Do your bit for the environment and see how much you can recycle at home. Below is our guide to recycling in the UK.
AEROSOLS: 75% of councils will now recycle these but where possible, buy pump-driven atomisers. Ensure that your aerosol is completely empty before you decide to recycle it. Aerosols can be stored for a long time so hold on to a half empty can if possible. Do not pierce, crush or flatten the aerosol before recycling. Also, detach any loose or easily removable parts, such as the lid, and dispose of them with the rest of your rubbish.
ALUMINIUM: Pie trays, milk bottle tops, yoghurt pot lids, and chocolate wrappers can be recycled. Barbeque and freezing trays, cigarette and tobacco foil and screw top lids from wine bottles can also be recycled. Clean the foil before recycling. If you collect drinks cans as part of a Cash for Cans scheme, you may be able to sell used aluminium foil too.
APPLIANCES: Kettles, toasters, TV’s etc. Re-use by giving away to friends, donating to charity shops, or selling in local papers or second hand shops. You could also try selling it through Freecycle. Freecycle is a non-profit movement that encourages people to give things for free in their local community. Many contain steel and aluminium which can be recycled – take them to your recycling centre.
ASBESTOS: Asbestos is a building insulation material used before the 1970’s. There are 3 types – white, blue and brown. Removal of asbestos can disturb the fibres of which it is made; these fibres can be harmful if they are breathed in. Use a facemask and gloves when handling asbestos. Keep asbestos damp and contained in a plastic bag when transporting, this will reduce airborne fibres. Some skip companies will safely remove asbestos, such as SkipHireUK. Some councils will accept asbestos at their household waste recycling centres. Contact your local council for further advice on the removal of asbestos.
BATTERIES: All waste batteries are classified as hazardous waste and recycling is always the best option. Ordinary household batteries do contain some hazardous chemicals so ideally should not be thrown out with the day to day rubbish.
Ordinary batteries require a lot of energy to make, so in order to save energy, use rechargeable batteries and electricity mains instead of ordinary batteries. If you do have to use batteries, then rechargeable batteries are the most environmentally friendly option as can last for up to several hundred charging cycles resulting in less waste being produced. Rechargeable batteries contain harmful metals, so should never be thrown away with daily rubbish, they should be returned to manufacturer for disposal or recycled elsewhere. You can also buy solar-powered battery chargers. Ni-Cd (Nickel-Cadmium – a type of rechargeable battery) batteries should NOT be disposed of with normal household waste – hand them it at your recycling centre.
Lead Acid (car) Batteries: Can be recycled at recycling centres.
Silver Oxide Cells: Used in watches, calculators, and hearing aids. Jewellers may accept them because they have a recyclable silver content.
Mercuric Oxide Cells: Another type of small battery used in watches and calculators. They should NOT be disposed of with normal household waste. Hand them in at your recycling centre if a jeweller will not take them.
From February 2010, shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year (approx 345 x four-packs of AA batteries) will have to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store. This means there will be lots more places where you can take your old batteries for recycling.
BEDS: Wooden furniture can be recycled at your local reycling centre. Furniture made out of leather or synthetic materials cannot be recycled. Contact your local authority if you need to dispose of bulky items like a sofa or mattress. Social Services or local community groups can sometimes make use of these. Alternatively, take them to the recycling centre. Ask family, friends and neighbours if they have a use for your sofa or spare bed. Try Free-Cycling your furniture or giving it to a furniture workshop such as Viridian Design or the Furniture Re-use Network
BICYCLES: Can be repaired, or sold second hand. The following organisations take old bikes and refurbish them for charity or community projects:
Some cities have a bicycle loaning scheme. If all else fails, take it to the recycling centre. Before taking your bicycle to the recycling centre, remove any rubber or plastic parts such as tyres, inner tubes, saddles, brakes, plastic light or lock fittings and bells.
BOOKS: Books can’t usually be recycled along with other paper recycling because of the glue that’s used to bind them. Instead, there are many possibilities for reusing, donating or reselling books. Can be sold second hand, or given to charities and schools, doctors’ or dentists’ surgeries, and hospitals. Some areas have a book recycling bank. Try local second hand book dealers, jumble sales or car boot sales. You can also sell or swap your books online:
BOTTLES: Glass containers such as bottles and jars should be cleaned and any tops or corks removed before recycling. When using bottle banks, put the glass in the correct bank for clear, green or brown glass. Blue glass goes in with green glass. Only use bottle banks during the day – the sound of smashing bottles can make a real racket which disturbs people who live nearby! Remember not to litter the area around the bottle bank with your empty bags and boxes. You can’t recycle: window panes, light bulbs, glass ovenware or electrical equipment. Dispose of these carefully with your normal household waste.
