Waste and recycling myths busted
Confused about what you can or can't recycle? Think it’s a waste of time anyway? Read on to find clear answers to many of the common myths about recycling and waste.
Myth 1: Recycling is a waste of time as it all goes to landfill or abroad anyway
Not true – your recycling makes a real difference. Recycling protects the environment and cuts disposal costs for council tax payers. What happens to your recycling and where it goes is checked by our own monitoring team and our contractors, Severn Waste Services, any recycling which is then destined for other countries is checked by the Environment Agency to ensure it is going to a reputable reprocessor. However, most of your recyclable materials are processed here in the UK.
Myth 2: Recycling uses more energy than it saves
Not true – up to 95% less energy is needed to make products using recycled materials. Your recycling helps to save valuable resources and protect the environment for our future.
Did you know recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for four hours. For more information visit www.recyclenow.com.
Myth 3: Rinsing out recyclables is a waste of water and energy
Not true – making sure bottles and other food and drinks packaging are completely empty and giving them a quick rinse before recycling is important for recycling. This is because it stops other recyclables from being contaminated – a lot of paper can be ruined by half a tin of baked beans being put in the green bin! Use the water from your washing up or pop them in the dishwasher if there is space.
Myth 4: Aerosols can't be recycled
Not true – empty aerosols can be recycled in your green bin. Please ensure that the aerosol is empty before putting it in your bin. The plastic caps can be recycled too.
Myth 5: To recycle plastics you need to check and understand the recycling symbol with the number found on plastic items
Not true – the number in a triangle found on plastics only identifies the type of plastic used to make the item, but not whether it can be recycled or not.
On-pack recycling labels do indicate whether the item is widely recycled or if you should be checked locally. Look for these labels or wording on your packaging and check our simple list in 'Myth 6'
Myth 6: You can't recycle many plastic products
Not true – the following can go in your green recycling bin:
- Bottles – drinks, milk, detergent, cleaning products, shampoo, toiletries
- Pots – yoghurt, puddings, custard, jelly, plant pots (not black)
- Tubs – margarine, ice cream, fruit punnets
- Trays – meat, ready meals (not black), cake trays, egg boxes
Please do not put black plastic into your bin as it cannot be sorted by our optical sorters.
The following items cannot be recycled in your green bin so need to be placed in your black bin:
- Plastic films such as those over fruit punnets, bread or trays
- Bubble wrap
- Crisp packets and sweet wrappers
- Medicine packs such as paracetamol (but you can recycle the outer cardboard box)
- Toothpaste tubes (but you can recycle the outer cardboard box)
- Laminated pouches such as cat food
- Carrier bags
- Broken rigid plastic toys
Some of these items can be recycled at your local supermarkets or via a Terracycle bank, so you might want to check to see if you can recycle them somewhere locally.
Myth 7: There's no point in recycling, it all ends up in the same lorry
Not true – all the councils in Worcestershire have an "alternate week" collection system, which means one week your refuse is collected and the next your recycling is collected. They do use the same lorries, but they are thoroughly cleaned out before being used to collect recycling.
Myth 8: Councils are making money out of the materials we recycle
Not true – some of the materials have a value, but the cost of collecting and sorting them outweighs the income. However, overall recycling help saves money because other methods of waste disposal are more expensive.
Myth 9: It doesn't matter if I put the wrong things in my green bin, it all gets sorted out anyway
Not true – if you put the wrong things in your recycling, you risk contaminating the other recyclable material. This might mean materials that would otherwise have been recycled are sent for disposal rather than recycling.
The items that are most regularly found in the green bins that shouldn’t be there are nappies, food waste, clothing, general waste, electrical items, toys and garden waste. None of these should be put into your recycling bin. If in doubt, leave it out.
Myth 10: I can't recycle everything as there's not room in my recycling bin and the council will charge you for another bin
Not true – you can have as many recycling bins that you feel you need (within reason). Just contact your local council and ask for one.
Myth 11: You can't recycle food and drink cartons
Not true – cartons that had drinks in them such as milk, fruit juice and soup can be recycled, so any carton like this can be put in your green bin.
However, tube cartons like Pringles can't be recycled because they are complex containers made up of a lot of different layers which are difficult to separate, so these need to be put into your black bin.
Myth 12: Supermarkets are doing nothing to reduce plastic packaging
Not true – most of the major supermarkets are doing their bit, but this takes time. They are making non plastic alternatives available and offering customers a lot more choice when it comes to packaging. However some packaging is necessary because it extends the shelf life of food. Food waste has a much bigger detrimental effect on the environment than packaging as well as significant disposal cost implications. For example, an unwrapped cucumber only lasts 3 days on the shelf, but 9 days if shrink wrapped.
If you are interested in finding out what your local supermarket is doing and what recycling facilities they have for hard to recycle items such as plastic bags, film etc then please visit their websites.
Myth 13: My neighbour has their recycling collected in a plastic bag so that must mean I can put my recycling in a plastic bag in the bin
Not true – households that don't have space for a green bin are given sacks to put their recycling in. At our sorting facility in Norton these bags are split and the recycling removed because the operatives can see the contents inside. If you put your recycling in a plastic bag and then put the bag in your green bin, they cannot see the contents and may risk getting hurt when opening the sack. So your lovingly collected and washed recycling is rejected, solely because you put it in a plastic bag.
Myth 14: You have an Energy from Waste facility now, surely it's better to burn the recycling and use it to generate electricity?
Not true – all materials that are recycled are made into something new and paper, plastics, glass and metal cans can be recycled over and over again. By putting recyclable materials in your black bin you are not giving these materials the opportunity to be recycled. It is also more expensive to process material at the Energy from Waste facility than recycle them.
Myth 15: The Energy from Waste facility puts dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere
Not true – The Environment Agency monitors the gases that are created through the combustion process and ensures that strict limits on emissions are adhered to. The "smoke" that you see from the chimney stack is actually steam, so that is why it is more visible on colder days.