In the UK nearly 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away every day, which is 3 billion nappies a year. Research revealed that there is genuine confusion amongst the public about whether disposable nappies are recyclable.


We’re working with Keep Britain Tidy to respond to this issue that costs local authorities millions of pounds a year. This forms part of a contamination reduction programme.

In Greater Manchester we have noticed that many people are unaware of what bin nappies should go in and therefore are putting them in the paper and card recycling bin. This is not the right bin and is causing many lorry loads to be rejected and classed as general waste.

The #TedSays campaign aims to remind residents that nappies are not recyclable and should go in your general waste bin, focusing on a simple message please don’t put nappies in your recycling.


Who are we working with?

We are working with 9 local councils across Greater Manchester districts that we collect waste from – Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford, and Keep Britain Tidy.

Keep Britain Tidy is an independent charity with three goals – to eliminate litter, end waste and improve places.

Where do nappies go?

All disposable nappies should go in your general waste bin.

Nappies that are put in the recycling spoil recycling and in some cases, classifies paper and card as general waste.

Here is a fun way to remember where to put nappies from Biffa and North London Waste Authority :

How can I make a difference?

Read our blog on reusable nappies.

If reusable nappies are not for you, remember to put disposable nappies in your general waste bin.

Keep Britain Tidy conducted contamination research.

Results highlighted that:

  • There is genuine confusion about whether nappies are recyclable.
  • Residents are not seeking information on how to recycle, their decisions are based on assumptions; and they hope for the best when putting things on the bins (if in doubt they put it in).
  • Information is often unreliable or incomplete, for example the packaging labels.
  • There is a significant amount of uncertainty and confusion about recycling.
  • Contamination usually comes from guilt, residents felt that by putting the wrong things in the recycling bin they were doing right as it would eventually get recycled and hopefully this would not end up in landfill.
  • Residents didn’t realize that their decisions have a bigger impact in the overall recycling process.
  • Not having enough space in the bins provided is a big driver for contamination, especially those with children
    • Reports of residents putting nappies in the wrong bin due to lack of space.
  • Some residents said that they believed a certain contamination behaviour was OK because they had never received a sticker or had their bin rejected to let them know otherwise.

The research concluded that behaviours towards nappy contamination are:

  • Nappy confusion is not only driven by packaging labels but instead assumptions that nappies are made from recyclable materials such as paper or plastic.
  • There is a big driver to do the right thing for the environment by not putting nappies in the “landfill bin”.
  • Lack of space meant that residents will put dirty nappies in any bins where there is space.

Nappy facts

With more people aware of the environmental impact of throwing away nappies, more nappies are being thrown in the wrong bins.

Disposable nappies are made from a combination of materials such as plastics (of polypropylene, polyethylene and polyester), wood pulp, and super absorbent polymers and elastic.

The nappy market is trying to be more environmental too and “Eco” nappies are on the rise. In the UK there are no brands that are 100% biodegradable but many companies are taking steps in the right direction by using renewable materials such as cotton and corn-starch to replace the plastics during the manufacturing process.

This doesn’t mean they can be recycled. Although there are many nappies that have biodegradable components they will still take many years to breakdown.

It is important to note that labels or symbols on nappy packaging labelled as “biodegradable” does not mean they are recyclable. For more information on what these symbols mean watch the video from RecycleNow (opens in a new tab):


Italy and Holland (opens in a new tab) do have nappy recycling facilities, engineers have devised ways of recovering the plastic and other materials inside them, but these are very new and technology that is being tested. Unlike bottles, cans or cardboard, nappies are hard to recycle.

How to get involved in #TedSays

  • Tell your friends and family about #TedSays
  • Follow @recycle4gm and @KeepBritainTidy on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
  • Subscribe to our newsletter


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