Dear Recycling Bins: Our Weekly Recycling Advice Column
Welcome to our weekly advice column where we look at all things recycling and give you the answers you’re desperately seeking.
Dear Recycling Bins,
I am writing to you for some advice. I try to recycle as much as I can but I read so much conflicting advice about what can and can’t be recycled that sometimes I just get so confused!
I have actually been sat in front of my laptop on an evening many times, asking Google what I should do with often very random items (a lightbulb and half a tin of lime green paint springs to mind!).
Anyway, I wanted to ask, what is really off-limits when it comes to recycling? I think the more I know, the better I can rest easy knowing that the council aren’t going to come down on me like a ton of bricks or that I’m harming the environment in some way.
A perplexed homeowner who wants to do their bit.
Dear perplexed homeowner,
We really do sympathise. Recycling can get confusing because local authorities have different rules around what can and can’t be recycled, and sometimes the advice online, or even on the product label itself is not much clearer.
You probably know that certain items can be recycled without issue, like glass bottles, cardboard, paper, and plastic bottles, but there are things that you should avoid putting in your recycling, some of which might surprise you.
Crisp packets are not accepted for recycling, which is worrying, given that for many of us, they’re our snack of choice. While you might think they’re made from foil, they’re actually made from a metallised plastic film which can’t be recycled yet.
Brightly coloured paper can’t be recycled either because the dyes can’t be removed during processing. If it’s mixed with other paper, the dyes will run and contaminate it so most paper mills won’t accept it.
Forget about recycling your pizza boxes too. Yes, they’re made from cardboard, but if they’re covered in grease or contaminated food, they won’t be accepted for recycling. Put these in the general waste bin instead.
Then there’s receipts. If your receipt is a bog standard paper receipt it’s fine to recycle, but if it’s made from thermal paper, it will have been treated with chemicals that don’t work too well with recycling machinery. You’ll be able to tell if it’s thermal paper because it will feel like it has a waxy coating and it will look smooth and shiny. If you suspect it’s thermal paper, put it in the general waste bin.
Bubble wrap is another material that recycling machines just don’t like. Try to reuse it to wrap fragile items wherever you can rather than discarding it.
And finally, plastic bags. They’re being phased out in a lot of places, and for good reason. If they find their way into the environment, they take an age to break down, and when they do, tiny pieces break off and end up polluting the environment and waterways. They are almost impossible to clean up. They are made from a low density type of plastic that’s quite flimsy, and if you put them into your recycling bin, they can end up jamming the machinery at recycling plants, making the process much tougher and more expensive.
We hope this has cleared at least a few things up for you.
When in doubt, check your local council’s website for guidance.