14 Mar, 2024
Written By: Josh Morris

Your Questions about Recycling Answered 

Your Questions about Recycling Answered. Green Mobius Loop Recycling Image in the centre of picture with black question mark in the middle. Surrounded by recycling items like a glass bottle, metal can, cardboard box and 6 other question marks.

Recycling is being pushed on households and businesses more and more these days. With landfills becoming more and more tightly packed & more materials being produced now more than ever, it is no wonder governments are trying to tighten up the process. 

With so many new recycling methods & guidelines flying around, it can be tough keeping track with what goes where and why....well don't fret, you can find all the frequently asked questions about recycling in this blog

Can you get fined for not recycling?

Not really, although who knows if that will change. 

The enforcement of fines for bin collection depends on the local regulations and waste management policies in your county. You could be fined if:

You put your waste out and it:

  • causes an obstruction to neighbours, such as forcing people using wheelchairs or buggies to walk on the road
  • restricts access to the pavement or street, for example leaving waste bags outside your property for several days
  • is likely to attract vermin like foxes and rats, such as leaving bags or open receptacles out days before a waste collection
  • is unsightly (torn bags or overturned receptacles are left out)

You can find more info below:


Does recycling get rejected?

We all get rejected in life, and recycling is no different!

You have definitely seen a stray bin left alone, still full by the council on collection day, this would usually mean that the bin has been filled with the incorrect waste so has been rejected by the council. No love lost round here! 

However, if the contamination sneaks under the radar and finds it way to the bottom of the bin after your waste collection, does it still get rejected?

The short answer is yes. 

Recycling can be rejected for any of the following reasons: 

  • Contamination: Food Waste, Liquid, Food Waste & other materials will be rejected. 
  • Mixed Materials: If materials like Glass, Paper & Plastic are mixed together, they will be rejected at the recycling process.
  • Dirty or Wet Items: Materials that are dirty or wet, may be rejected.

What does contaminated recycling bin mean? 

It is quite simple really. All contaminated means is that something is in the bin that shouldn't be.  This could be that non-recyclable items or materials that are not suitable for recycling are mixed in with recyclables.

This could be for any of the above reasons

Can you put shredded paper in your cardboard bin?

Recycling processes vary by location, but one common challenge is dealing with shredded paper. When paper is shredded, its fibres are cut into small pieces. These smaller pieces can be problematic for recycling facilities because they are difficult to sort and can clog machinery. Most recycling processes involve baling materials to transport them efficiently to recycling centres. Unfortunately, the small size of shredded paper pieces makes them too light and difficult to bale along with larger items, which can hinder the recycling process.

Although it might seem convenient to place shredded paper in your cardboard recycling bin, it's essential to follow your local recycling guidelines. Some recycling programs do allow shredded paper to be mixed with cardboard, but they often have specific requirements to prevent operational issues. For example, placing shredded paper in a paper bag before adding it to the recycling bin can help keep the pieces contained and easier to manage during the sorting process. This method prevents the shredded paper from scattering and mixing with other recyclables in a way that could complicate sorting and recycling efforts.

However, not all recycling programs accept shredded paper in the cardboard bin, and some may have separate bins or specific drop-off points for paper products, including shredded paper. This is because some facilities are equipped to handle small paper pieces separately, ensuring they are recycled efficiently without interfering with the recycling of larger paper and cardboard items.

To ensure that your recycling efforts are as effective as possible, it's crucial to check with your local waste management or recycling centre for their specific guidelines regarding shredded paper.

Can I put extra waste next to my bin or will the bin men only take recycling that fits in the bin? 

Generally, most waste collection services require that all recycling and waste fit inside the designated bins provided by the council or waste management service. This policy is mainly due to load capacity and vehicle utilization considerations. Waste collection vehicles have a finite amount of space, and the collection schedule is designed based on the volume of waste that can fit inside the bins. Adding extra waste outside the bins can lead to overloading the collection vehicles, which may disrupt the collection schedule and affect service efficiency for the rest of the collection round. 

