‘What Can We Actually Recycle?’ 

Written by Justin Thompson

‘Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce, reuse, recycle.’ That’s been the sustainability mantra since we were in primary school. But when it comes to recycling, the rules and structures in place can make it more confusing than helpful. For instance, did you know there’s different recycling rules based on which council area you live in? It’s no wonder we all struggle with what and how to properly recycle. So, we’re here to help. 

Why do we care?

For us, return and reuse is the answer to our waste crisis. But we know that as a society, we’ve got a long way to go before single use items and plastic packaging are completely gone. While recycling isn’t the solution, it’s a step in the right direction, and much more sustainable than tossing something directly into landfill. So, we want to give you the information you need to dispose of waste properly, no matter what it’s made of. Because every sustainable step we take is a stride towards a brighter, greener future. 

So how good are we at recycling?  

According to these stats, we need a bit of practice. 

  • • We’re only recycling 3% more than we did in 2010 
  • 56% of Brits think that the recycling rules are complicated and confusing
  • 85% of UK households put the wrong items in their recycling bins
  • 44% of Brits mistakenly believe that the recycling centre will sort through any rubbish that doesn’t belong there and will recycle it on their behalf

Why go through all the fuss of recycling? 

We agree, the world of recycling can be confusing. And with all the different rules, it almost seems like it’s not worth it. Key word here is almost. Because recycling is really important if we want to create a more sustainable world to live in.  

  • • Recycling helps limit the amount of virgin materials used. Virgin materials are raw materials that have never been used before, such as timber or non-recycled plastic. This means less trees are being cut down, less plastic is being produced, and less minerals are being mined. As a result, there’s more thriving ecosystems without human contamination or destruction.  
  • • Recycling helps save energy. Using recycled materials takes less energy than using virgin materials. For instance, a drink can made from recycled aluminium uses 95% less energy than a can made from virgin aluminium (Friends of the Earth).

See? Recycling is worth it.

Some recycling tips and tricks 

While each council has its own set of rules for what you can and can’t recycle, there are some guidelines that apply to most areas. Below, you’ll find some tips and tricks for items that are widely recycled in the UK. 

  • • Help reduce contamination by rinsing out and wiping off any food waste from containers. When items are found to be contaminated, it means that the entire load of waste could be sent to landfill instead of being recycled.  
  • • When recycling foil, make sure to scrunch it up into a ball first, and add more foil lids or other aluminium scraps to the mix to make it larger. The bigger the aluminium ball, the easier it is to recycle. Top tip: we suggest saving the aluminium ball until it’s bigger than your fist before popping it into your recycling bin. 
  • • Don’t know if something like wrapping paper is made with plastic? Just scrunch it up in a ball. If it holds its shape, it’s made with paper, and if it springs back, it’s made with plastic. 
  • • For large items that are too big for the recycling bin, check to see if your local authority offers a collection service. If not, try to drop it off at your local recycling centre.   
  • • Safety first! Be sure to bring any batteries and mobile phones to recycling centres instead of throwing them in your bin. They can be a fire hazard and therefore unsafe to put in your bin. 

 So, what can we recycle? 

Ah yes, the age-old question. And while we’d love to have a definitive list, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You see, every council has their own list of rules, so while something can be considered ‘widely recycled’ that doesn’t mean it’ll get recycled where you live. We know, it’s super confusing. But not to worry! We’ve done the hard work for you and have collected all the information you need and put it into a super easy to read format. Just click on your area below to find out all the rules, and be on the lookout for your local area to be added to the councils list below as we continue to build on this in the future:

Bolton Council 

Bradford Metropolitan District Council 

Bury Council 

Calderdale Council

Cheshire East Council 

Hambleton District Council

Harrogate Borough Council 

High Peak Borough Council

Kirklees Council

Leeds City Council

Manchester City Council 

Oldham Council 

Rochdale Borough Council 

Salford City Council 

Selby District Council

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council 

Tameside Metropolitan 

Trafford Council 

Wakefield Council

Warrington Borough Council 

Wigan Council 

York (City of York Council)

We hope this helps you get started with recycling!

Look how much plastic we've saved!


Plastic bottles saved and counting


Wheelie bins of plastic saved from landfill

Share the love...