Whether it’s giving packaging a quick rinse or taking stretchy plastic to a supermarket collection point, there’s lots you can do to cut down on plastic waste and help the environment.
We all want to reduce our plastic footprints, but given that our recent research found that 42% of supermarket products we bought had inadequate recycling labelling, it can be hard to get it right.
Add to the mix a postcode lottery on what types of recycling local councils will and won’t collect, and it can become impossible to know if you’re doing the right thing – or if it’s even making a difference.
Here are some quick wins to maximise the amount you recycle.
1 Get to know your plastic recycling labels
Don’t assume that all plastic is the same – look out for the mobius loop (recycling triangle), which indicates the type of plastic your packaging is made of and whether you can recycle it.
Read our guide to plastic symbols to make sure you’re up to date. For example, clear plastic bottles can be easily and widely recycled, while black plastic tubs – like that shown in our ready meal example below – can’t be easily recycled.
2 Split most packaging into pieces…
Packaging for many of the products we buy is made up of several different materials. Where this is the case, break it down into the separate pieces.
As you can see in our ready meal example below, each piece of packaging may need to be disposed of differently.
Ensure that you remove all film from punnets made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic – used for soft fruit, for example – as the non-recyclable film will get in the way of the easily recyclable PET plastic.
3 …but keep lids on bottles
While it’s best to separate out bigger pieces of packaging, lids should remain on plastic bottles so that they can be easily recycled. The same is true of the metal lids on glass bottles. On their own, lids can be too small to make it through most recycling sorting machines.
4 Empty and rinse containers
They don’t have to be sparkling, but large amounts of food left in a tin or jar, for example, could spill out and contaminate cardboard in a mixed load. Cardboard has to be clean to recycle.
5 Choose the most recyclable packaging
If you have a choice between a plastic PET bottle and a combination carton such as a Tetra Pak, or between a plastic package and something that’s made of cardboard, choose the most recyclable option.
6 Recycle stretchy plastic
You can take your supermarket plastic bags and any other stretchy Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) bags (such as those used to package potatoes and toilet roll) back to larger supermarkets to be recycled. Look out for signs pointing to plastic-bag collection points.
Alternatively, you can take them to recycling facilities such as your local household waste and recycling centre.
7 Double check what recycling your local council collects
Even if the packaging says it can be recycled, your local council may not necessarily collect every part. Head to RecycleNow to search for what your local authority collects from kerbsides.
You can also cut down on plastic by investing in a reusable water bottle. Read our guide to the best water bottles you can buy.