Are you doing it wrong? Tips for better recycling

Recycling tips

Mass production of plastic only started 7 decades ago in the 50s, but due to its acceleration, we are surrounded by plastic in all industries. We are using around 20% more plastic than we did back then. We create around 9 metric tonnes, most of which is disposable plastic. Plastic also takes around 500 years to degrade which is why it is causing huge problems for our planet, especially our oceans. 

According to national geographic, A study was launched in 2016 as scientists tried to get a handle on the amount of plastic that ends up in the seas and the harm it is causing to birds, marine life and fish. The prediction that by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish, ton for ton, has become one of the most-quoted statistics and a rallying cry to do something about it. This statistic is quite literally shocking! 

So where does our recycling go? 

Like me, you may pop your cardboard, glass and plastic bottles in the recycling bin, put your bin out for it to be collected and then never think about it again. For us, it has gone and it's not something we need to think about again, what actually happens to it all though? I started researching a few months ago and found that actually a lot of the products we send off to be recycled isn't recycled like we think. 

According to an article by the guardian in 2019, about half of all paper and cardboard, and two-thirds of plastics – will be loaded on to container ships to be sent to Europe or Asia for recycling. Paper and cardboard goes to mills; glass is washed and re-used or smashed and melted, like metal and plastic. Food, and anything else, is burned or sent to landfill.

I think i naively thought that because councils collected our recycling regularly and collected a wide range of materials that we must great infrastructure to deal with this, I didn't know that actually a lot of it was sent to other countries to be recycled. According to Greenpeace a lot of the countries we send it to actually have low recycling rates which is contributing to a growing problem of recycling being dumped or burnt illegally. most of our recycling used to go to China, but when they banned this we now send a huge majority of this to Turkey or Malaysia.

So should we stop recycling? 

Absolutely not! we still need to recycle as much as we can but the government need to be doing more to help us cut down on plastic consumption altogether. until this happens, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are recycling correctly: 

Tips for Recycling

Always Check your local council for information

What you can and cant recycle can change often. Ensure you are up to date with exactly what you can put in your kerbside recycling. You can also find more information about other recycling facilities your council might have. For example electrical's or furniture. 

Know your plastics and which ones can be recycled.

Not all plastics can be recycled, especially kerbside so know which ones you can and cant recycle. PET & PP can usually be recycled through your council whereas other plastics might need to go to other recycling facilities or will need to go to landfill. 

recycling tips


Don't be dirty - clean your containers

ensure your containers are cleaned out before popping them in your recycling bin. this just stops mould or bacteria spreading and can reduce any contamination on the recycling loads. I also think it's just courteous. Certain materials cannot be recycled if dirty, for example greasy cardboard cannot be recycled as it contaminates the rest of the cardboard. 

Collect foil into a large ball

Small pieces of foil cannot be recycled as they are too small to be picked up by the machine. Collect your foil in a jar and then create a large foil ball the size of a tennis ball then pop in your kerbside recycling. 

recycling tips

What else can we be doing?

Reuse Reuse Reuse

Trying to find alternatives which can be reused is the most sustainable choice. reducing your waste altogether will help. Try swapping a plastic bottle which can be recycled for a reusable bottle. Switch your baking paper for a Eco Living reusable baking liner. Switch your foil for reusable Fresh Thinking Co food covers or sandwich bags. Simple swaps like this can help reduce your overall waste. 


Composting is also a great way to reduce your waste. You can compost card and paper at home instead of sending to recycling and this gives nutrients back into the soil.

Sign the petition

Tell Boris Johnson: Fix the UK’s plastic waste crisis – stop dumping our plastic waste on other countries; cut the UK’s single use plastic by 50% by 2025; and roll out a Bottle Return Scheme. Sign the petition from Greenpeace here.  

I would love to know any recycling tips you may have, leave your comments below. Check us out on instagram for top tips on recycling. @the_plastic_free_life

Lucy x

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