All you need to know about recycling – our top three tips and the symbols explained

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This week is Recycling Week, but really, every week should be. It actually takes less energy and fewer emissions to recycle than it does to make something from scratch, so recycling saves 18 million tonnes of CO2 a year in the UK alone. Recycling doesn’t have to be difficult. 

Almost 90% of us already recycle in the UK, however over half of those households are still putting items in the general rubbish that could be recycled. If we all make small changes to habitually recycle, collectively we can make a big difference.

Here are our top three tips to recycle right:

1)     Have a system

When forming any new habit, you want to make it easy for yourself. Getting a system in place can help your recycling journey to run smoothly, even if it’s having a separate recycling bin in the bathroom for cardboard toilet rolls. Going one step further and putting a recycling bin in every room is a great way to remind yourself to recycle and saves the hassle of having to trek to the kitchen.  

2)     Clean out those cans

When recycling we want to do it the right way. Food waste can contaminate a lot of recyclable material, which means rather than being recycled it will end up in landfill. According to the Local Government Association more than half a million tonnes of household recycling had to be rejected at the point of sorting in 2019/2020 due to non-recyclable materials making their way in. Make sure your recyclables are clean, empty, and dry. If your recycling is contaminated you can always salvage the clean part, for example by tearing the top off a greasy pizza box.  

3)     Remember – small is mighty (but not in a good way)

As a rule of thumb, don’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card. This includes anything like bottle caps, straws, and paperclips, as these items are too small to be sorted and can jam the recycling equipment. These small items can cause machines to shut down multiple times on a daily basis. So remember to remove those bottle caps.

Most items now come with packaging labels to help us identify what we can recycle and what we can’t. Here are some of the most common ones to be aware of, though for an extensive list, have a read of this article.


If you find this label on packaging it means that it is collected by 75% or more of local authorities across the UK.



You’ll mainly find this on food items. ‘Rinse’ lets you know to wash the item to remove any food residue. As we mentioned earlier, some caps are too small to be recycled. However, if you see this label, it means you can recycle the item with the lid on.  



A lot of authorities will collect the bottle but not the sleeve. This symbol is asking you to remove the sleeve, commonly a plastic sheet around an item, such as a yoghurt pot or coffee cup.



This symbol can be a little confusing, it shows that an object is capable of being recycled, not that the object has been recycled or will be accepted in all recycling systems. Sometimes you’ll see this symbol used with a percentage figure in the middle to indicate that the packaging contains a certain amount of recycled material.




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