Tackling the Plastic Challenge

Do you know which plastic packaging you can recycle? Do you know why you shouldn’t recycle some plastic? Cut through the confusion here!

It can be very confusing, we know.  But plastic is a precious resource – and it should never, ever ‘escape’ into the environment.  Here’s some advice about how our on-pack recycling labels can help you decide which plastic you can recycle at home – and which should definitely go into the waste bin!

Plastic can be an excellent material in protecting your food and keeping it safe to eat, or in making sure your new purchases aren’t damaged on the journey from the factory to the shop to home.  But if they’re not disposed of properly they can kill wildlife, contaminate our rivers and oceans, and spoil our favourite places.

So first and foremost make sure plastic packaging gets to the bin – take it home with you if there isn’t one while you are out and about.

“But which bin?” you say.  Here’s five easy tips:

  1. Plastic bottles can be recycled as long as they’re empty – that’s drinks bottles, milk containers, sauce bottles, and bottles from the bathroom and cleaning cupboard. Just rinse, pop the cap on and put in your recycling. Tip: put a small bin in the bathroom so it’s easy to add empty shampoo etc bottles to your recycling each week.
  2. Most councils now also collect non-black pots, tubs and trays for recycling – but NOT plant pots please!  Tip: rinse out food containers at the end of the washing up or pop them in with the dishwasher load to remove grease and food residues.
  3. You can’t recycle pouches – they often have a slightly metallic finish and are actually a ‘sandwich’ of different materials which are difficult to separate for recycling but very good at keeping food fresh.  Tip:  Go straight to the waste bin with petfood, coffee, rice, sauce and soup pouches!
  4. Some plastic films such as bread bags, loo roll wrap, wraps round multi-pack drink cans can be recycled with your old and battered carrier bags at larger supermarkets.  Tip:  Use an old carrier bag to collect these clean, stretchy wraps and take it along when you do your weekly shop.
  5. Plastic straws can be recycled as part of the recycling process for drinks cartons – but ONLY if they are safely tucked inside the carton, or they’ll get lost on the journey to the processing plant.  Tip:  Pop your straw inside your carton when you’ve finished your drink and recycle them both together – and don’t forget the caps on big beverage cartons!

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t recycle something that your council doesn’t want.  It will contaminate the new plastic made from everything else you recycle, making it useless.  When in doubt, keep it out!


  • your recycled drinks bottle can be back on the shelf as a new bottle within a few weeks?
  • you can make a fleece jacket from 25 recycled plastic bottles?
  • recycling 480 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power your primary school for a day, compared to making them from new?