Also, the process of collecting extra waste that is not contained within the bins can significantly slow down the collection process. Collecting waste directly from bins is streamlined through the use of mechanical lifting equipment, which allows for quick and safe handling of bins. However, collecting additional waste placed next to bins requires manual handling by the collection crew, which is more time-consuming and can pose safety risks.

Despite these general rules, there are instances where council workers or collection crews may decide to take extra recycling material placed next to the bin. This flexibility can depend on several factors, such as the amount of extra waste, the type of materials, the current load of the collection vehicle, and the specific policies of the local council or waste management service. Some councils may allow for occasional excess waste collection, especially for recyclable materials, if it is neatly packaged and clearly separated from general waste.

If you do have excess waste that doesn't fit in your bin & the council won't take it, book a private waste collection. 

What do you do with boxes that are too big for the bin?

If you have tried everything from, flattening your cardboard, jumping on your cardboard and diving headfirst into your cardboard bin, yet you find that you still are unable to get those pesky boxes in your bin, then not to worry, there are a couple things that you can do: 

Cut or Fold the Boxes: Get the scissors out. Chop up or fold your boxes to size to create some space in your bin.

Reuse: If you have children, have a build your own robot day. Or you can donate to a nursery or school.

Bulky Collection: If you have tried all the above but are still unable to squeeze the boxes in. Look at booking a bulky waste collection. 

What happens to the recycling that's collected? 

The fate of collected waste all depends on the recycling process and the type of materials being recycled. 

Usually though, your waste is:

  1. Collected
  2. Transported
  3. Sorted
  4. Cleaned & Separated
  5. Bailed or Shredded

If you are wanting to know what happens for each individual recyclable materials and what each process entails, you can find out blog on WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR WASTE ONCE COLLECTED HERE -

How much recycling actually gets recycled?

In 2021 in the UK: 44.6% of UK household waste was recycled. 

Recycling rates can vary for different materials. For example, metals and paper/cardboard tend to have higher recycling rates compared to certain types of plastics.

You can view the UK gov statistics on waste here - https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-waste-data/uk-statistics-on-waste

Do juice cartons go in the paper or plastic bin?

Fruit juice cartons, such as Tetrapaks, are recyclable in many areas. Around 190 billion tetra Pak packages were sold in 2019 with 50 million of those being recycled. These can be recycled by throwing them in your cardboard/paper waste. 

If the juice cartons has a plastic lid or straw, make sure to separate this from the juice carton and place in your plastic bin. 

Can I put sawdust or straw or pet waste (from Hamsters, Guinea Pigs or Rabbits etc) into my food & garden waste bin?

When your little critters are making a mess and leaving pet waste for you to clean up, it can be a difficult to find out the answers for where you can dispose of this. Well we have the answers. 

The following is allowed:

Sawdust: Sawdust is often accepted, particularly if it is untreated.

Straw: Clean straw is typically suitable for composting. 

Pet Waste (Hamsters, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, etc.): Pet waste from small animals like hamsters, guinea pigs, or rabbits is generally not recommended for composting in home compost bin

What goes into an (insert colour) bin?

We wish we could list them for you, we honestly do but ...with colours & contents changing with each local council, there is no way of positively telling you what goes into each of your bins, not even Derren Brown could guess them all right! 

As different councils and waste management companies do things completely different. There is no standard practice for the same colour bins. 

Why can't black plastic be recycled?

First up, waste recycling isn't racist and it shouldn't be cancelled immediately, so lets delete the strongly worded recycling tweets & cancel the lynch mob. There are plenty of valid reasons why black plastic can't be recycled.

  • Infrared Difficulties: Recycling facilities often use infrared sorting technology to identify and separate different types of plastics. Black plastic absorbs infrared light, making it challenging for the sorting systems to recognise and properly sort.

Contamination: The colourants used to produce black plastic often contain additives that may effect the recycling process. The presence of these additives can result in lower-quality recycled plastic.

Sorting: Sorting black plastic from other plastics during the recycling process can be complex, and many facilities may avoid it altogether to streamline operations & make it quicker and economically viable. 

