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Local Labour Party’s Light-Hearted Look At Our Bewildering Recycling Decisions

Published on: 1 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 5 Oct, 2021

Guildford’s Labour Party have taken a light-hearted view of the serious issue of what can and what can’t be recycled from a typical black bin bag, plus the “don’t-knows”. Their findings highlight what an uncertain and complicated business domestic recycling can be.

84,000 tonnes of Surrey’s waste is not recycled because it goes in the wrong bin said the Surrey Environment Partnership in their 2019/2020 report on Surrey’s waste.

See: Waste Report Reveals A Third Of Surreys Waste Incinerated With CO2 Emissions Uncaptured

Sue Hackman and colleagues from the Guildford Labour Party sorted through a typical black to see what could have been recycled.

As part of the Great Big Green Week, Sue Hackman and colleagues from the Guildford Labour party made a video of sorting out and discussing the rights and wrongs of a “socialist” bin bag.

As we all know, it’s not straightforward. See the video here

They found it more difficult than expected to work out which parts of our rubbish could be recycled.

They then asked GBC for some further informed guidance on where the items in the video should go.

Library image of municipal waste.

Soft plastics can be recycled, and according to the GBC website you can put carrier bags in your green bin. However, if it’s soft plastic but not a carrier bag, it can’t be recycled through the GBC. You can check with your local supermarket to see if it has a carrier collection point. In one of these, you can also deposit bread bags, breakfast cereal liners, frozen food bags, bubble wrap, and magazine and newspaper wrappers.

Black plastic cannot currently be recycled: the machines that sort recycling are unable to identify them. Best to avoid buying them where possible.

Plastic bottles (eg bleach bottles) can be recycled. If the plastic is a bottle, pot, tub or tray, then go ahead and throw it in your green bin.

Milk cartons/Tetra Pak cartons (made of cardboard) can be recycled.

Wooden clubs with nails (for waving at litter bugs) can’t simply be recycled, so your best bet is to go to Guildford’s community recycling centre (or a recycling centre near you). The metal can also be recycled at one of these centres, but you might need to remove it from the end of the wood first.

Black plastic coat hangers can’t be recycled, and will need to go in your black bin.

Lighters are made of complex parts and can’t be recycled. You can either put them in your black bin, or take them to a hazardous waste collection site. This is slightly safer than just tossing it away, but a lot more faff.

Clothes and shoes can be recycled but GBC reckons your best bet is to reuse clothes and textiles rather than throwing them away. Giving them away to a charity shop or as a hand-me-down is probably the best option. If they’re too worn, then you can leave them in a sealed, clearly-labelled bag next to your bins.

Frying pans are not recyclable. The same goes for any ovenware you have that contains pyrex. Drop them off at a community recycling centre.

Plastic bottle full of petrol shouldn’t be thrown into your recycling bin (it could be auctioned for a small fortune on eBay, currently!). The bottle, however, can be recycled as long as you get rid of any traces of petrol. You can either send it to a hazardous waste collection site or pay a small fee for a garage to get rid of the petrol for you.

Disposable Covid Face Masks are for the black bin.

Plastic tubes (eg toothpaste, hand cream) go in your black bin.

Printer Cartridges can be taken back in some shops. Otherwise, these will need to go to your local community recycling centre.

Egg shells go in the green food waste bin.

Tissues cannot be recycled, and go in your black bin.

Coffee pods generally cannot be recycled and are emblematic of the disposable culture we live in. However, some can be, including ones from Nespresso machines.

Plugs (and other small electricals), batteries and mobile phones should not go in your black bin. Tie them to a bag, lagbel “electrical” and put them next to a bin.

Junk Mail can be recycled: don’t worry if they have clear plastic on the front.

Biros, pens and pencils have to go in your black bin.

Candles have to go in the black bin, unfortunately.

Vacuum cleaner contents can actually go in your home compost bin.

We have asked Cllr Neil Dallen, chair of the Surrey Environment Partnership, for his reaction to the difficulties faced by the people in the video.

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test 4 Responses to Local Labour Party’s Light-Hearted Look At Our Bewildering Recycling Decisions

  1. Daniel Hill Reply

    October 1, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    Brilliant video well done Guildford Labour Party for bringing this to people’s attention. There are case studies out there.

    Despite what Guildford Borough Council tell you, almost everything can be recycled but generally, councils only concentrate on high-value items like glass, paper and certain plastics.

    Cllr Jonathan Essex worked for many years before he became a SCC councillor on the idea of setting up reuse centres to reduce waste. He is a very knowledgeable person on this topic.

    Guildford Borough Council needs to do more about reducing waste going to landfill.

  2. Brian Creese Reply

    October 4, 2021 at 10:42 am

    I think the video makes it quite clear that the current recycling system is extremely hard to master and most people almost certainly get some items wrong.

    Sue and colleagues were quite shocked at how difficult the exercise proved to be. The real message of this video is that we should have a properly organised system where all items are marked with a recycling symbol/category and all local authorities collect that material in an identical way. If we need five separate bins for five categories so be it (or four or six) but let’s have a universal system that everyone can understand.

    Brian Creese is chair of the Guildford Labour Party

  3. Sue Warner Reply

    October 4, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    And if you live in a block of flats with industrial bins, the rules change again.

    I had some small electrical items to recycle. The rules say clearly label and leave next to your recycling bin. I tried that and the bin men just threw it into the rubbish bin. The only way to get it recycled was to put it in the recycling bin.

  4. Ruth Vickery Reply

    October 21, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Boots will take some ‘hard to recycle’ items https://www.boots.com/boots-recycling-scheme

    Superdurg will take medication blister packs https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/brigades/medicine-packet-uk

    Laundry detergent is available it totally-recyclable packaging (eg Earthbreeze) Ditto toilet paper and dishwasher detergent

    Clean aluminium foil should be scrunched together into a ball – small scraps can’t be detected.

    Potato starch envelopes from some items delivered to your home can be re-used as food wrappers before going in your compost bin.

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