Do you ever feel completely baffled by recycling and whether or not your waste packaging can be recycled?
I know I certainly do. With confusing numbers, symbols and letters on packaging, it can seem almost impossible to know what to do with items once we are finished using them.
This is not helped by the fact that in different areas there are conflicting rules. Councils have many bins for varying waste streams. What’s more, bins will be rainbow coloured. In one borough the food waste bin will be brown in another it will be blue. There is no consistent colour coding.
So, what can we do?
The first thing would be to find out who your waste contractor is. At home this will be your local council and at work it will vary. (Ask your office manager).
Look at your waste collector’s website to find out what items are accepted in each bin. This will help you decipher if that plastic yoghurt pot can go in the mixed recycling stream. (Usually the answer is yes!)
Ensure your efforts help rather than hinder. If you have a plastic salad box and it is covered in balsamic vinegar, there is no point putting it in the mixed recycling bin. This is because it will be classed as ‘contaminated’.
The issue with contamination is that it will ruin other items in the bin. For example, it will soil the paper. Once paper gets wet it is much harder to recycle.
As a rule, if you feel confident tipping the item upside down above your head it can go in the mixed recycling bin. In other words, it doesn’t have to be pristinely clean, but it should be dry and free from food.
What about composite packaging (items made from more than one material)?
Composite items such as Tetra Paks or crisp packets are very hard to recycle. This is because they are made from different materials being fused together. This has benefits while in use. For instance, milk will last much longer in Tetra Pak than in a plastic milk bottle.
This said, what happens when you finish the milk and want to dispose of the carton. Some council and waste collectors will accept Tetra Pak in their mixed recycling bins, other won’t. (Check their website to find out). If it is not accepted, either place the item in the general waste bin or take it to a local drop off point found on Recycle Now.
• If implementing internal bins at home or work we would recommend using the WRAP colour scheme and downloading their free posters.
• Make sure items are clean and dry before placing them in the mixed recycling bins. If you are unable to do this, pop them in the general waste bins.
• Try to use less. Is there any way you can reduce the packaging you use? Please share your thoughts below. We would love to hear from you!