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Sustainability

What Are Recyclable Materials?

Unsure of what counts as recyclable materials in your household? Read our guide to the most widely recycled materials and learn a few recycling tips.

You know it’s important to recycle, but do you know which materials recycling services accept? This can differ between local councils but there are a few tips you can follow to help identify recyclable materials in your home.

The most widely recycled materials

The recycling of materials is determined by the facilities available at your local council. Check their website or look for signs on shared refuse containers to find out what materials you can keep out of the bin.

The most widely recycled materials are:

  • Paper and cardboard (newspapers and food packaging boxes and sleeves)
  • Glass (bottles and cooking cars)
  • Hard plastic (food containers and cartons)
  • Metal (aluminium cans, tin cans and foil)
  • Non-renewables (batteries and lightbulbs)
  • Organic material (compostable material like food leftovers and garden waste)

While materials used in food packaging will normally be collected as part of your local recycling service, other items like batteries and lightbulbs will need to be taken to recycling centres (check your local supermarket as they often offer this).

If your local council does not offer a local food waste collection then try recycling this waste yourself by building a compost heap in your garden, or using a compost bin.

Material recycling: how to repurpose items that can’t be recycled

If your local council won’t take some of the recyclable materials described above, then you may be able to repurpose them to avoid them filling up landfill.

Here are a few ideas to try:

Paper and cardboard

Use scrap paper and cardboard for notes, shopping lists, and doodles before taking them to be recycled. Alternatively, use them in kids’ crafts or to protect surfaces from stains when decorating, cleaning, or doing anything else messy.

Glass

Old glass bottles and mason jars make great cocktail glasses or candle holders once washed out. Make sure you sterilise anything you intend to use for food or drink.

Plastics

Many plastic containers are great for arts and crafts activities – cut them up, paint them, or use them to build 3D structures. You can also repurpose plastic containers as desk organisers or watering cans. The recycling of materials is only limited by your imagination!

Metal

Metal tins and cans make great plant pots – give them a good wash and decorate them to brighten them up. You may also need to make holes in the bottom for water drainage.

Of course, these are just some ideas for repurposing materials; recycling and reusing household waste can take many forms and you should also try to reduce the consumption of resources where you can. Always opt for a recycled material if you can, and always ask yourself “can I use this” before putting items in the bin.

Top Tip


Keep your recyclable materials in separate crates for each type of material, washing anything that contained food to prevent smells.

Key Steps

  • Check your local council website to find out what you can recycle
  • Print out a list of recyclable materials to keep in your kitchen
  • Use reusable bags and containers when shopping to reduce plastic bag use
  • Repurpose the materials recycling services won’t take by reusing them if you can