Lets Waste Less Blog

January 2020: Are you contaminating your recycling?


What do a laundry basket, coat hangers and a flip flop have in common? They are all items that have incorrectly been put into green bins and sent for recycling. When items that can’t be collected at the kerbside for recycling are mixed with those that can it is called contamination and it is a serious issue. 

Currently up to 20% of the items that go to EnviroSort in Norton are non-recyclable and this is causing issues along the whole recycling chain. If people put the wrong things in the wrong bin, then it could lead to a whole lorry load of recycling being rejected and ending up at the Energy from Waste Plant instead of being turned into new items to be used again. That’s a lot of wasted effort, energy and resources.

Below is a list of some of the most common items we find in green bins that shouldn’t be there and a reminder of what to do with them.

Clothing, socks and underwear

If in good condition please consider upcycling or repurposing them into something new. See Love Your Clothes website (opens in a new window) for ideas and tips. 

If you do not want to upcycle and cannot pass them onto someone you know, then please take to a charity shop. For your nearest charity shop visit the local reuse organisations page. You could use your nearest textile bank but be careful of banks claiming to collect for charity, as often they are not, so please look for well-known charities such as Salvation Army, Oxfam or British Heart Foundation. All the Household Recycling Centres have textile recycling banks that will recycle good quality clothing. But even if it isn’t in good condition the merchants will turn unwearable items into wipe (industrial rags) so long as it is clean and dry.

Bras will be accepted for recycling to raise money for the Breast Unit Haven at Worcestershire Royal Hospital at a number of sites around the county. Check on the bra recycling page.

No matter what state your clothes are in, keep them out of your green bin. Do not put textiles in your recycling bin.

Food waste

Firstly, try and minimise your food waste. There are lots of tips to help you at the Love Food Hate Waste website (opens in a new window). Items like vegetable peelings, egg shells etc can be composted at home. If you must throw it away it must go in your black bin. If food waste goes in your green bin, then it could contaminate the paper and card and make it unsuitable for recycling.

Electrical devices

These must be disposed of properly and should never be put in your green bin or your black bin. Any electrical item that has a plug, uses batteries, needs charging or has a picture of a crossed out wheeled bin on it can be recycled. You can take electrical appliances such as fridges, freezers, computer monitors, mobile phones to most Household Recycling Centres. Please check before you visit as each one accepts slightly different items. You can find out more at the Household Recycling Centres pages.


This must go in your black bin.

Coat hangers

Coat hangers can be made from different materials such as wood, metal or plastic and are not recyclable via the green bin. If they are wooden and you can separate the wire hanger out then you could recycle them at the Household Recycling Centres in the wood container. Metal ones can go in the metal container. If they are in good condition though try asking a dry cleaner or charity shop if they would like them first.

Wood and metal

This can be recycled at Household Recycling Centres.


 If in good condition see if your local charity shop will take them or give them away online. If not, then they can be recycled in the metal container at a Household Recycling Centre. See the Household Recycling Centres page.


These should go in your black bin. To prevent issues with smells, wrap them in newspaper or bag them first.

Disposable nappies help keep leaks in, but they no place in your green bin. Do not put nappies or sanitary products in your recycling bin.

Rigid plastic (i.e laundry baskets or toys)

Although it is plastic it is not accepted via the green bin. If it is broken it will need to go in your black bin or in the general waste skip at a Household Recycling Centre. See the Household Recycling Centres page.


These can be donated to a charity shop, given away or sold online or must go in your black bin. They also make good coasters.

Ink cartridges

When you buy new cartridges, most come with a recycling pack for your old one which you can post off for free. Some supermarkets also have ink cartridge recycling schemes in-store so worth checking locally. Otherwise, they will need to go in your black bin.

Garden waste

This can be composted or you can buy a brown bin from your nearest district council. See the Contact Lets Waste Less page.

Plastic bags and film

Please do not put your recycling into plastic bags and then straight into your green bin.  The sorting process at EnviroSort is done initially by hand, so the people doing it won’t be able to see what is in the bag and will automatically reject it, assuming it is normal rubbish. Your hard work to wash, save and sort your recycling will be for nothing!

Every month Worcestershire County Council's Waste Prevention Project Manager Emma Stuart will share her ideas, thoughts and tips about everything to do with waste to help you reduce the amount you throw away.