FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
What is recycling?
Recycling involves waste materials being collected, sorted and made into new products and materials. The recycled product will often be the same thing it was before such as a bottle, but can also be down graded into a new product or material.
Why should we recycle?
The most obvious reason is that land fills will not be filled up as quick if we continue to recycle. The main environmental benefit is reducing greenhouse gas emissions as when we manufacture new products from recycled material rather than new material it will always result in lower CO2 emissions.
Recycling waste also reduces the amount of methane generated from biodegradable waste breaking down in landfill. Although methane is released in relatively small quantities in the UK it is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.
Recycling also has the benefit of preserving natural resources such as trees, minerals, metals and oil. Even when a natural resource is renewable if managed sustainably, harvesting it can still have negative environmental impacts.
What would happen if we didn’t recycle?
Resources that run out eventually are called finite resources. Examples of finite resources are oil and aluminium ore. If we didn’t recycle, materials like these would run out and we would have no other option but to use alternative sources. By recycling these materials we can save finite resources for the future and also reduce the amount of rubbish which ends up in landfills.
What can be recycled?
Nearly all the rubbish in your bin can be recycled although some materials are much easier to recycle than others. In our ‘Recycling Information’ section there is a breakdown of certain materials that can be reduced, reused and recycled. If the material you are trying to find information on isn’t there, contact your local recycling plant and ask them for more help.
Is recycling greener than alternatives like incineration?
For materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, aluminium and steel, recycling produces fewer greenhouse gases than incineration.
Where does most of my recycling go?
Asian countries like China take on much of the material that's sorted for recycling in the United Kingdom and make it into new materials and products. China is the top importer of paper and plastic waste, taking in millions of tonnes of the paper and plastics exported from the United Kingdom in 2007.
Wouldn’t shipping materials overseas for recycling cancel out any carbon savings?
It does sound like it would cancel itself out, but the carbon footprint of, for example, shipping waste glass from the UK to Germany to recycle into new glass is in fact lower than making new glass from raw materials here in the UK. The transport emissions involved are small compared with the greenhouse gases produced when manufacturing such products as glass from scratch.
How does the UK compare to other countries on recycling?
Recycling rates in the United Kingdom currently stand at an average of 34.5% of all waste. European Union targets mean that councils must encourage homeowners to recycle 40% by 2012 and 50% by 2020.
Where can I buy things made out of recycled materials?
Buying recycled goods is almost as important as recycling itself. In order to complete the recycling process we have to use what we have recycled. Lots of shops now sell products that contain recycled materials, for example, bin bags, writing paper, and toilet paper.
Where can I take my rubbish to be recycled?
Most cities, towns and villages have dedicated recycling plants, some who collect your recycling boxes at the road side, and others who require you to take your recyclable materials to them. Contact your local council for information on how and where you can recycle
Why isn't plastic as much as other materials?
There are dozens of different types of plastics and a wide variety of them are used in everyday life, some of which are usually very light which means that it is not always economically feasible to carry out plastic recycling. To reduce the amount of plastics you use you can buy fewer products with plastic packaging and reuse carrier bags and plastic bottles where possible. The majority of supermarkets are now encouraging the use of less plastic bags to carry your shopping home.
Where can I recycle TVs, video recorders and other electrical equipment?
Electronic equipment should always be reused when possible and only recycled as a last resort. If your item is still working, look in your yellow pages for a charity which may take it and reuse it. Old computers can be donated to schools or local community groups.
Which colour of glass should be put together in recycling bins?
Most recycling plants separate bottle banks into three colours: brown, green and clear. (Blue glass can be put in with green glass).
Should you wash your cans and bottles before recycling them?
It is preferred that you quickly rinse out your cans and bottles as it will keep your recycling box clean and free from any bad smells. It also helps to make a much more efficient recycling process.
Where can batteries be recycled?
Some Local Authorities provide recycling facilities for batteries within their roadside collection. There are also battery recycling plants that specialize in the subject.