What bin does this go in? - Understanding plastics

20th July 2021

Are you confused by recycling? Do you think - can I recycle this? do I have to wash it first? what is the point?

A new project has been launched in Kent to help us to understand all about recycling- particularly plastic products. This article is mostly information provided by Pledge2recycle:


Are you confused about what plastics you can recycle?

Pledge2Recycle Plastics are working with all Kent Councils to help reduce that confusion.

The charity, which works to educate and advise citizens has set up a dedicated website for Kent [www.pledge2recycle.co.uk/kent] which includes competitions for communities and general recycling guidance.

Did you know you can recycle ALL bottles whether from the bathroom and kitchen as well as plastic packaging in the form of a pot, tub or tray?

All bottles should be empty when placed for recycling with the tops back on. Pots, tubs and trays should have the absorbent layer and film lid removed as these need to go into general waste.

Please DO NOT PUT toothpaste tubes, pill packs, nappies, textiles, coffee pods, batteries and food into recycling. Textiles should go to specific banks either at community/retail/or Household Waste Centres. You can take carrier bags, bread bags and empty frozen veg packets, to your local supermarket front of store collection please check at www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling. Sainsbury's superstores now take ALL flexible packaging in front of store collections - guidance and a list of participating stores can be found at www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/sustainability/plan-for-better/our-stories/2021/flexible-plastics.

It is important that ALL PLASTIC PLACED FOR RECYCLING is CLEAN, DRY AND LOOSE and NOT in any carrier or black bags.



Why do I need to put the tops back on the bottles before recycling?

  • The tops go with the bottles to the reprocessor where they are cut up into flakes and the bottle and tops (which are different plastics) are separated before they are turned into pellets. The pellets made from the bottle themselves are then sent to either make new bottles. The pellets made from the tops are sent to go into garden furniture or items for construction such as piping or traffic cones

    How clean does my recycling need to be?
  • At the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) all the mixed dry recycling is sorted by type (paper, cardboard, steel cans, aluminium cans, and plastics). This process involves a lot of complex machinery which gets covered in the residue and dirt that householders place in their recycling bins. This residue can cause machinery to breakdown. Many UK MRF's also have a section where material is hand sorted, so not a pleasant job if the material is covered in food remains. Remember also that the cleaner the recycling is the greater the quality and higher value the material will be to the recycler. It also keeps your bin clean if you empty, rinse and dry before recycling.

    Can I recycle my bleach bottles?
  • Yes, make sure they are empty and put the top back on.

    What do I do with the film lid on food, fruit, and vegetable punnets?
  • Remove the film lid and the absorbent layer and put these into general waste as these are not recyclable at the moment. Make sure the tray or punnet is empty, clean, and dry and recycle.

    Where can I recycle my carrier bags, and bread bags?
  • Many UK Supermarkets are now taking carrier bags and bread bags etc. in their front of store collections. Please look for the OPRL label on your soft plastics and wrappings and check out our links on www.pledge2recycle.co.uk/kent for further information.

    Should I stop using plastic packaging?
  • Plastic packaging provides many benefits to products and compared to alternative materials it uses less energy to produce, reduces transport costs and CO2 emissions because it is lightweight, and significantly reduces the amount of fresh food waste by protecting it in a hygienic environment and extending its shelf life.

Did you know?

  • bananas in a flexible bag extend their shelflife by3days
  • Plastic bags reduce waste of potatoes by two thirds
  • Cucumbers extend their life when wrapped in film by 14 days
  • Advanced plastic packaging extends the life of steak upto10 days

    Why do some brands still use plastic for food products - surely, we can use other materials such as glass?

Because it is lightweight, plastic packaging can save energy in the transport of packed goods. Less fuel is used, there are lower emissions and there are cost savings for distributors, retailers and consumers. For example, a yoghurt pot made from glass weighs about 85 grams, while one made from plastic weighs 5.5grams. In a lorry filled with a product packed in glass jars, 36% of the load would be accounted for the packaging. If packed in plastic pots, the packaging would amount to just 3%. To transport the same amount of yoghurt, three trucks are needed for glass jars but only two for plastic pots.

