Now's the time to really get into recycling, not only will you clear the house of all that clutter but you may also be able to raise some much needed cash!

Recycling still remains one of the hottest topics around but sometimes you just want to know 'can I recycle this or not?'.  Here, you will find some general pointers, much will depend on your local authority who are responsible for waste management in you area. Keep looking as new facilities are being added - cardboard food containers (tetrapak) can now be recycled at some sites.


Here are some ideas for buying and recycling products for the whole family:

  • Buy recycled products - recycled glass and paper products. Check out the recycled products guides (,
  • Buy gifts throughout the year that will last (not only quality but also things like annnual magazine subscriptions, National trust membership etc) and look for presents that use rechargeable batteries, even solar powered items, wind up radios (a great way to lose a few calories too!)
  • If you don't know what to buy support charities either by tokens ( or with products from charities such as CAFOD.
  • Stamps can be recycled at lots of places such as Oxfam or at Guidedogs for the blind - you don't have to wait for all those Christmas stamps!


Recycling isn’t the whole answer, it is a much bigger picture where we need to think about using less in the first place and reusing what we already have. Much of our rubbish despite recycling will still go to land fill sites or be exported thus transferring the problem to less fortunate countries.  Every time you go shopping think about what you are buying, take your own bag and get the children involved - after all it will affect their future more than yours.


Each UK household produces about 1 tonne of rubbish annually, amounting to about 27 million tonnes for the UK each year and that all has to go somewhere On average that’s your own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks! (Waste watch).


What can you do to Reduce

  • Watch out for over packaged products and buy loose rather than prepacked food
  • Reduce air miles by buying local produce at Farmers Markets or grow your own vegetables, thus eliminating the transport all together! There are lots of local Christmas markets for food and presents - use them and support your local community too!
  • Reduce waste from nappies by using reusable ones with a nappy laundry service, and save disposable ones for holidays and long journeys. Disposable nappies make up 2-4% of the entire UK household waste
  • Most stores are now either not providing bags at all or ask you if you want one so remember to take your own! Keep a spare bag or two in the car for when you forget.

Reuse, where items retain their original form

  • Each person in the UK uses an average of 134 plastic bags each year, reuse them - even the government has stepped in to encourage reatilers to cut down and shops are gradually introducing a charge
  • Use scrap paper and envelopes, great for saving money
  • Donate old computer and audio visual equipment to community groups or schools
  • Buy rechargeable items instead of disposable ones e.g. batteries  
  • Buy things in refillable containers e.g. washing powders
  • Take old clothes and books to charity shops, or have a car boot sale - there's money to be made ....

Recycle, where items are broken down in some way and then remanufactured such as plastic cups into pens, aluminium can back into cans. You can also increase your use of recycled products

  • Look for products packed in recyclable materials
  • Compost any kitchen waste – there are lots of different methods depending on your own circumstances
  • Make effective use of your kerbside collection and amenity site
  • Buy products made from recycled materials – loo rolls, bags, stationery,  packaging (recycledproducts)

So, what can I recycle?

In the UK recycling takes two forms either Kerbside collections or amenity sites for items that cannot be collected from the kerbside. The amenity sites will either be local collection points for glass, cardboard, clothes etc or larger ones for batteries, paints etc. Your local council runs both of these and to find out what your council provides visit the recyclenow website

Batteriesyes they can be recycled but more often than not only at the amenity centre.  Buy rechargeable ones, a button battery pollutes 1m cubed of soil for 50 years!

Cans: both aluminum and steel.  Crush them if you can but there is no need to remove labels as these will be burnt off in the reprocessing. The aluminum can recycling rate was 48% in 2006.

Cardboard: some local authorities collect as part of their kerbside collections, otherwise take to your local amenity centre, make sure you check your local facilities as some can now recylce tetra packs as well so all those juice cartons can now be recycled too.

Clothes and shoes: take them to a local rummage sale or your local charity shop, failing that many amenity sites do have clothes and shoe collection bins. YOu can even sell them on e-bay or through local second hand shops - vintage clothes are very fashionable!

Compost: you can compost all raw vegetable matter including peelings, egg shells, coffee grouts, tea bags, grass clipping but best well mixed, small amounts of cardboard – especially egg boxes.

Computers: can be recycled but make sure you permanently delete all your files and programmes. With the introduction of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations it is now even more important to dispose of electrical equipment in the propoer manner. Try the following organizations:

  • Local schools or community projects.
  • Freecycle is a non-profit movement that encourages people to give things for free in their local community.
  • Donate a PC is a web site where you can donate or buy old equipment. Your equipment will go to a UK charity, school or other not-for-profit organization. 

Foil: treated differently to aluminum cans usually recyclable at central facilities only

Furniture: advertise in your local free paper or take to a local secondhand shop.

Glass: with over 20,000 glass recycling points around the country even if you do not have a kerbside collection there is no excuse for not recycling glass!  Rinse them out and remove caps if possible as this speeds up the processing.

Mobile Phones: yes these can be recycled and there are a number of companies but also don't forget you can sometimes get aprt exchange on them when you buy a new phone

  • Fonebak was launched within these stores and collects and donates monies to charities.
  • BLISS (the premature baby charity)
  • Oxfam
  • Fones4Schools enables schools to earn cash for old phones

Paper: the oldest recycled product that began in the UK in 1921. Includes envelopes and paper. Many councils provide kerbside collections but you may need to take any cardboard to your local amenity site. It does include old telephone directories, yellow pages. Don't forget to remove any personal information such as you address and phone number first.

Thought you could recycle your tetrapak cartons (milk and fruit juices). Well, they are not totally made of card/paper and require more specialist processes so check the tetrapak web site to see if your local area covers them.

Using the Mail preference service will cut down on the amount of junk mail you receive in the first place.

Plastic: we produce 20 times more plastic now than we did 50 years ago and plastics now make up approx 7% of the average household waste. Whilst recycling of plastics has great benefits we need to think about its use in the first place. Most councils only collect the drinks bottles and detergents/shampoos bottles, NOT the food type.

Plastic bags: supermarkets often have a collection point for these but reduce them in the first place by reusing them or not using them at all - remember to take your own bags everytime you go out shopping - invest in a few bags for life!

Printer cartridges: get them refilled. With over 48 million cartridges going to landfill sites every year in the UK it makes sense to get them refilled and you save money too.

Or refill them yourself

or donate to a charity who will reuse them

Spectacles: these can be recycled offering great advantages to less fortunate people overseas

  • Vision Aid Overseas in association with KODAK Lens, have a spectacle recycling scheme called the Second Sight Project.

Stamps: many charities will be glad to receive your stamps so start saving them especially over the Christmas season

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