Eco Tips

Recycling Plastics

The world’s resources are finite. The more we personally use, the less there is for others. We should reuse, repair and recycle what we do use. 
Plastic is conventionally made from oil but can be made from recycled plastic which has  both a smaller carbon footprint and allows virgin oil to be left in the ground together with its potential carbon emissions. 

Recycling plastics is a good thing.


Whilst all plastic can potentially be recycled, with some forms of plastic the process is deemed too expensive.  Plastics that can easily and cheaply be recycled are typically the ones that can go in your kerb side recycling bin  or in recycling points at super markets etc. Items made of several different plastics can be difficult to recycle but more and more business are making this possible. Costa Coffee collects coffee cups for recycling (typically made of paper with a thin plastic lining). Superdrug collects blister packs from pills etc for recycling. 

32% of all plastic in the UK was recycled in 2020: including 50% of plastic packaging and 77% of plastic drinks bottles. Plastic that is not recycled ends up in landfill sites or incinerators, or as pollution in rivers and the sea. There is scope for more and better recycling. Equally there is scope for reducing the amount of plastic that is in circulation. Do we need all that plastic packing? Do bananas need to come in plastic bags? Do we need drink coffee from throw away cups? Why aren’t sandwiches wrapped in paper? 

Good Plastic Recycling Practice

  1. Before throwing plastic in the land waste bin, check whether it could be recycled. If necessary contact the manufacturer. If enough people keeping asking, they may even swop to a more readily recycled plastic.
  2. Check the type of plastic you are recycling. Is it a recyclable plastic that can go in your kerb side  bin or do you need to take it to an alternative recycling point? The ‘wrong’ sort of plastic can contaminate the recycling process.
  3. Make sure the plastic is clean: rinse to remove traces of food, detergent etc. Dirty plastic can contaminate the recycling process.
  4. Stack plastic trays together to minimise the amount the of space they take up – this stops your recycling bin from overflowing and reduces the need for larger sized recycling  trucks.  Similarly flatten plastic bottles. Both these practices will prevent loose items of plastic being falling or being blown out of your bin.
  5. Twin your Bin and help improve recycling across the globe. https://www.bintwinning.org/ 

Author: Judith Russenberger

Environmentalist and theologian, with husband and three grown up children plus one cat, living in London SW14. I enjoy running and drinking coffee - ideally with a friend or a book.

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