles and jars as they don’t melt at the same temperature.
Plastic is a tricky material when it comes to recycling. Plastic bottles tend to be recycled throughout the UK with plastic trays and food pots are widely accepted on your kerbside recycling collections. Always check the label in case something isn’t. In general black plastic (e.g. from ready meals) and filmed materials like cling film cannot be put in the recycling bin.
You’ll also probably already realise that plastic carrier bags don’t go in the recycling. You may not have realised though that you can usually recycle these by placing them in a collection bin at your local supermarket. The plastic pieces that hold cans together, and bread bags can go in here too.
As with everything else, make sure they’re clean before you recycle them.
What about everything else?
Just because something can’t be recycled kerbside, doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled at all. On the whole, materials that aren’t easily recyclable are difficult because they contain lots of different materials or the recycling process is highly specialised.
You’ll find schemes popping up in your local area that will recycle other items of household waste like bathroom empties, tablet blister packets, and crisp packets. Terracycle is a great place to search for local services. If an item that you use regularly isn’t part of any local schemes you can also buy your own Zero Waste Box to return items such as pet food pouches to be recycled.
For items like cling film and some food wrappings, there currently aren’t any schemes available, so where possible try to reduce what you buy with these materials and replace cling film with reusable, compostable, food wraps.
Is recycling always the answer?
Quite simply, no. We go into more detail about what happens to our recycling in a previous blog but in short, to help our planet we need to reduce our waste as much as possible, and not simply rely on recycling.
Luckily, we’ve got a bunch of simple swaps that you can make to reduce your household waste in our store.
So what’ve we learnt? We’ve learnt what should and shouldn’t go in the recycling bin and how the scrunch test can be applied to paper and metal. We’ve also discovered that metal lids should be kept on jars and that a lot of types of plastic can’t go in the recycling. Luckily We’ve shared some ways to increase what you can recycle and how to reduce your waste as a whole.
Does your area have any particularly innovative ways of recycling waste? Perhaps a scheme run by a local store or a thorough way of separating waste? Let us know in the comments below!