Up to 8 in 10 households still failing to recycle simple items, survey reveals

A study of 2,000 adults found a quarter don’t feel educated enough about what they can, and can’t, throw away or the impact this could have on the environment.

Only 42 per cent break down their cardboard boxes for pick-up, and 59 per cent don’t think to put paper anywhere other than their general waste bin.

Food (81 per cent), aluminium foil (73 per cent), newspapers (65 per cent) and wine bottles (67 per cent) also make their way into the general household bin waste.

The study also found a quarter of adults admitted their recycling boxes are only ever half full when it comes to bin day. And while 66 per cent try to recycle as much as they can, 55 per cent are still very unclear about what can be collected, and what can’t.

Other items likely to be popped into the rubbish bin include bulbs, compost, grass clippings and pizza boxes. While others don’t think to recycle magazines, envelopes or aluminium foil – all which can be easily recycled.

But three in 10 adults often find items they have put in their recycling boxes are still there after the collection has taken place – as they weren’t deemed suitable.

Busy schedules are cited as a reason for 24 per cent not to organise items into their bins each week while one in five can’t be bothered to recycle – and opt to put everything in the rubbish bin instead.

Robinsons, which commissioned the survey, has teamed up with Biffa’s waste strategy and packaging expert, Roger Wright, to create 10 handy hacks on how to recycle effectively.

Roger said: “In the UK, our recycling habits have plateaued with roughly only 50 per cent of the things that could be recycled, actually getting recycled.

“There are lots of reasons for this but we feel it needs more intervention from brands and retailers to incentivise or gamify good habits in this respect, in order to move the dial.

Recycle Week is a great time to shine a light on this situation, to educate and enable people to do more.

To find out what you can recycle in your area, go to https://www.recyclenow.com/about-us/recycling-locator-tool.

Your recycling questions answered 

1. What packaging is best for recycling?
Packaging made from a single material, such as hard plastic (e.g. drinks bottles), cardboard, aluminium, metal or glass, is really easy to recycle. While certain cartons made from layered cardboard, soft plastic and aluminium are technically recyclable, it’s a difficult process to separate out the component parts. Baby food, pet food and detergent pouches can be recycled along with plastic bags and wrappings at selected retailers. Otherwise, these need to be put in the waste bin.

2. What do I do with old batteries?
Please don’t put old batteries in the bin. If damaged, they could start a fire. You may be able to put them out for collection by placing them in a clear plastic bag tied to your bin but do check with your local council first. There are also often collection points for batteries in many shops and offices.

3. Should I rinse out empty cans, squeezy bottles and other containers?
Yes, as any food left inside will contaminate the recycling process. Pizza boxes for example should only be recycled if there’s no food left on the cardboard – a little grease is fine. The same goes for food trays and tin foil.

4. Can plastic squash bottle tops be recycled?
Yes, but please leave them screwed to the bottle as they have a higher chance of being recycled. If they go in separately, they’re likely to be screened out due to their small size.

5. What’s the best thing to do with old shopping bags?
Plastic shopping bags, bubble wrap and plastic film can be recycled at most major supermarkets.

6. Can I recycle polystyrene packaging?
Unfortunately, polystyrene can’t be recycled so please place it in your general waste. If there’s a lot of it, you can dispose of it at your nearest household waste centre.

7. Aerosol cans are made of metal. So, can they be recycled?
Empty and completely depressurized aerosols can go into the recyclable bin, but please don’t crush or flatten them. If the lid is plastic, you should remove it and pop into the recycling separately.

8. What bin is best for birthdays and Christmas wrapping paper?
Do the scrunch test! Crumple the paper into a ball and then open your hand. If it remains scrunched up it can likely be recycled, but if it bounces back into its original shape, it can’t be recycled. On greetings cards, remove any parts that contain plastic, glitter, or unidentifiable embellishments and dispose of these in your general waste bin, before recycling the rest.

9. Can takeaway coffee cups be recycled?
Coffee cups are not normally accepted in household recycling collection schemes but can be returned for recycling at some high street coffee shops. Better still, take advantage of the discounts offered by many shops by taking along your own re-usable cup.

10. Can I recycle coloured hard plastics?
If you can safely pour something down the sink or the toilet, like shampoo or detergent, the bottles themselves are then easily recycled. While clear plastic bottles for most soft drinks, squash and milk are transformed back into bottles, coloured hard plastic packaging can still be turned into new objects like paint trays, garden furniture, guttering and drainpipes.

Top 20 items Brits aren’t recycling – and how you can do so effectively

1. Fluorescent bulbs – take these back to your Household Recycling centre to be safely recycled

2. Compost – is great for the garden or place into the kerbside green waste bin if you have one

3. Food – can be put in food waste collections where available

4. Grass clippings – place into the kerbside green waste bin if you have one, or take these to your local recycling centre

5. Aluminium foil – remove any food residue first before recycling at home

6. Pizza boxes – remove any food residue first before recycling at home

7. Milk bottles – empty, rinse and pop the top back on before recycling

8. Food containers – empty, rinse and remove any food residue

9. Wine bottles – empty, rinse

10. Magazines – remove any plastic packaging and place in paper bin

11. Yoghurt pots – empty, rinse and remove any residue

12. Newspapers – remove any plastic packaging and place in paper bin

13. Plastic pots – empty, rinse and remove any food residue first

14. Olive oil bottles – ensure they are empty first, then recycle with other glass

15. Envelopes – place in paper bin

16. Metal/aluminium cans – empty, rinse

17. Paper – valuable recyclable material only when clean. If paper is brown, it should be placed with card

18. Cardboard boxes – break down and place in recycling bin. Remove any glitter or plastics on greetings cards and place these in general waste before recycling

19. Drinks cans (beer, soft drinks etc) – empty and rinse

20. Plastic bottles – empty, rinse and pop the plastic cap back on

Chris Price