The importance of recycling: what can you recycle with ease, and what elements can not be recycled?

3 Aug, 2017 | The circular economy | 0 comments

Recycling as much as possible every day is crucial if we want to care for our planet and preserve it for future generations. This helpful list of recyclable materials, complete with accompanying explanations of what can’t be recycled, will make recycling much easier.

Plastic bags.

Plastic bags are generally made of a different type of plastic (namely, polyethelyne) to the plastic bottles and tubs that are collected as a matter of course from domestic recycling bins. As such, though plastic bags can be recycled it is best not to mix them in with other plastics, but instead to seek a location that can support the recycling of polyethylene. Plastic bags can be recycled into numerous different objects, from nanotechnology to new carrier bags.

Cardboard boxes.

Cardboard is widely recyclable, and tops any list of recyclable items. Almost all types of cardboard can be recycled, including corrugated cardboard and the stiff paper card scraps that are left over from an arts and crafts session. Cardboard that is heavily stained with food, or that has been treated with a plastic covering (as is the case with many cardboard drinks cartons) may not be recyclable in the same way as other cardboards: check with your local recycling authority to verify whether or not this is the case. Cardboard can be recycled via municipal kerbside recycling collections, or a large recycling stations near you. It can also be recycled in the home, as cardboard packaging can be reused for storing everything from toys to books.


Paper is another very easily and widely recyclable material. Almost all types of paper can be recycled (though paper that has been printed on will usually need to be de-inked during the recycling process). Newspapers, scrap paper and old notebook paper are all key examples of recyclable paper. Paper can be recycled at almost all recycling points, and some also accept shredded paper (though it may need to be bagged separately). Old paper is usually turned into new paper in the recycling process, and it is estimated that in the UK recycling paper rather than sending it to landfill saves 5 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.


Aluminium cans are very widely recycled, both by municipal recycling initiatives and by scrap metal dealers. Some scrap metal dealers will even offer you a payment for bringing them a certain number of aluminium cans to be reused.


Metals of almost all kinds can be recycled, both municipally and by scrap metal dealers. Again, a metal dealer may pay you if you want to bring your old metals to them. Heavy iron, copper and stainless steel are just a few examples of metals that can readily be recycled. An exception is the metals contained within white goods such as fridge freezers: these products can’t always be recycled along with other plastics and metals and so you may need to arrange for them to be collected by your local authority so that they can safely be recycled.


Glass is recycled ubiquitously by municipal authorities. All that the recycling plant needs to do is sort the glass by colour, wash it and then melt it down before reshaping it into new glass items. Moreover, as the recycling process does not diminish the quality of the glass, a single glass bottle can be recycled numerous times.


Shampoo bottles, yoghurt pots and water bottles are just a few of the plastics that can be recycled. Local authorities will recycle almost all plastics, though some are more readily accepted from others. For instance, the thermoplastic that water bottles are made of (which is known as PET) is very easy to melt down and reshape, so these bottles are recycled almost everywhere. Polystyrene is harder to recycle, and so many municipal authorities will not accept polystyrene at all recycling points as they do not wish to bear the expense of the more complicated recycling process needed for this material.

Computer Equipment and electronics.

Electronics can be recycled by being sent or sold to a tech expert who can reuse the parts to make new electronic goods. Almost every electrical item that has a battery or a plug can be recycled (from toasters to hair straighteners), and it is best not to place these items in a domestic waste bin due to the chemicals that they contain. Nevertheless, not all kerbside collections will be able to deal with all types of electrical goods, so you may need to transport your old monitor or fridge freezer to a larger recycling plant.


Batteries can be recycled in municipal collections, though due to the chemicals (especially lithium) that they contain, it is usually required that you keep them separate from the plastics, cards and other materials to be recycled. Phone, laptop and camera batteries can all be recycled in this way, however larger batteries (such as car batteries) may need to be transported to a larger, specialised recycling plant.

Get recycling today!

Now that you know how many items can be recycled, it’s time to start filling that recycling bin. Can you go for a whole day without throwing any domestic waste into landfill, and recycling it instead? This way of life is much kinder to the planet!

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