Can I put scrap metal in my household recycling bin? 

If they could be, we wouldn't see our favourite scrap collectors, shouting through their mic at all hours of the day, come rain or shine! 

So, how do you get rid of scrap metal, if you can't put it in your household waste bin?

Separate Scrap Metal Collection As we have already mentioned. Those mic conductors that shout SCRAP METAL, SCRAP METAL. 

Metal Recycling Facilities: Scrap metal, including items like aluminium cans, steel cans, and small metal objects, can often be recycled at metal recycling facilities. These facilities are equipped to handle various types of metal and ensure proper recycling.

Special Collection Services: Some areas provide special collection services for larger or bulkier items, including certain types of scrap metal. Check with your local waste management to inquire about any special collection services available.

Reuse or Donate: Before considering disposal, consider if the metal items can be reused or donated.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection: Certain metal items, such as appliances like fridges, may need to be disposed of at designated recycling sites.

What can't be recycled in the UK? 

Here are some household items that can't be recycled in the UK

Bubble Wrap and Plastic Film: Bubble wrap and other plastic films are typically not accepted in standard recycling bins. Check for specific collection points or return them to supermarkets with plastic bag recycling facilities.

Carpet: Most carpets are difficult to recycle due to their complex mix of different materials. Did you know that every year in the UK, carpet waste the size of Birmingham is thrown away. This can be a major issue if carpets are sent to landfill as they contain over 50 chemicals which can be carcinogenic and harmful.

You can find more about recycling your dusty old rugs here: https://carpetrecyclinguk.com/about-us/

Crisp Packet: Crisp packets are commonly made of mixed materials, such as plastic and aluminium foil, which can make them difficult to dispose of. No recycling centre wants to handle your crumbs.

Don't you worry your crisp stained fingers though, the website terracycle actually runs a free recycling programme for all your Crisps, Nuts, Popcorn and Pretzels. All you have to do is enter your postcode and you can see local drop off points for yourself: https://cutt.ly/zwuZOyjf

Plastic Bags: Most curbside recycling programs do not accept plastic bags. However, many supermarkets have designated collection points for plastic bag recycling.

Used Kitchen Roll: Kitchen roll or paper towels that have been used for cleaning or have come into contact with food are not suitable for recycling due to contamination.

Disposable Coffee Cups: Disposable coffee cups have a plastic lining that makes them challenging to recycle. Many recycling facilities do not process them, so they should be placed in general waste bins.

What are the different ways to recycle plastic? 

You hear the bad press all the time about how plastic is killing the earth and we have to get the paper straws out even those the millionaires are still flying round on their private jets!

We are not saying that plastic isn't harmful for our environment, as it is, but, what we are saying is that there are actually a tonne of different ways in which plastic can be recycled. These are: 

  • Mechanical Recycling: This involves collecting, sorting and cleaning plastic waste, which is then melted & turned into new products.
  • Chemical Recycling: Uses chemical processes to breakdown the plastic into its original form.
  • Pyrolysis: This is where the plastic is heated with no oxygen present, which means it breaks down into gas, oil etc. This is good for fuel.
  • Energy Recovery (Waste-to-Energy): You could say the BusyBins way! The plastics are burnt and broken down to produce energy.
  • Closed-Loop Recycling: This is basically where they can recycle the same plastic product over and over again. For example, plastic bottles can keep being recycled into the same plastic bottle. 
  • Reverse Vending Machines: Think Germany. You will have seen in Germany and Nordic countries, they have a practical reverse vending machine, where you can collect and take back your old plastic bottles and plastic items, and you will be rewarded for returning them. 

How do Tyres get recycled? 

Tyres are recycled through a specific tyre recycling process. This process converts tyres from those rubbery polos to various other materials such as rubber granules, steels and other products. The recycling process goes like this...

Shredding: Tyres are shredded into smaller pieces using shredding equipment. The resulting material is often referred to as tyre chips, but you can't eat these chips. 

Steel Removal: The shredded material undergoes a process to remove steel components, such as tire wires and bead wires. Magnets are commonly used to separate the steel from the rubber.

