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Recycling Mistakes You Might Be Making

Recycling mistakes you might be makingWith horrific amounts of plastic in our oceans and the dangers this entails, we are all becoming increasingly aware of our need to reduce plastic waste and recycle as much as we can. Many of us now have recycling initiatives at our place of work and increase our recycling at home. However, despite our best intentions, we may not be recycled correctly. Here are some common recycling mistakes you might be making.  

Thinking all plastic can be recycled 

Although a lot of plastic can be recycled, not all types can. Whilst some people place all their plastic in recycling and hope for the best, certain types cannot be recycled for various reasons. We should all be aware of these types so that we try and avoid buying items in this packaging, to begin with. For example, black and dark plastic is extremely difficult to recycle. The type of pigments used to form the dark colour makes it difficult for automated recycling materials to sort and identify. As there is no easy way to fix this, black plastic tends not to be recyclable.  

Certain plastic containers cannot be recycled either such as yoghurt pots or takeaway containers. This is often due to the mixture of materials used to make the packaging. Try and reuse your takeaway containers or avoid this type of plastic where possible.  

Not recycling aerosols or cleaning products 

In opposition to the previous point, sometimes people assume items are not recyclable and place them in their normal waste bin. For example, deodorant cans and aerosols are commonly thought not to be recyclable when in fact they are. Just ensure they are empty before you place in the recycling. The same goes for bleach and cleaning products. Many of us think because bleach and other cleaners are potentially toxic to the environment, the bottles will contaminate the recycling process. As long as the bottles are cleaned and emptied thoroughly, this shouldn’t be an issue.  

Recycling dirty items  

Although a lot of packaging can be recycled, it does depend on the quality of the material. It is important that the containers and packaging do not have any food stains or food left in them when you place them in the recycling bin. A common example is a takeaway pizza box. Although the box can be easily recycled because its made from cardboard if there are pizza grease stains on it, recycling cannot happen. The same goes for dirty tin cans or plastic containers. Just ensure your rubbish is in a clean enough state before you place it in the recycling bin. 

Placing recycling items in a plastic bag  

A lot of people place their recycling in a plastic bag before they take it outside to the main bin. Although this is convenient, it causes more harm than good. Empty the bags into the bin but don’t place the plastic bags in it as well. Although you can, of course, store them in a plastic bag to keep them organised in your home, the items should be loose in the main recycling bin. 

Recycling plastic bags  

This leads on from the previous point. Although plastic bags can be recycled, they are often not accepted by many councils. You should instead cut down on the amount of plastic bags you use. The ones you do have, make sure you keep reusing them to make them last the longest time possible.  

Recycling wet newspaper 

Although the newspaper can be recycled, the same is not true for wet newspaper. You cannot always predict the weather and the newspaper may accidentally become wet. However, if it does happen remove it from the recycling bin and place it in your compost bin instead. 

Not separating glass 

This mistake depends on your local recycling rules. In some areas of the country, people have a separate bin for their glass items. You must have a thorough understanding of which items go in which bin to maximise your recycling efforts 

Recycling Christmas lights and hoses 

Although made from plastic, Christmas lights and garden hoses can cause a problem. They can easily become tangled around other items and even equipment and machinery at recycling centres. This can cause serious, costly damage. 

Recycling scrap metal  

When tidying out their house, shed or garage, many people come across a lot of materials they no longer need, including bulkier items such as scrap metal. Although scrap metal can be recycled, these items should be placed in a skip or taken to a recycling centre, not just placed in your recycling bin at home. 

Recycling old clothing  

It is great to make use of old clothing rather than simply throwing it away and it ends up in landfill. However, clothing cannot be recycled. Instead, donate it by taking it to a local charity shop or charity collection bin that many supermarkets now have. 

Recycling bubble wrap  

Bubble wrap is often placed in the recycling bin because it is plastic. However, it shouldn’t be. Instead, reuse the bubble wrap for your next house move or see if anyone else needs it. 

Recycling crisp packets  

Crisp packets are often made from a mixture of materials and it is because of this that they often cannot be recycled. Although you may automatically assume they should be recycled, ensure they end up in your general waste bin. 

It can be easy to be green and recycling, on the whole, is a simple task. However, the list above shows just some of the common mistakes being made when it comes to recycling. As long as these are avoided, the levels of recycling that can be achieved could increase significantly which is always great news. 

How long does our waste take to break down?

How long does out waste take to break downWe are now more aware than ever that we need to get rid of our waste in the most responsible way as possible. This is important as there are many materials that take years, decades, or even centuries to decompose. Here, we answer the question “how long does our waste take to break down?" 

Under a year  

Train tickets 

Cotton gloves  





Up to 5 Years 


Wool clothing  

Up to 15 years 


Painted board  


Between 20 and 100 years 

Leather (25-40 years) 

Nylon clothes (25-40 years) 

Tin cans (up to 50 years) 

Foamed plastic cups (up to 50 years) 

Rubber-soled boots (50-80 years) 

Up to 500 years 

Batteries (up to 100 years) 

Batteries are one of the most dangerous items to be left in a landfill. As the thin metal casing will decompose in approximately 100 years, the heavy metals inside will be left exposed. Unfortunately, these metals will never decompose and are toxic.  

Aluminium cans (200 years) 

Sanitary pads (at least 500 years) 

plastic bags (at least 500 years) 

plastic bottles (up to 450 years) 

Over 500 years 

Glass bottles (up to 2 million years) 



It is important to note that although glass bottles can take a staggering 2 million years to naturally decompose, they are easy to recycle due to the fact that they are mostly made out of sand.  

Food Waste  

It is reasonable to believe that because food waste comes from the ground, it should decompose quickly. However, this is not actually the case. Different food items decay at different rates. Whilst something like a banana peel may take up to a month to decay, orange peels can take six months. Surprisingly lettuce leaves that are in landfills can stay up to a quarter of a century before they decompose completely. This is another reason why food waste should also be kept to an absolute minimum. 

Although this list is not comprehensive, it is a scary concept to consider the fact that a lot of the rubbish we personally create in our lifetime could still be around centuries after. However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are many little changes we can all make to our everyday routines that can help reduce the amount of waste we produce. From cutting back on plastic in our beauty routines, to using reusable coffee cups, avoiding plastic bags for shopping, and keeping our clothes for longer. 

Some of the figures shared above are truly shocking. They highlight the vital need to reduce using these materials where possible and if we do use them, check to see if they can be recycled first. Hiring a skip is an efficient way to ensure as much as your waste is being recycled as possible.  

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