BUILDING RUBBLE: No. Your local recycling centre won’t accept bricks or rubble for recycling, and they can’t be collected as part of your local authority’s kerbside scheme. Re-use for another job. Non-commercial rubble can be taken to the recycling centre. You could try and sell it as building materials are always in demand. Advertise in local papers or on community noticeboards. Alternatively, try a jumble or car boot sale. There are also online market places for building materials – check out the internet to find one near you.
CANS: Aluminium and steel cans can be recycled. Wash and crush them down first. (The best way to distinguish between steel and aluminium is to use a magnet – steel is magnetic, aluminium is not.) If you use a lot of drinks cans, for example at work or at school, you can sell them to a local Cash for Cans organisation. For every tonne of aluminium we recycle here in the UK, Alupro has committed to plant one tree in Burkina Faso. You really can turn your cans into trees!
CARDBOARD: Cardboard can be recycled. Use a cardboard box to collect your other recycling in – then you won’t have to separate it later! Some paper banks and kerbside schemes DO NOT accept cardboard. It can also be torn into small pieces and composted, or can be used as a mulch for vegetable beds over winter. Your local school or playgroup may use cardboard boxes for craft projects.
CARRIER BAGS: Carrier bags are rarely collected as part of local authority kerbside collections, but some local recycling centres now accept them. Even though they can be recycled, please try to re-use them, or get long-lasting cotton bags. Some supermarkets now offer in-store recycling banks for carrier bags or the option to hand the bags back to the driver if your shopping is delivered to your home. Why not check out your local supermarket the next time you visit? The bins are normally located by the main entrance doors.
Most supermarkets have ‘bag for life’ schemes. You buy one large, durable carrier bag for 10p which should last at least 10 trips. When it wears out the cashier will replace it free of charge and the old one will be recycled by the supermarket. Better still, take a canvas or string bag with you when you go shopping – they’re much stronger than carrier bags and won’t dig into your hands!
CARTONS: Cartons are now collected by over 370 local authorities across the country, which equates to 86 per cent of UK and Guernsey local authority areas. Firstly check that your local authority can accept them. A few local authorities collect them at the kerbside, then segregate them from paper and other materials either at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) or at the kerbside itself; some local authorities provide recycling banks specifically for beverage cartons at recycling centres. You can find out if cartons are collected in your area by checking : www.tetrapakrecycling.co.uk
CHRISTMAS TREES: Can be taken to the recycling centre to be turned into compost. Try to use a living tree in a pot that can be put outside and used year after year, or use an artificial tree.
CLOTHES: Clothes that are in good condition can be donated to charity shops in the following ways:
- Take them to a local charity shop yourself.
- Put them in a textiles bank provided by charities like Oxfam, The Salvation Army and Scope. You can find these at supermarkets or local council sites. Try and make sure clothes are clean and dry before you donate them.
- Charities and jumble sales also make door-to-door collections. Keep an eye out for those plastic sacks coming through your letterbox.
Textiles that are worn out or in unsaleable condition can be left in special textile banks at recycling centres. The fabrics are shredded before being reprocessed into new items. Industrial quality “blankets” which protect equipment whilst being transporting is one example of what recycled textiles may become.
COAT HANGERS: Charity, second hand shops, and some dry cleaners will have a use for these.
COMPUTERS: You can dispose of computer waste by returning the product to the manufacturer, taking the item to a professional waste disposal facility or donating the goods to a non-profit organisation, to schools, or community groups. Alternatively, sell through the local papers or second hand shops. You could also try selling it through Freecycle. Freecycle is a non-profit movement that encourages people to give things for free in their local community.
COOKING OIL: Do not pour down the drain, or into the tanks for engine oil at your recycling centre. Hand the container in at your recycling centre.
EGG BOXES: Playgroups and schools may find a use for these. Cardboard egg boxes can be used as seed pots, and are biodegradable, so they can be torn into small pieces and composted.
ENGINE OIL: It is ILLEGAL to pour this down the drain. There will be a bank at your recycling centre for this.
ENVELOPES: Re-use these by using ‘new address’ labels, but they can also be recycled. Try to purchase envelopes made from recycled paper.
FIZZY DRINKS BOTTLES: Buy glass bottles where possible. ‘PET’ and ‘PVC’ bottles can be recycled in a plastics recycling bank. There are about 50 different types of plastic. The main types include:
- HDPE – Opaque bottles
- PVC – Transparent bottles, with a seam running across the base
- PET – Transparent bottles, with a hard moulded spot in the centre of the base
If your home recycling bin doesn’t take plastic bottles, then deposit them at your local recycling bank. Clean bottles before recycling them. Buy plastic bottles in bulk whenever possible to reduce packaging waste. Carriers can be reused next time you’re at the shops, or deposit used ones at collection points provided by some supermarkets.
