How much thought do you give to your recycling bin? Probably not much, besides remembering when collection day is and trying to squash down its contents.
Sorting our rubbish into ‘general waste’ and recycling is something that’s become pretty well ingrained for most of us at home. But it’s worth keeping up to date with progress in terms of what can be recycled at your kerbside and what can’t. Things change all the time, so there are likely to be ways you can recycle better.
With COP26 underway in Glasgow, attention is on the ways that governments should be creating more sustainable societies, and that includes figuring out what to do with our rubbish. Recycling in the UK is managed by local authorities, which means it can be a bit confusing to work out what you can and can’t do at home. It’s worth checking your local council’s website to see how much information they give.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) also has information on its website about what you can recycle in your particular area, and what to do with individual products such as textiles, aerosols and electronic items.
- Find out more about the different types of plastic and how to recycle them, or head to our guide on how to recycle electrical items.
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Five ways to recycle better at home
1. Squash bottles
Squash plastic bottles before you put them out for recycling.
Not only does this save space (reducing their carbon footprint in transit), but it also stops them rolling off the sorting machine conveyor belts. And of course it has the added benefit of creating more space in your bin.
2. Screw lids back on
The general rule is to screw plastic lids back on to their bottles and push straws back into cartons before recycling.
On their own, these items are too small to make it through most recycling sorting machines (most will reject anything narrower than 40mm), but as part of the bigger bottle they are more likely to get picked up.
This advice can vary depending on what your local authority collects.
3. Recycle soft plastic at the supermarket
Recyclable plastic film and plastic carrier bags generally can’t be recycled in kerbside collections. But you can take them back to recycling points at big supermarkets.
Our investigation showed that remembering to do this could significantly increase the amount of supermarket packaging households recycle. Set up a collection bag for soft plastic wherever you store your other long-life bags, and then you’ll remember to take it back to the supermarket with your shopping bags when it’s full.
- Find out more: what are supermarkets doing about plastic?
4. Scrunch up foil
Kitchen foil is usually recyclable in household collections. But small pieces can get lost and risk not being picked up by the sorting machines, so scrunch it up into a bigger ball. A tennis ball size is ideal.
5. Empty and rinse
If there’s residual food waste left in your recycling, empty it and give it a quick rinse.
They don’t need to be sparkling clean, but a yoghurt pot or baked bean tin with lots of food left in it, for example, risks contaminating porous materials such as paper and card in the same recycling load and rendering it all unrecyclable. It also makes life unpleasant for the people sorting your recycling at the other end.
And remember, while it’s important to recycle the plastic you do use, it’s even better to reduce how much is in your home in the first place. See our tips on how to reduce your plastic use, and everything you need to know about refillable products.