What you can and can't recycle - expert dispels myths around recycling

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Recycling experts have given advice to households aimed at dispelling some myths over what should and should not be put in your blue bin.

There are some dos and don’ts which will help the planet if followed. However, there are grey areas too.

Waste specialists Ecoveritas say: “Recycling is yet to be a perfect process, but we owe it to our planet to adopt the best available solutions and continue to develop more effective ones.

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“In our fight against climate change, recycling is a crucial solution to reduce the amount of waste being deposited in a landfill. Therefore it's important that we are informed of how we can best play our part and recycle in the most efficient way possible.”

It can be trickier than it looks.It can be trickier than it looks.
It can be trickier than it looks.

The following “true or false” advice is given:

‘You have to clean empties for them to be recycled properly’: True (sort of)

Where possible, you should at least rinse items, getting them as clean as possible, before sticking them in the recycling.

It's difficult to say exactly how to clean materials must be before they’re recycled. Use the water from the washing up or pop them into the dishwasher, if there’s space.

It isn't always obvious which one to use.It isn't always obvious which one to use.
It isn't always obvious which one to use.

Not washing your recycling risks ruining everything and diverting the recycling load, not just yours, to a landfill. Food residue left on containers cannot be reliably processed and may cause contamination.

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‘Receipts are recyclable’: FALSE

There are two types of receipts. Paper ones are recyclable and compostable; the thermal ones aren’t. Because it's hard to tell the difference between the two, keeping them all out of the recycling bin is recommended.

‘Putting non-recyclables in the recycling bin will contaminate everything’: True

The "Green Dot" can be very misleading.The "Green Dot" can be very misleading.
The "Green Dot" can be very misleading.

If in doubt, leave it out. The introduction of mixed recycling gives us “a free-wheeling, hope-for-the-best attitude towards tossing empties into the recycling”.

The idea that “If it’s going to be sorted anyway, it doesn't hurt” – is wrong. You risk contaminating the whole load if you put the wrong things in your recycling. It could mean all the materials are sent for disposal instead of recycling.

The following items cannot be recycled using your collected bin:

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Glass cookware such as Pyrex, drinking glasses or window glass, containers or bottles with liquids still in them, items contaminated with food or grease such as pizza boxes, sanitary items, such as nappies, tissues, wet wipes, and makeup pads, paper stained with grease, paint or dirt, sticky paper such as Post-It notes, sticky labels or masking tape, wall and decoration paper, crisp packets and sweet wrappers, laminated foil pouches and greeting cards with glitter or other decorations on them.

Here's some more good advice.Here's some more good advice.
Here's some more good advice.

‘Aerosol cans can't be recycled’: FALSE

You can recycle aerosols with your mixed recycling, but spray any leftover liquid into a rag until nothing else comes out, remove any easily removable parts, like the lid and dispose of them.

‘You need to remove the plastic tape from the packaging’: True

Cardboard boxes are fully recyclable. Sticky tape is not.

‘Wrapping paper is recyclable’: Sometimes

Consumers in the UK use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year, and over 83 square kilometres of it ends up in bins. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimate that the paper used yearly is enough to wrap the island of Guernsey.

Even worse, a great deal of this paper cannot be recycled as it contains plastic (glitter or laminates).

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But the good news is that there are plenty of choices regarding eco-friendly options. Many retailers have made their wrapping paper recyclable; newspaper and brown paper are easy to recycle, and natural twine is much better than non-recyclable sticky tape.

‘The ‘Green Dot’ icon means something is recyclable’: FALSE

A common misconception. This doesn’t mean the item is recyclable; it means that the company in question has financially contributed towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe.

‘Soft plastic can't be recycled’: (largely) FALSE

Soft plastics are lightweight plastics that often cannot be placed in domestic recycling bins: plastic shopping bags, yoghurt lids and food wrappers. Some types of soft plastic can be recycled at carrier bag collection points at major supermarkets.

‘Shredded paper can't be recycled’: True

Many paper mills won't accept it as shredded pieces are too small to be collected through the machinery.

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‘Paper towels and tissues are recyclable’: FALSE

The cardboard inner tube of kitchen rolls and boxes of tissues is widely collected as part of household recycling schemes.

However, kitchen rolls and tissues aren't suitable for recycling. Kitchen rolls may be contaminated with food waste, classified as a contaminant.

Tissues can't be recycled as they are made of very short fibres, which are not high enough quality to be recycled. They will need to be disposed of in your waste bin.

‘Cleaning cloths and wet wipes are not recyclable’: True

That blue-and-white (sometimes green, or red-and-white) cleaning cloths are made of plastic, not paper. So are wet wipes and they cannot go in the recycling bin.

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The same applies to disposable masks, which are plastic and not recyclable.

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‘Takeaway coffee cups are recyclable’: FALSE (for household recycling)

Disposable coffee and paper drink cups are not currently accepted via household recycling collections. They should be placed in your general waste container unless specifically asked for by your local authority.

‘You can add hand soap pump dispensers to your recycling’: FALSE

Hand wash pumps and refill pouches can’t currently be recycled. Discard these with landfill refuse, then rinse and recycle the soap container.

‘You can't recycle kitchen foil’: (largely) FALSE

Before adding used foil to the recycling, wipe off food residue, then wash it along with the rest of the washing up.

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It’s also important to check it’s actually aluminium foil and not metalised plastic, by using a simple scrunch test. Simply scrunch the item into a ball in your hand if it stays crunched it is foil, if it springs back it is more likely to be a metalised plastic and can’t be recycled

Foil takeaway trays and disposable barbecue trays can also be recycled.

For more information visit the Ecoveritas website.

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