FURNITURE: Donate usable furniture to charity shops, schools, community centres, friends or neighbours. Sell furniture at garage sales or in auctions. Clean and repair broken furniture before you sell/donate it. Before you sell/donate your furniture, make sure it has the kite mark of approval to show that it meets British safety standards. Or you can contact the Furniture Reuse Network for further information on recycling furniture: FRN, 48-54 West Street, St Philips, Bristol, BS2 0BL, 0117 954 3571
OFFERS is the first UK scheme, which was specifically set up to promote the reuse of office furniture and equipment. Since 1996 OFFERS has been assisting businesses and organisations in London to divert office furniture and equipment from landfill. Unwanted items are collected and then passed on to community, voluntary sector groups and small start-up businesses to maximise the environmental and social benefits of reuse.
GLASS: Re-use where possible. Sometimes bottles can be returned. Glass bottles and jars can be recycled, but the colours must be separated. Blue glass can go into the same bank as green glass. Mixed-coloured glass cannot be recycled. Remove the lids and tops (these may be made of a recyclable metal). NON-recyclable glass includes window glass, light bulbs, Pyrex/Visionware cooking dishes, and glass crockery items such as wine glasses and tumblers.
GREETINGS CARDS: Every January The Woodland Trust teams up with Tesco and WHSmith to collect and recycle millions of Christmas cards. Just take your Christmas cards along to WHSmith high street stores and Tesco Extra and Superstores. The money raised goes to help the Woodland Trust to plant trees and maintain our woodlands. You really can turn your cards back into trees! Or you can turn them into gift tags or recycle them.
HAZARDOUS WASTE: Includes Oil, paints and solvents, old medicines (return these to the pharmacist), pesticides, anti-freeze, brake fluid, oven cleaners, furniture polish, stain removers, fluorescent lights, CFL’s (low energy light bulbs), wood preservatives, and asbestos. Anything you think may be hazardous should be taken to the recycling centre and handed to the site agent. Explosives or fireworks should be handed in at a police station.
ICE-CREAM CONTAINERS: Re-use for freezing food, lunch boxes, or storage. These CANNOT be recycled in a plastics bank.
JUNK MAIL: Can be recycled, but why receive it in the first place? You can ask not to receive it by contacting the Mail Preference Service (www.mpsonline.org.uk)
KITCHEN FOIL: Re-use where possible. Clean foil can be recycled, along with milk bottle tops, foil containers etc. Metallised plastic i.e. crisp packets can sometimes look like foil – scrunch it in your hand – if it springs back, it’s plastic.
KITCHEN ROLL: Use rolls made from recycled paper. Can be torn up and composted.
LIGHT BULBS: Energy efficient light bulbs are a type of fluorescent lamp and can be recycled at a number of household recycling centres but older style bulbs aren’t recyclable. Old style incandescent bulbs are NOT recyclable. Please throw them away in your waste bin. They are made from a different type of glass and also contain metal parts so cannot be recycled with your other glass.
MAGAZINES: You can recycle magazines along with your other paper items via your local authority’s kerbside collections or at your nearest paper bank. Contact local doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries, or hospitals, to see if they would welcome magazine donations for their waiting rooms.
MEDICINES: Should be returned the pharmacist.
METAL: All metal can be taken to a recycling centre and placed in the scrap metal bank. Alternatively, a local scrap metal merchant may be willing to collect it.
MILK BOTTLES: If your milk is delivered in glass bottles, you should always return them to your milkman. Plastic milk bottles can be recycled with your plastic waste.
MOBILE PHONES: The main channels for disposing of mobiles are the shops that sell them, but there are other organisations and charities that accept them for refurbishment and recycling. Up to 80 per cent of a phone is recyclable, so don’t send it to landfill or leave it in the drawer – recycle it!
NAPPIES: Disposable nappies are a major environmental problem because they take a very long time to break down naturally, and are only used once! They are also made from non-renewable materials. Terry towelling nappies are able to be used again and again, and can be made of natural materials. If you use disposable nappies, choose unbleached and dioxin-free varieties. There are also a wide variety of in-between options.
NEWSPAPER: Can be recycled, or used to light fires, or to protect surfaces during DIY jobs. Some kennels and animal charities use newspaper for bedding.
OIL: See Engine Oil or Cooking Oil.
