Lifestyle

Guide On How To Recycle Properly

Drowning in packaging? Confused about how to recycle properly in the UK? This simple guide cuts through the clutter. 


Many people are unaware that you need to wash your recyclables if they have any remaining residue, in order for them to be recycled. In fact, if more than 5% of recyclable packaging is stained/soiled with food or other organic materials, it will risk diverting the whole recycling load – not just yours – to landfill.1

So, how can we prevent this from happening? Read on to find out…

Plastic PET (like a plastic bottle)

  1. Assuming you’ve finished it off, give it a rinse (including the lid)
  2. If stained red / yellow, hot soapy water usually does it*
  3. Leave to dry for 20 minutes
  4. Squash it down as much as possible and pop it in your mixed or material-specific bin (if your recycling waste needs to be pre-sorted)

*If the stain isn’t coming off at all, it’s probably going to be rejected and is actually better off in your general waste bin.

How To Recycle Properly | Myvegan

Cardboard

  1. If it’s covered in grease stains (like a pizza box) it’s probably game-over and best off in the general waste bin
  2. Otherwise, (and once you’re done dipping yesterday’s pizza crusts in hummus), remove any remaining food
  3. Squash the cardboard and pop it in your mixed or material-specific bin

How To Recycle Properly | Myvegan

Cans and Glasses

  1. These are sturdy and you can afford to blast them clean
  2. Leave to dry for 20 minutes
  3. Pop it in your mixed or material-specific bin

How To Recycle Properly | Myvegan

Plastic film

  1. Check your local recycling first, as this isn’t always collected
  2. If they don’t accept flexible plastics then this will need to go in general waste
  3. If they do accept flexible plastics – great. First off, give it a rinse
  4. Leave to dry for 20 mins
  5. Pop it in your mixed or material-specific bin

Leaving it to dry for a short stint is a super important step because wet recycling might as well be food-stained recycling in the eyes of the processors.

How To Recycle Properly | Myvegan

What about extra water waste?

If you’re worried about wasting extra water on washing your recycling products, then not to worry. Simply rinse them after you’ve done your washing up, or add them in with your existing dishwasher load. This ensures your household doesn’t use extra water in your everyday routine, and that your recycling waste is to the correct standard.

Summary

Finally, we can’t not sandwich this piece with 2 critical reminders / caveats:

  1. Recycling collects packaging waste at the end of a chain and brings it back into circulation, which is so important, but if the packaging can actually be avoided in the first place, this is massively preferable. We’re a long way from having surplus recycled materials, so if you can buy loose apples over bagged, without it leading to food-waste at home, then we work towards stopping waste at the source.
  2. About 90% of the overall footprint of a food item can be attributed to the product itself and only 10% to its packaging. Our attention / focus should match this – AKA we should be focusing 90% of our efforts on choosing food items with known, low footprints like oats and most plant-based foods.

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Jenessa Hung

Jenessa Hung

Writer and expert

Jenessa graduated with a degree in Fashion Marketing & Branding from Nottingham Trent University, where she conducted a year-long research study on the evolution of health and wellness. She's followed a plant-based diet for several years, and believes in making healthy and sustainable lifestyles approachable and accessible for all - no matter one's background or budget. In Jenessa's spare time, you'll catch her enjoying the odd spot of yoga, getting creative in the kitchen, and trying out the latest plant-based launches.