What can plastic packaging be recycled into?

Plastic packaging can be recycled into a wide variety of products including clothing, t-shirts; toys, chairs and tables; headphones; kitchen utensils; paint pots; car parts; cuddly toys; filling for duvets and sleeping bags; pens and pencils; building materials such as fencing, flooring, piping, etc; garden furniture; buckets and - of course - more plastic packaging! Drinks bottles can be made back into drinks bottles, milk bottles can also be made back into more milk bottles.

Why don't all Councils collect the same types of plastic?

Local authorities use different facilities and waste management providers to collect recycling materials from households and recycling points. Some of these can only accept specific plastic types and therefore residents are given different messages about what they can and cannot recycle in different areas. Local authorities also have contracts with waste management providers and changing or terminating these can be a long and costly process. However, the plastic industry would like to see all councils collecting the same types of plastic and will continue to promote this as best practice and the UK government is discussing the possibilities of consistent collections across the UK.

If you live in Kent and one of the 13 Kent Councils you are, able to recycle the same plastics packaging wherever you live in Kent.

Why does the Council keep asking us to recycle when I think I recycle everything I can?

Although most of us do recycle what we can when we can unfortunately the data tells us that nationally we only recycle 59% of all the bottles we could recycle and 34% of the pots, tubs and trays. This may be because we are not sure if they are recyclable, or because they are dirty and we don't want to rinse/empty them, or because we take them out of the home for eating and drinking on the go and dispose of then in general waste wherever we happen to be, office, school, travelling etc. If we, can it is always best to take our empties home to recycle and make sure that we are not forgetting to recycle stuff from the kitchen or the bathroom, or forgetting about the ketchup and mayonnaise bottles. It all adds up.   

The team at Pledge2Recycle Plastics are happy to take your queries you will find them @pledge2recycle or e-mail Amanda.bakewell@recoup.org.

Author: Holly Ivaldi


Feeling a bit lost when it comes to recycling? Wondering if that plastic item in your hand is recyclable, or if you need to give it a wash first? You're not alone! But fear not, because a new initiative in Kent is here to help tackle the confusion. Pledge2Recycle Plastics is teaming up with local councils across Kent to make understanding recycling, especially when it comes to plastics, a whole lot easier. This dedicated charity is on a mission to educate and advise citizens, and they've launched a special website just for Kent residents [www.pledge2recycle.co.uk/kent]. Here, you'll find handy tips, community competitions, and all the guidance you need to become a recycling pro. Did you know that ALL bottles, whether they're from your kitchen or bathroom, can be recycled? Plus, those plastic pots, tubs, and trays? Yep, they're totally recyclable too! So, let's join forces and give recycling a big thumbs up in Kent! For more information on sustainable waste management solutions, visit https://diaperrecycling.technology/.

Honey - 14th May 2024 at 2:52am

Excellent article, very informative. I would like to know more about how plastic is recycled - is it simply melted down? Does that release toxins into the environment? It must impact on CO2 levels, but by how much? And how come we aren't getting that information?

Anne Marie - 23rd July 2021 at 11:13am

I note what recycled plastic can be made into but how much of it will actually happen? I would love you to say 100% but there is so much anecdotal evidence to suggest our so-called recycling is dumped on someone else's doorstep. I keenly recycle but fear it is often contaminated in the system as others do not always adhere to the rules.

Carol Salmon - 20th July 2021 at 3:39pm

Leave a comment

this will be displayed next to your comment
this will not be publically shown, but will be visible to website editors and may be used for contacting you regarding your message

Please complete the validation below. This helps us to protect against false spam submissions.

All comments are moderated before being published.

Upcoming dates

Grace Center Community Picnic
27th May 2024

Powered by Conceptulise CMS