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Waste and recycling myths busted

Confused by what you can or can't recycle? Think it's a waste of time anyway? Read on to find clear answers to many of the common myths about recycling.

Mixed recyclables including bottles, boxes,tins, paper and jars.

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Myth 1: Recycling is a waste of time as it all goes to landfill or abroad anyway

Not true - your recycling makes a real difference. Recycling protects the environment and cuts disposal costs for council tax payers. We check and audit what happens to your recycling every year.

Most recyclable materials are processed here in the UK and some are sent abroad to be made into new products. Exported materials are shipped using boats that would otherwise be returning empty after delivering goods to the UK.

Even though this means recyclable materials are transported further, it's still a better environmental option than sending them to landfill or using raw materials to make new products.

Find out more about what happens to your recycling.

Myth 2: Recycling uses more energy than it saves

Not true - up to 95% less energy is needed to make products using recycled materials. Your recycling helps to save valuable resources and protect the environment for our future.

Did you know, recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to run a TV for 4 hours? For more information, visit Recycle Now.

Myth 3: Rinsing out recyclables is a waste of water and energy

Not true - making sure bottles and other food and drinks packaging are completely empty and giving them a quick rinse before recycling is important for recycling. This is because it stops other recyclables from being contaminated.

Use the water from the washing up or pop them into the dishwasher if there's space.

Myth 4: Aerosol cans can’t be recycled

Not true - empty aerosol cans can be recycled using your recycling bins or bags. Please remember to recycle empty cans of deodorant, furniture polish, air fresheners and other aluminium too such as clean foil takeaway containers.

Did you know metal can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing quality?

Myth 5: To recycle plastics you need to check and understand the recycling symbol with number found on plastic items

Not true - the small number found on plastics only identifies the type of plastic resin used to make the item but not whether it can be recycled.

On-pack recycling labels do however indicate whether the item is widely recycled, not recyclable or if it should be checked locally. Look for these labels or wording on your packaging. Find out more information about recycling labels.

Myth 6: You can’t recycle many plastic products

Not true - the following can go in your household recycling bins:

  • empty plastic bottles of all types - including shampoo, soap, gel, skin care and detergent bottles
  • empty yoghurt pots and tubs, such as margarine or ice cream tubs

The following can be taken to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC):

  • hard plastic such as toys and bric-a-brac that you no longer use or can't find a new home for

Please check with your district or borough council for advice on what to do with other plastic items such as fruit punnets and black plastic.

The following plastic items can't be recycled and should be placed in your general waste bin:

  • polystyrene
  • medicine packs such as headache pills
  • toothpaste tubes

Although plastic bags and wrapping can’t be recycled at the kerbside, some types of plastic wrapping can be recycled in the carrier bag collection points at most major supermarkets. For example, plastic films, such as those which cover bread, food punnets and trays, crisp packets, and sweet wrappers.

To check your nearest recycling location for plastic bags and wrapping  and what types they accept visit

Plant pots should be used for as long as possible. Damaged pots should be placed in your general waste bin (apart from Derbyshire Dales where they can go in the blue recycling bins). Some larger garden centres may have recycling points. 

Film, polystyrene and polythene can't be recycled currently using your kerbside recycling bins as the materials are of low value and technically difficult to recycle. They'll normally need placing in your general waste bin.

Some types of plastic film can be recycled in the carrier bag collection points at most major supermarkets.

Did you know an easy way to find out if an item is made from foil which can be recycled or non-recyclable metallised plastic film, like crisp packets, is to do the scrunch test. Simply scrunch the item in your hand - if it remains 'scrunched' it's foil and can be recycled. If it springs back it's probably metallised plastic film.

Myth 7: There’s no point separating your recycling into different materials, it all gets mixed together in the recycling lorry anyway

Not true - some refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) have separate compartments close together within the vehicle. So when materials are loaded it can look like separated recyclables are being mixed together when in fact they're entering separate compartments.

Sometimes refuse collection crews will use what are termed ‘slave bins’. These are bigger bins used to collect larger amounts of recyclables before they're tipped into the RCV. This can also sometimes lead to the impression that materials are being mixed together when in fact they're kept separate.

Recyclables are processed at special recycling centres where materials such as paper, cans and plastics are sorted by machines and by hand. The separated materials are then bought by companies who can make them into new products.

Myth 8: Councils are making money out of the materials we recycle

Not true - some of the materials have a value and some have a recycling cost, but your recycling helps save money as other methods of waste disposal are more expensive.

Myth 9: It doesn't matter if I put the wrong things in my recycling as it all gets sorted out anyway

Not true – if you put the wrong things in your recycling you risk contaminating the whole load. This might mean all the materials are sent for disposal instead of recycling or that the quality of the recyclable materials produced are lower. So, if in doubt, leave it out!

The following items cannot be recycled using your kerbside recycling bin:

  • glass cookware such as Pyrex ®, drinking glasses or window glass
  • containers or bottles with liquids still in them
  • items contaminated with food or grease such as used pizza boxes
  • sanitary items, such as nappies
  • tissues, wet wipes and make up pads
  • paper stained with grease, paint or dirt
  • sticky paper such as Post-It ® notes, sticky labels or masking tape
  • wall and decoration paper
  • crisp packets and sweet wrappers
  • laminated foil pouches
  • greeting cards with glitter or other decorations on them

Myth 10: I can't recycle all my recycling as there isn't enough space in my recycling bin

Not true – you can put out extra recycling alongside your main recycling collection bins or bags on collection day. It's normally best to use transparent boxes, bags or any spare recycling containers you have. Check with your local council for details.

Large items of cardboard will normally be collected if flattened and laid alongside your recycling bin.

If you have a large family, contact your district or borough council to see if you qualify for an extra recycling bin.

Myth 11: You can’t recycle food and drink cartons

Not true – yes you can! In North East Derbyshire, Bolsover, Erewash, High Peak and Derbyshire Dales food and drink cartons can go in the main recycling bins.

In other areas of the county these cartons can be taken to your nearest household waste recycling centre.

The carton banks at the recycling centres also accept tube containers such as Pringles for recycling. We currently only have banks for these materials at Ashbourne, Bretby, Glossop, Loscoe, Northwood and Stonegravels HWRCs.

Myth 12: Supermarkets are doing nothing much to reduce packaging

Not true – most of the major supermarkets are doing their bit and some of the packaging plays a vital role in extending the shelf life of food stuffs.

Discarded food has a much bigger detrimental environmental impact if thrown away than packaging. For example, the shrink wrap around a cucumber can extend the cucumber's shelf life by up to 3 times.

Find out what the supermarkets are doing to reduce waste by visiting their websites.

If you have other questions email: and our experts will get back to you as soon as they can.