What items are you recycling wrong? 

For decades we’ve been told to recycle. It’s not hard, you just throw your plastics, tins, cardboard, glass and paper in a bin and away it goes! Wrong. Recycling capabilities vary drastically across the country. In some areas you cannot recycle glass, in others, they can’t accept greasy pizza boxes. It all depends on the facility that your recycling is taken to which is why it’s important to know what you can and can’t recycle. Luckily there are a few classic items that absolutely cannot be recycled but are often thrown in the recycling bin – typically they’re all plastic. Not all plastic is recyclable and it’s important to know this, so you don’t recycle wrong.


How many different plastics are there? 

There are seven different types of plastic, but you’ll more than likely try and recycle five or six. Some plastic items are obviously unrecyclable, like plastic children’s toys. But if there are so many different types of plastic, how come they’re not all recyclable from the kerbside? It’s a case of sorting the plastic. Some facilities do not have the capabilities to sort the plastic in the bins. This is why it’s good to use household recycling facilities nearby so you can recycle items like old toys. 

Four items you could recycle wrong 


How can you recycle polystyrene at home? Well, you can’t. The plastic can be identified with the number 6 in an arrowed triangle. This signifies the type of resin used, a resin that cannot be recycled and therefore must go to either landfill or energy from waste facility. For us at home, that means popping it in our regular rubbish bin. 

Sadly, polystyrene is used a lot in packaging. From New TVs and laptops to a takeaway from the local kebab on a Saturday night. This is why it’s important to understand ways to reuse it. Other than saving it for a rainy day when it comes to moving home, you might not think there’s much you can do with polystyrene. Think again. It can be used as drainage for pots. Reused for craft time and junk modelling with the kids. You could even be super crafty and create window drafts for extra insulation. Think outside the box, because once it’s in your home, you can’t recycle it. 

Plastic shopping bags 

Did you picture a bag for life? Or did you think about those thin ones for fresh fruit and veg? Perhaps you pictured a blue one from your local farmers’ market. The truth is that it doesn’t matter what type of plastic bag it is. None of them are recyclable at home. Even the ones made from recyclable materials. 

So where should you take them? Well, if it’s a bag for life, we recommend taking it back to the store and swapping it for a new one – the store should replace any broken ‘bags for life’ for free. If you have any other plastic bags, you should take them to your nearest soft recycling centre so you don’t recycle wrong. Typically, this is at your local supermarket. 

Crisp packets 

They’re shiny and crinkly, but crisp packets are still plastic. Fortunately, it’s relatively well known that they cannot be recycled. But before you throw out your wrappers (after folding them into a tiny triangle or tying them in a knot) pause for a second. Collect them in a plastic bag and when you next head to the supermarket you can drop them off at the soft recycling location. 

If you’re unsure about where your nearest soft recycling location is, just log into your Greenredeem account and click the Recycling Locator button in the menu. This way you’ll also discover the other plastic items that can be taken there such as bread bags. A quick way to make sure you don’t recycle wrong.

Plastic film and wrapping 

This one is incredibly troublesome and possibly the biggest culprit when it comes to contamination. There are certain times when it’s clear that you’re dealing with plastic film packaging that can’t be recycled in most homes – such as cling film. Other times, like meat trays, are not so obvious. Especially when a quick glance at the packaging will tell you that it’s recyclable (yes, the tray is but the film isn’t). It can be difficult to recognise what constitutes plastic film packaging so here are a few examples: 

  • Films on microwaveable meals 
  • Film lids on yoghurts 
  • Film lids on meat 
  • Toilet paper overwrap 
  • Frozen pizza wrapping film 
  • Plastic wrapping on pastries like sausage rolls 

The general rule is that if the plastic is less than 10mm thick and can be scrunched in your hand, it is soft plastic. If it isn’t a tray, a bottle, or a pot, it probably isn’t soft plastic and in which case can either go in your kerbside collections or be taken to your household waste facility. How many pieces of soft plastic do you think you’ve been throwing in your recycling?

What are the consequences of contamination and throwing items into the recycling – hoping that they’re recyclable? Well, in some areas, bin crews may refuse to collect your bin. But ultimately, contamination means entire bins, and in some cases, entire trucks of waste are unrecyclable. So, all the efforts of you and your neighbours go to are wasted and the waste goes to a different facility. Sometimes this is an energy from waste facility, but it could easily be landfill. It all depends on where you live. Our advice is simple, recycle right, and if you’re unsure, use the recycling locator tool. Worst case scenario, pop it in your regular bin.

3 Responses

  1. “…if the plastic is less than 10mm thick…” – think that’s a typo, did you mean 1mm?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Share :


If you’re not already a member, then you’re missing out! All of our members get rewarded for living a greener lifestyle, including reading this blog.