Granulation: The rubber components from the shredded tyres are further processed into granules of various sizes. These rubber granules can be used for various applications.

Crumb Rubber Production: Some tyre recycling processes involve further grinding or milling of the rubber granules to produce crumb rubber. Crumb rubber has various applications, including in sports surfaces, rubberised asphalt, and moulded products.

Do businesses have to recycle? 

Young, Old, Big, Small...no matter the size of the business, we all have to recycle. If households have to, then businesses also have to manage their recycling and waste properly.

The only difference is that when it comes to businesses, they have to research and choose a private waste provider that will dispose of their business waste legally. 

This means that choosing the right waste provider can be crucial for business, as nobody wants a waste provider that doesn't show, not only costing you time and stress, but money! 

If you are a new business or an existing business that are wanting the best tips on picking the right one, have a read of our GUIDE ON CHOOSING THE RIGHT WASTE PROVIDER BLOG HERE 

What are the 3R's 

Reduce:  Reducing aims to decrease overall waste production and environmental impact. This means cutting down on the stuff we throw away by using less stuff and being smart about how much we use. The goal is to produce less rubbish and be gentler on the planet. 

Reuse: Instead of tossing things aside, reusing means getting creative with how we use them. You can give old stuff a new lease on life by repurposing, fixing up, or passing it on to someone in need. It's all about making things last longer and cutting back on making more unnecessary stuff.

One way to practice reusing is by upcycling old items into something new and useful.

  • Turn an old ladder can be turned into a stylish bookshelf.
  • Old jars can be used to store spices or homemade candles.

By using a little creativity and some DIY skills, you can give old items a fresh purpose and save them from ending up in a landfill.

Ultimately, reusing is about being mindful of our usage and finding new ways to make the most of what we already have. By embracing a culture of reuse, we can lessen our impact on the environment and make a positive difference in the world. 

Recycle: Recycling helps to conserve natural resources and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. It also saves energy and reduces pollution, as creating products from recycled materials typically requires less energy and produces fewer greenhouse gases than producing products from raw materials.

Additionally, recycling helps to create jobs and stimulate the economy by providing employment in the collection, processing, and manufacturing of recycled materials.

There are many different types of materials that can be recycled, including paper, glass, metal, plastic, and electronics. These materials are collected from households, businesses, and other sources and then sorted at recycling facilities to remove any contaminants.

Once the materials are sorted, they are processed and transformed into new products such as paper, glass bottles, aluminium cans, and plastic containers.

What is the difference between Upcycling and Recycling? 

The difference is simple. 

Up-cycling is where you take an old item and turn them into something new rather then , for instance say you have some old clothes. Upcycling would be, instead of throwing away your old clothes or donating them, you actually turn them into a new item. So, you could turn your old clothes into pillow cases. This could be the same for any other household item. 

Recycling is when you throw something away or donate an item, for it to be taken away, taken apart, cleaned up and then turned into a new item. This is usually the same item or similar. For instance, an old aluminium can, can be recycled and turned into a new aeroplane part. 

How much recycled plastic does Coca Cola use?

Well, first, to paint the picture so to speak. How much plastic packaging do you think Coca Cola uses?

1 Million? 2? 3? If you answered 3, well done. It is 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging that is used by Coca Cola in 1 year. To put that into context, picture 1 Blue Whale....now picture 15,000 blue whales! That is how much plastic packaging was used. Frightening really. 

But...how much of this plastic is recycled plastic? 

About 25% of all Coca Cola bottles and products are made from recycled plastic. Around 750,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled plastic & they are aiming for more...they have set out a new target of 50% of all their bottles to be made from recycled materials. It makes you think...how many times you have used the same plastic without knowing!

How much recycled cardboard does Amazon use? 

We don't actually know as they seem to be very secretive about the amount of cardboard that they actually use. Maybe the answer is stored in Luxembourg with all the tax that they pay. 

Over the years, Amazon has reduced the weight of its packaging by 33% and eliminated more than 880,000 tons of packaging material, which is equivalent to about 1.5 billion shipping boxes.

