What can I put in my recycling bin? Household recycling collection rules explained - can I recycle plastic?
Here is a list of common materials you can recycle at home or in supermarkets, whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland
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Throwing out the bins is probably not your favourite household chore. As well as being smelly, it can also be extremely confusing given the multitude of rules about what materials can go in each type of bin.
Recycling is particularly difficult to get right. Indeed, the government is reportedly set to reform the current system with new guidance as it says local authorities are being inundated by ‘wishcycling’ - the practice of recycling items that cannot actually be reprocessed.
According to reporting by the i newspaper, ministers are drawing up rules to crack down on what people can put in their bins. By doing so, they hope to improve recycling rates as councils will be able to divert more resources to the practice instead of having to separate out non-recyclable waste.
The updated guidance will be made available later in the summer, according to the news organisation. But, in the meantime, what should you recycle at home - and what can be recycled elsewhere?
To help, NationalWorld has written a guide to recycling, including a list of common materials and how to get rid of them. We have also provided links to private sector recycling initiatives, like Terracycle’s crisp packet scheme.
How can you recycle?
What and how you can recycle depends on where you live. Different local authorities have different rules depending on the recycling facilities they have at their disposal.
You can find out what your council’s recycling rules are by visiting the Government website. Some councils give each household one recycling bin, while others might give you another bin or rubbish container especially for materials like glass.
What can you recycle?
As a general rule of thumb, the following materials can be recycled in your home recycling bin:
- Mixed glass bottles and jars
- Food tins and drinks cans
- Mixed paper and card (e.g. old newspapers, envelopes and cardboard boxes with tape removed)
- Mixed plastic packaging
If the item has been in contact with food or drink, it has to be washed thoroughly before it can be recycled. You should always look for the recycling label on the packaging or item you’re trying to recycle. This label means it can be recycled by at least 75% of local authorities.
Recycling rules for common materials
There are several materials that seem like they should be recyclable but are actually not. One of them is polystyrene.
Used in takeaway containers, or to package white goods, the material cannot be recycled anywhere in the UK at present and should be thrown away with general waste. While this seems incredibly wasteful, some companies are finding other solutions. For example, fully biodegradable and compostable packaging is becoming more common.
Crisp packets are not currently recyclable at home but you can take them to one of Terracycle’s Crisp Packet Recycling Scheme points. To find where these are, you can check their website or head to Government-backed campaign Recycle Now’s website.
What can you recycle at supermarkets?
You can still recycle some other materials at other locations. Sometimes, plastic films or plastic bags have labels telling you they can be ‘recycled at larger stores’.
These labels refer to the big bins some stores have in their car parks, or smaller bins you can find inside the shop. They are not always easy to spot, so it’s worth asking your local supermarket if it has a plastic bag recycling point. Here is a list of things you can recycle at most supermarkets:
- All plastic bags, except biodegradable or compostable bags
- Bread bags
- Breakfast cereal liners
- Bubble wrap
- Delivery bags
- Dry cleaning bags
- Frozen food bags
- Magazine and newspaper wrappers
- Multi-pack wrapping
- Plastic marked as low-density polyethylene (LDPE) - resin ID code 4
- Toilet roll wrapping
Selected stores of major supermarkets may also accept:
- Baby, pet food, detergent and cleaning pouches
- Biscuits and chocolate wrapping
- Cheese, fish and meat wrapping
- Cling film
- Crisp and sweet bags
- Plastic film lids
- Salad, pasta, and rice bags
Often, supermarkets will also have battery recycling points. Again, these are not always easy to spot, so it’s worth asking a store worker where you can find one of these points. You can find out what recycling facilities are available, and where, by putting your postcode into Recycle Now’s recycling location finder.