Recycling: How to recycle at home?

Recycling is giving packaging a new life, reducing the consumption of raw materials and helping to eliminate waste. It is one of the easiest ways to combat global warming, since it avoids generating more pollution. In this article, we’ll look at how to recycle, what steps you should take to reduce your household waste, and what the symbols mean on your recycling bins.

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What is recycling?

Recycling is a process of treatment and transformation of used or discarded waste, the result of which is to obtain new raw materials ready to be used again.

Recycling comprises several stages, from waste recovery to transfer, sorting and final recycling (recovery for recycling or for energy production). Thanks to this process, old materials can start a new life cycle and a new use.

three r's symbol

Each material goes through a different recycling process, so different types of recycling are carried out:

Glass, aluminum and many plastics can be recycled in an unlimited way without losing their quality.

The rule of the three r's: Reduce, reuse and recycle

The rule of the three R’s aims to promote a more sustainable lifestyle as well as reduce waste:

  1. Reduce: the best waste is the one that does not occur!
  2. Reuse: in order to extend the life of a product.
  3. Recycle: and give a new life to the packaging.

Mobile phone recycling15 million mobile phones are upgraded in the UK each year. If they were laid from end-to-end they would reach from John O'Groats to Lands End!

For instance:

  • With 8 recycled cereal boxes you can make a book;
  • With 22 recycled PET plastic bottles a T-shirt;
  • With 80 recycled drinks cans a bicycle tyre.

Replacing can also be part of the R rule. Replacing allows you to choose other more sustainable alternatives, such as buying glass containers instead of plastic.

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What do the recycling symbols mean?

Unsure whether a product is recyclable or not? Here we explain the meaning of all the recycling symbols!

The recycling logos
Logo Meaning

The Green Dot

green dot symbol
The Green Dot is a symbol used on packaging and means the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging.

Möbius Loop

mobius loop symbol
This means an item can technically be recycled but not that it has been recycled or that it will be accepted for recycling. Sometimes this symbol is used with a percentage figure in the middle to explain that the packaging contains x% of recycled material.


tidyman symbol
This symbol indicates the consumer should take responsibility for disposing of waste in an appropriate place.

The seven symbols for plastics

plastic recycling symbols

The great diversity of plastic materials has led to the creation of seven symbols with a number and letters that indicate the type of material:

  1. PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate);
  2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene);
  3. PVC (Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride);
  4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene);
  5. PP (Polypropylene);
  6. PS (Polystyrene);
  7. Others.

Glass recycling

glass recycling symbol
Glass bottles have their own symbol: the Möbius Loop combined with a figure that places a bottle in a container.

Recyclable aluminium

metal recycling symbol
Metals such as aluminum or steel can also be recycled and, in addition to the general symbols, they have their own symbols to make it clearer to the public.

Waste electricals

electrical waste symbol
Electronic devices carry this symbol to remind them that they cannot be deposited in any container: they must be taken to recycling centres.

Recycling bins: What are the different colours for?

While efforts to recycle are increasing all the time and more households across the UK are doing their part, there can sometimes be some confusion as to what items go into each coloured bin. Most British households have a black wheelie bin, a blue recycling bin, a brown recycling bin, and a green recycling bin or container. While councils across the UK are generally aligned to make things easier, in some places there are red bins rather than a blue bin or a grey bin rather than a green bin.

In this section we’ll break down what each coloured recyling bin is for and what you can put in it.

Black Rubbish Bins / Recycling Bins

In most parts of the UK, black wheelie bins are for general waste that cannot be recycled or composted. If this is the case in your area, you can use these bins for all non-recyclable household waste, including food waste.

Blue Recycling Bins

These are the most commonly used bins to place ‘dry’ recyclable items such as: paper, newspapers and magazines, cardboard, cereal boxes (without the plastic liner), egg boxes, drink and food cans.

Some councils use red recycling bins instead of blue recycling bins, while others issue both, so check with your local authority if you have any doubts.

red bin

Red Recycling Bins

If you have a red recycling container, you can use it for items such as plastic bottles, food trays / plastic punnets, yoghurt pots (without the lid), empty shampoo and cleaning product bottles.

Brown Recycling Bins

If you have a brown recycling bin, you are in luck! They are used for all mixed recyclables - so you don’t have to worry about what to put in the red or blue ones. Items such as plastic bottles, food tins, drinks cans, aerosols, tin foil (including trays), glass bottles and jars can all go in the brown bin.

Green Food Waste Bins

These can be used to put all food waste into. Items such as fruit and vegetable peelings, cooked food leftovers, meat bones, fish bones, eggshells, teabags, coffee grounds can all go in here.

There are many benefits to recycling food waste. Diverting organic materials away from the landfill, and converting it into energy and fertilizer, helps us to reduce our carbon footprint.

Yellow Recycling Bins

You’ll be unlikely to have one of these at home as yellow recycling bins are used to collect textiles such as clothes, bed linens, and towels. You will be able to find them at your local recycling centre.

Grey Recycling Bins

Check with your local authority what the grey bin is used for. In some areas it is for general household waste, while in others it is used for ‘dry’ recyclables such as paper and food cans or mixed recyclable waste.

Recycling Centres near meRecycling centres are places where waste is collected free of charge that, due to its size or whether it contains dangerous materials, cannot be deposited in the containers you have at home (electrical appliances, furniture, paint, light bulbs and fluorescent lamps, batteries, etc.). There are numerous centres around every town and city in the UK. Find out where your nearest one is by searching for ‘recycling near me’ online.

How can recycling help the environment?

The benefits of recycling our waste are enormous compared to the action it takes. These are just some of the ways that recycling can help the environment:

  • Recycling saves energy: Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process uses less energy than that required for producing new products from raw materials.
  • Reduces C02 emissions: As recycling saves energy it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle climate change.
  • Recycling reduces landfill: When we recycle, recyclable materials are reprocessed into new products, and as a result the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites reduces.

By calculating your personal carbon footprint with Selectra:  Identify the main sources of your greenhouse gas emissions;
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 Finance an environmental project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling in the UK

Local authorities across the UK have made a concerted effort to boost awareness and the importance of recycling in recent years. No matter where you live, you can find all the information you need about recycling schemes in your area. By researching things such as Wiltshire recycling, Bristol recycling, Edinburgh recycling centre, and north Somerset recycling - or any region where you are based - you can find out what days your waste and recycling will be collected, what bins to put your waste into, and where your nearest recycling centre is.

Nespresso recycling Have you wondered what to do with your Nespresso pods after using them? Don’t throw them in the bin! The coffee maker has a scheme in which you can place used pods into a recycling bag and take it to your nearest Nespresso recycling point. The company says it aims for its pods to be made of 80% recycled aluminium by the end of this year.

Despite those efforts, there is still a long way to go and we can all play our part. Here are some facts about recycling in the UK:

  1. The average household uses 3.2kg of aluminium cans a year - That's about 208 cans;
  2. Around 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK every year;
  3. A quarter (25%) of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) that’s taken to household waste recycling centres could be re-used;
  4. More than 7 million tonnes of food and drink is thrown away every year from our homes - most of which could have been safely consumed.

Source: Recycle More

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