How To Recycle In The UK
Recycling in the UK is not as straightforward as it may at first seem which is why many people don’t do it correctly, or completely avoid doing it all. Although recycling rates in the UK are rising year on year and sit at an all-time high of over 45% (as of 2019), there is still some way to go to ensure that all of the household waste being recycled is done so the right way.
In order to simplify the process and make recycling a part of your everyday life, here is our beginner’s guide…
Our Guide to Recycling Plastics
Plastic continues to be one of the most recycled materials in the UK even though it is possibly the most complex.
There are seven different types of plastics all of which can be identified using the triangular symbol that they are marked with. Inside each triangle, you will find a number between 1 and 7 which represents the specific type of plastic that has been used to make the product.
1 = PET, which is used to make water bottles and food packaging
2 = HDPE, which is used to make cleaning products and milk cartons
5 = PP, which is used to make butter tubs and microwave meal trays
The more difficult to recycle are:
4 = LDPE, which is used to make shopping bags
6 = PS, which is used to make plastic cutlery and takeaway boxes
3 = PVC, which is used to make credit cards and window frames
There is also the seventh type of plastic which includes acrylic, nylon and fiberglass and is used to make items such as cling film and crisp packets. These types of plastics cannot be recycled at all.Some advice when it comes to the plastics that you can recycle:
- Keep lids screwed onto bottles as they are too small to go through recycling machines alone
- Squash plastic bottles to save on space and stop them rolling off the sorting machine conveyor belt
- Make sure that bottles are empty and that all food and liquid residue has been rinsed out
- Also ensure that all plastic items are dry before they end up in a recycling bin
- If it is mixed with other materials (i.e. a plastic coated coffee cup) then this will have to go in general waste rather than recycling as the materials cannot be separated
Our Guide to Recycling Card and Paper
The second most commonly recycled material in the UK is card and paper with a wide range of items falling under this category including cardboard boxes, greetings cards, newspapers, egg boxes, catalogues, direct mail, magazines and so much more.
When it comes to recycling these goods, please remember to:
- Remove any glitter and badges for greetings cards as this would make it non-recyclable
- Remove any plastic wrapping and tape from newspapers and cardboard boxes
- Thoroughly clean out any cardboard boxes to remove food residue
- Do the scrunch test – if the paper doesn’t spring back then that means it can be recycled
Our Guide to Recycling Metals
Metals are also commonly recycled in the UK and this should continue because it helps support the circular economy and reduce the strain on our limited resources.
Most metal items are usually found in the kitchen and almost all metals are recyclable with the most common being:
- Aluminium (drinks cans, aerosols, tin foil)
- Steel (kettles, kitchen utensils)
- Copper (cutlery, cables)
- Larger items and electronics, such as kitchen appliances and phones, will need to be taken to a specialist recycling facility
- Items will need to be emptied and rinsed to remove any food or liquid residue
- Labels can be left on as the sorting machines will ensure these are removed
Our Guide to Recycling Glass and Garden/Food WasteOther common materials found in the home that can be easily recycled include:
- Glass (bottles of any colour, jars)
- Garden waste (grass, leaves, weeds)
- Food waste (if your area has a food waste recycling collection service)
- Remove any food and liquid residue from glass bottles and containers
- Lids and caps should be left on glass jars and bottles as this reduces the chances of them getting lost through the sorting process
General Recycling Tips
Beyond understand which materials can and cannot be recycled and how to prepare these items for recycling, there are some other simple things you can do to increase your recycling and ensure that it is always done correctly.
- Keep a recycling bin in your kitchen or even two that you can use to divide metals and plastics from card and paper (as this is the most common way that recycling is collected in the UK). Even better, make sure it is visible and labelled so that guests use it too!
- Put a list of non-recyclable items that are typically found in your home in a visible place so that everyone in your household is aware of what doesn’t go in those bins (this list is typically a lot shorter than what cannot be recycled) – on the fridge is a great place to display this.
- Do not put recycling in a black bin bag – or any kind of bag – as this item is not recyclable itself and can easily get confused with general waste. Most household recycling collection wheelie bins can be filled with no bag inside.
- If you are ever unsure, check the guidance on your local council’s website