ORGANIC WASTE AND COMPOSTING: Some local authorities collect kitchen waste or provide containers at recycling centres.Composting is a biological process. The fertiliser that is the end result of composting can only be as good as the ingredients you added initially. The first list below contains the ideal ingredients to add to your compost bin, the second those you are better off leaving out:
· Raw vegetable peelings and fruit
· Egg shells (crushed)
· Tea, tea bags or coffee granules
· Shredded paper or soft card
· Straw or hay (chopped and moist)
· Grass cuttings, plant trimmings and flowers
· Hair and fur
· Small amounts of leaves
· Chicken, pigeon or horse manure
· Animal bedding
Ingredients to avoid:
· Meat or fish (cooked or raw)
· Cooked or baked foods
· Dairy products
· Persistent weeds
· Coal ash
· Dog or cat mess
· Nappies or used tissue
· Coloured or shiny paper
Alternatively place your organic waste in the green waste container at the recycling centre.
PACKAGING: Try to buy products packaged in recycled or recyclable materials. Don’t buy overpackaged items.
PAINT: Your local recycling centre may have a donation point for paint – it is reused rather than recycled. Alternatively, donate your paint directly to a local Community Repaint scheme. Please note: Only usable paint suitable for domestic application can be accepted. Unfortunately they are unable to accept car paint, aerosols & spray paints, paint over 10 years old, paint containing lead or paint that is not in its original container.
PAPER: All types of paper can be recycled.
PLASTICS: Re-use plastic containers where possible. Many plastics can be recycled. Check that the type of plastic can be recycled before you buy, and especially before putting it into the recycling bank. Plastics that can be recycled include:
PETE/PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate – fizzy drinks, mineral water, cooking oil and cordial bottles
HDPE – Polyethylene – Opaque bottles, containers for items such as washing up liquid, detergent, shampoo, milk and fruit juices.
PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride – containers for mineral water, toiletries, cooking oils. They are clear and have an obvious seam running through them.
Polystyrene, including burger and chips trays, margarine and yogurt pots CANNOT be recycled.
Plastics can be identified by looking for the recycle symbol, usually indented into the material. Common symbols are shown below; the abbreviation for each type is shown beneath the symbol.
PLASTIC BAGS: Plastic carrier bags can sometimes be recycled – check at your recycling centre. Alternatively, some shops will take them to reuse or recycle. Try to re-use them as much as possible. You could use them as bin liners for small pedal bins, . Shops tend to put any item you buy in a fresh plastic bag – ask them not to, and use the bags you already have.
PRINTER CARTRIDGES: Increasingly these are being collected at local recycling centres but are not generally collected from kerbside. However, there are other organisations that will recycle them for you. Why not take your empty cartridges to be refilled at CARTRIDGE WORLD? You can save up to 60% on the price of a new cartridge!
REFRIGERATORS AND FREEZERS: Most recycling centres will accept white goods, which include fridges, freezers, cookers, washing machines and dishwashers. Your local authority will also collect bulky white goods items such as fridges and washing machines for you, although they may charge you for this service. Similary, a commercial company may be able to collect your fridge or freezer. If you are buying a new appliance, check with the store whether they can take your old one away for recycling at the same time. You may even be able to arrange a part-exchange!
If your appliance is still in good working order – ask family, friends and neighbours if they have a use for it. Or try:
SHOES: You can recycle shoes at most recycling centres, or donate them to a charity shop. Before you donate your old shoes be sure to tie them together in pairs as they can easily get separated and single shoes can’t be sold on.
SPECTACLES: Local authorities do not collect spectacles but many opticians collect them for charities. Ask your optician if they collect old spectacles. Many do – they are donated to charities who send them to developing countries.
TEXTILES: Textiles made from both natural and man-made fibres can be recycled. Textiles include: curtains, bedding, towels, handbags, cloths, rugs and mats. Please wash and put in a plastic bag before handing them over. Some charity shops will accept them, alternatively place in a textiles recycling bank. Textiles that are in a reasonable condition can be donated to charity shops in the following ways:
- Take them to a local charity shop yourself. Charities like Oxfam, Save The Children, Barnado’s, Age Concern and Cancer Research have chains of high street shops.
- Put them in a textiles bank provided by charities like Oxfam, The Salvation Army and Scope. You can find these at supermarkets
TYRES: Old tyres can be used in the garden – they can be used for potato or strawberry growing, or for creating a miniature raised flower bed. Farmers use them to secure plastic coverings over silage pits. They can be recycled into more tyres, adhesives,wire and pipe insulation and other rubber goods. They are also ground up and added to asphalt paving, which increases the life of the paving by 4 or 5 times.
YELLOW PAGES: The great news is that it’s never been easier to recycle old Yellow Pages directories, 99% of local authorities now accept them for recycling, so you can put them in a paper recycling bank or use your council’s paper doorstep collection. These can be shredded for use as animal bedding, or they can be recycled.
For more information on recycling visit: