Don't just bin it!


We all want to create a better world for our planet and for our children’s future. In the hectic environment of family life, scrupulous recycling can sometimes get overlooked. Yet, many common items believed to be recyclable by most households in the UK aren’t accepted by recycling centres, according to Skips and Bins director Scott Hawthorne.

Scott says: ‘According to research from Wrap, 82 per cent of UK households regularly add at least one item to their recycling collection that isn’t accepted at their local recycling centre. This suggests that, though there’s a shift in public consciousness to being more sustainable and eco-friendly, there’s a lack of education around what can’t be recycled.’

Here are seven common items many of us think can go in the recycling bin that actually should not be there at all.

Food wrappers and containers
These usually come with symbols on the labels or printed into the plastic stating that the material can be recycled. But if there’s an overwhelming amount of food contaminants, they cannot be recycled. For example, pizza boxes and coffee cups shouldn’t be recycled due to oil and coffee contaminating the cardboard, which can cause damage to the machines at the local centres.

Scott adds: ‘In the long run, washing packaging contributes to more CO2 emissions by using hot water rinse. Tins and jars are fine to rinse out, but plastic packaging that can contain raw ingredients is usually best to throw out. And note that some have film lids that aren’t recyclable,’

This causes a lot of confusion for home recyclers. Distinguishing what type of polystyrene you have is important. While expanded polystyrene (EPS) can be recycled as it’s only 2 per cent plastic and can be reused, classic polystyrene can’t be. This is because the material is made of a liquid hydrocarbon called styrene, which isn’t recyclable and should be disposed in your general waste.

Aerosol cans
They are mostly recyclable, with an estimated 60 per cent being made from tinplated steel and 40 per cent of aluminium. But putting them into your recycling collection can be dangerous due to the pressurised gas still contained within the canisters. If they aren’t entirely empty, they can explode when compressed into bales at the recycling centres.

Some recycling centres do not accept aerosols, so it’s good to check whether your local centre does. If they do, ensure items have been properly emptied before placing them into your recycling collection.

Pots and pans
Your well-loved pots and pans are made of metal, so surely they can be recycled when you want to replace them? If they’re in good condition, you can donate them to a charity shop. However, non-stick coated or enamelled pans are not suitable for your recycling bin. They might be accepted at local recycling centres.

Pyrex, drinking glasses, and broken glass

When it’s time for a clear out, you may look at Pyrex and drinking glasses cluttering up your cupboards and think it’s time to recycle them. These items are made from specialist glass materials that are different from bottles or jars of food , and they are unsuitable for recycling. Broken glass should never be put in your recycling bin. It can be extremely dangerous for the workers dealing with it, especially if it is loose. Wrap it up carefully and clearly label it as potentially dangerous.

Clothes, shoes, and other textiles
Second-hand clothes, shoes and other textiles like sheets and towels can’t be put in your recycling bin. If they’re in a reasonable condition, take them to a charity shop. Otherwise, it’s best just to throw them away.

Greeting cards and wrapping paper
Christmas and birthdays can mean households are inundated with paper and card and there shouldn’t be a problem putting it straight into the recycling bin. But if the wrapping paper contains laminated plastic or is foil-lined, it’ll need to be disposed of in waste bins.

Most greeting cards can be recycled but check for any adornments! If your card has glitter glued to it, do your best to remove it, as glitter is plastic and can’t be recycled.

Skip and Bins is a leading supplier of hire skips in the UK.