In regards to how much cardboard they actually use...we can say it's an awful lot as they ship roughly 600 Million packages a year. 

They state that they are committed to decreasing the amount of plastic and cardboard that they use but it's hard to verify when you don't know the starting figure. 

They have just introduced an original packaging option for customers, which means that customers can choose to have their items arrive in their original packaging reducing the need for any additional plastic or cardboard box, they are also using AI to match the smallest box to the item being sent. 

How much time would it take the following recycling items to decompose? 

CARDBOARD -  Under favourable conditions, it can break down within a few weeks to a few months.

PLASTIC BOTTLE - This can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill environment. Plastics break down very slowly, and even then, they may not fully decompose but rather break into smaller particles.

GLASS BOTTLE - It is not biodegradable, and it does not decompose. However, glass is infinitely recyclable, meaning it can be recycled over and over without losing quality. If not recycled, glass can persist in the environment for thousands of years.

METAL CAN - It can take a long time to decompose in a landfill, potentially several hundred years. This is why metal recycling has to be highly efficient.

Do Business have to pay for recycling? 

In short....Yes - all businesses have to pay for recycling. This is due to the amount it costs to actual empty and collect bins from private waste collection.

You may think that it is only 1 bin being provided, and really how much money can it cost a waste company?

Well, if you factor in the cost of providing a waste business bin, fuel it costs for the lorries to come and collect, the drivers & customer service & mechanics wage plus the charge for the wagon, throw some insurance on top of that and hey ho, that 1100L bin starts to look like a lot of money. 

How much money do you get back on deposit return schemes?

Who doesn't love money back? Well this is a money back guarantee that you can really get behind. 

Deposit return schemes are designed to encourage recycling by offering customers a financial incentive for returning empty beverage containers. The deposit amount can range from a few pence to a higher value, depending on the type and size of the container.

In some cases, there might be different deposit amounts for different types of materials (e.g., glass, plastic, aluminium).

If this was brought into England, would you get behind this? It is being introduced in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales!

Do lids and labels need to be taken off glass & plastic bottles & tins before being recycled?

This all depends on the bottle, the tin, the glass and of course the label. Here is what to do with each different item:

Lids on Glass Bottles: It's advisable to remove metal lids from glass bottles before recycling. This is because the lid and the glass will be made of different materials, and separating them can facilitate the recycling process.

Labels on Glass Bottles: Paper labels on glass bottles are acceptable for recycling. The labels are typically removed during the recycling process. 

Lids on Plastic Bottles: Lids on plastic bottles are often made of a different type of plastic than the bottle itself. It's recommended to remove plastic lids from plastic bottles before recycling but it's not crucial. 

Labels on Plastic Bottles: Labels on plastic bottles are usually made of the same type of plastic as the bottle itself. This means you can keep them badboys on.

Lids on Tin Cans: Metal lids on tin cans are generally recyclable. It's accepted to leave the lids on tin cans before recycling. 

Why is Germany so good at Recycling? 

German Efficiency at it's finest. It is not just their automobiles that run smoothly, their recycling program run just as well! 

They do things a bit differently when it comes to their recycling compared to us... 

Regulations: Germany have strict regulations that encourages safe waste disposal & recycling collection. This means clear guidelines for all.

System: Public waste authorities & private waste companies work together, hand in hand to prevent waste build up and optimise recycling efforts.

Deposit System (Pfand System): This is there bread and butter or you could say their bratwurst and stein. Germany has a successful bottle deposit system where consumers pay a deposit on beverage containers, and they receive a refund when they return the empty containers for recycling. This encourages people to return their bottles, promoting high rates of recycling.

Economy Initiatives: A circular economy is promoted, this is where certain materials & resources are kept in use for as long as possible through recycling and reusing. Less replacement means they are minimising waste and creating a positive affect on the environment.

Technology: Germany have a lot of advanced waste technology that they use to create continuous improvement in their waste and recycling processes.

Public Support: Germans love to recycle & reuse! The German public pride themselves on their recycling efforts, viewing it as a major responsibility for every resident. 


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