If in doubt, throw it out
In response to the UK public’s uncertainty when recycling at home, The Recycling Association has provided a simple piece of advice: if in doubt, throw it out.
Packaging is becoming increasingly complex, while local authorities can have completely different collection schemes compared to neighbouring ones adding to the confusion.
However, The Recycling Association is saying that you should always recycle clean, single material plastics, paper, metal cans and glass in your recycling bin.
If an item of packaging is made of multiple materials and you aren’t sure whether it can be recycled or not, it is better to put it into your general waste bin than your recycling bin. This is because almost one fifth of the material collected for recycling from households is material that cannot currently be recycled.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of The Recycling Association, said: “We have thought for a while that the public are increasingly confused when looking at packaging items whether they can be recycled or not.
“Some people may think they should put it in the recycling just in case it can be recycled and do the right thing. But often, this can lead to more contamination of the materials that can genuinely be recycled.
“So our advice to people is If in doubt, throw it out as that is better than putting the wrong items in the recycling bin.”
This has been backed up by a survey undertaken by The Recycling Association that found that the public know you can recycle the simplest household items, but get confused when the products are more complex.
Members of the public were questioned by The Recycling Association over whether they would recycle common household packaging in their recycling bin at home or not, or whether they were unsure.
The results were: 100% of respondents said they would recycle a baked bean can after the beans had been eaten; a total of 42% said they recycled a black meat tray with a clear plastic film covering, 44% did not, while 14% were unsure; people were more confident about recycling a spray detergent bottle, with 89% saying they put it in their recycling at home, only 9% did not, and just 3% were unsure; when it came to a paper envelope with a plastic window for the address, 75% of people would put these in the recycling bin, 21% would not and 4% were unsure.
Ellin added: “We would also like to see more consistency in local authority collections too. For example, some local authorities collect black plastic meat trays and some don’t, even though this is currently a challenging material to recycle.”