Pizza boxes, crisp bags and light bulbs: here’s what not to recycle

Brits could save thousands of tons of recyclable materials from going to landfill by avoiding the country’s biggest recycling mistakes, according to an expert.

Takeaway pizza boxes, crisp packets and metallic wrapping paper are among the items you should not put in your recycling bins, says Harsha Rathnayake of rubbish removers www.junkhunters.co.uk.

He has now compiled a list of the things Brits are most likely to mistake for being recyclable.

Putting the wrong things in the recycling bin can cause cross contamination, causing the entire lot to be rejected and sent to landfill.

Glass and paper are particularly troublesome, as they are often assumed to be recyclable in all their forms.

In fact, there are several types of glass and paper products that either cannot be recycled, or must not be put into a household wheelie bin.

Many people are not aware that pizza boxes cannot be recycled if they are stained with grease.

Crisp packets are also a bugbear for would-be recyclers, as they are often mistaken for foil but are in fact a metallised plastic that is not recyclable.

Metallic or glittery wrapping paper should not be recycled either, as it contains non-paper additives.

Advice from Junk Hunters on how to recognise recyclable materials includes the “scrunch test” for metallised plastic or unsuitable paper.

To see whether a substance really is foil or paper, scrunch it in your hand – if it stays squashed then it is recyclable and if it springs back it is not.

Mr Rathnayake, who founded Junk Hunters, said: “It’s absolutely devastating to think of all these loads of rubbish that could have been recycled but have to be wasted in landfill because they’ve been unknowingly contaminated.

“Paper especially is a hotbed for mistakes, as it is usually very recyclable but there are some exceptions such as pizza boxes, shiny or glittery gift wrapping and wallpaper.

“Most people do want to recycle as much of their rubbish as possible, and the truth is it’s very easy to do it properly if you just familiarise yourself with a few of the most common mistakes.”

The top ten biggest recycling mistakes

Pizza boxes

They may be made of cardboard and you may even have brushed off the food crumbs. But paper that is stained with grease or food can’t be recycled, including baking paper. Home-made pizza tastes better anyway.

2. Crisp packets

They’re shiny and look like foil, but they’re metallised plastic and are not recyclable. The scrunch test will confirm whether something is recyclable foil or not.

3. Glittery or metallic wrapping paper

Again, the scrunch test is your friend when disposing of gift wrapping, and don’t put the ribbons in there either.

4. Tissue and kitchen roll

The cardboard tube is recyclable, but not the soiled tissue or sheets. Recycled paper needs to be clean.

5. Wallpaper/paintings

Paper strikes again. Recyclable paper cannot be paint-stained, and the colouring used on wallpaper means it can’t go into the recycling bin.

6. Wet wipes

Wet wipes, baby wipes, cosmetic wipes – they’re not recyclable and they’re not flushable either, whatever the packaging claims. Put them in the rubbish bin.

7. Polystyrene

This should not go in your recycling bin, although your council might accept it at a recycling centre.

8. Light bulbs

They’re a different glass to your jars and bottles, plus they contain metal. You can take energy efficient bulbs to most recycling centres, and the old style incandescent ones can go in the rubbish bin.

9. Batteries

These frequently find themselves in the recycling, when they shouldn’t even be in the general waste collection. They contain harmful metals that can seep into soil and water when put into landfill. Always take your batteries to a battery collection point – and consider switching to rechargeables.

10. Broken glass

It’s recyclable, but dangerous, so don’t put it in your wheelie bin. If you can handle it safely, you can take it to a recycling centre but you may need to wrap it in newspaper and put it in the rubbish bin.

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