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Myth busting your mixed recycling bin

Plastic Bottles

Busting the myths… What we really want in your mixed recycling bin

Here at Recycle for Greater Manchester we get asked lots of questions about what people should put into their mixed recycling bins. Here’s a handy guide to help bust some myths and help you to Recycle Right.

1. What should go in your mixed recycling bin?

Take lids off your bottles and jarsBottles…bottles and even more bottles! They all belong in the mixed recycling bin – whether they are cleaning product bottles, drinks bottles, shampoo and shower gel bottles, milk bottles or glass bottles – they can all be recycled.

Don’t forget we also want your glass jars, drink cans, food tins, tin foil and aerosols in here as well. Just give them a quick rinse to remove any food – it will help to keep your bin clean too.

2. Should I put my mixed recycling in a bag before it goes into the bin?

No, we don’t want any plastic bags in the mixed recycling bin – all bottles, jars, cans, tins and aerosols should be loose. Your plastic bags need to go into the general waste bin to be turned into green energy.

3. What about other types of plastic packaging – things like pots, tubs and trays?

We only recycle plastic bottles in Greater Manchester. People are sometimes confused about this and put all types of low grade plastic packaging in their mixed recycling bin – things like margarine tubs, food trays and yoghurt pots. We want these in the general waste bin so they can be turned into energy.

There are really good reasons why we can only recycle plastic bottles in Greater Manchester.

• Manufacturers that make new products only want high grade plastics. High grade = plastic bottles.
• Plastics like yoghurt pots, margarine tubs and plastic trays (pots, tubs and trays) are low grade plastics and the manufacturers just don’t want these to make new products out of. As there is a low demand for this type of plastic, there are very few recycling plants that can recycle these and there just isn’t the capacity to take the volume that we have in Greater Manchester.
• During the recycling process, the plastic is melted. A plastic pot, tub, tray and a plastic bottle melt at different temperatures, meaning the pots, tubs and trays contaminate the bottles and the batch can’t be used to make new products.

Other areas across the UK may collect plastic pots, tubs and trays, but at the moment very little is recycled – most of it is turned into green energy. We are reviewing the plastic market and if the market for this type of recycled plastic changes or manufacturers start to make packaging out of plastic that can be recycled more easily, then we will review our policy.

4. Lids and tops on or off?

Take these off please – it helps to make recycling easier. Lids and tops are often made of different types of materials and they end up reducing the quality of the recycling.

5. What do the plastic recycling codes on items mean?

Please ignore the codes on the bottom of plastic packaging – they are not meant for the consumer and do not tell you whether a product can be recycled or not – they simply show what type of plastic resin was used to make the product. There are thousands of different grades of plastic – a grade of plastic is created by adding different additives to one type of plastic, or by mixing plastic types to create a specific material property. Remember bottles are made of higher grade plastic and they can be recycled more easily.

6. What happens to my mixed recycling in Greater Manchester?

Mixed recycling collected from your wheelie bin is delivered to the Materials Recovery Facility in Sharston, Manchester. Here it is separated by different sorting technologies. Plastic bottles are sorted into different types – HDPE, PVC and PET – and then baled to be sent on for recycling. Similarly aluminium and steel cans are sorted into separate bales and glass bottles and jars are collected in a container and sent for reprocessing.

7. Where do the recycled end products go?

The bales of material are sent to a recycling plant – plastic bottles are turned into plastic flake to be used in new products. The end market can and does change depending on demand for raw materials and this information is updated on the Recycle for Greater Manchester website regularly. At the moment, 100% is being reprocessed in the UK but sometimes this can change.

How are we doing in our recycling efforts in Greater Manchester?

Shampoo and shower gelWe have made great progress in the last 12 months and are currently recycling almost 47% of our total waste. There is room for improvement, however, as many residents are still putting plastic pots, tubs and tray in their mixed recycling bin.

Remember, the only plastic we can recycle are bottles, not just milk bottles or fizzy pop bottles but think about cleaning products bottles like bleach and those in your bathroom like shampoo and shower gel bottles – we want those too! Often it’s the small steps that can make a big difference. By thinking carefully about the materials we are recycling, and putting the right things in the right bin, we’ll be able to make an even bigger impact.

Recycle for Greater Manchester