Recycling: 23 surprising things you didn’t know you could recycle

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These items often end up in the bin. (Picture: Getty)

Metro.co.uk‘s Just1Change is dedicated to helping readers make small changes that have a big impact on the world.

A report released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in 2020 revealed that British households create over 26 million tonnes of waste each year, the weight of around 260 large cruise ships – and this number will only keep increasing.

This startling fact calls for us to start recognising the everyday items we can recycle, so that we can prevent them from needlessly going into landfills.

Here, Metro.co.uk has compiled a list of 23 things commonly misplaced in the bin.

Surprising things you didn’t know could be recycled

The following items take a little more effort to recycle than just popping them in your recycling bin, but they can make a big difference.

Running shoes

Calling all sneakerheads (Picture: Getty)

Has your trainer obsession got out of hand? It happens to the best of us.

Fortunately, shoe shop Runners Need has introduced a Recycle My Run campaign which will give your trainers a new lease of life.

Until November 21, 2021, Runners Need is encouraging people to drop their used footwear in one of their special recycling bins, giving a £20 voucher in return for a pair of old trainers.

These shoes will then be redistributed all over the world to people who can otherwise not afford them.

You can find your nearest Runners Need store by using their postcode checker.

Other stores such as Nike, Advance Performance, and Wiggle are running similar recycling schemes.

Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe scheme recycles the donated footwear into surfaces for playgrounds, running tracks, and other clothes – find your nearest drop-off point on the Nike website.

You could also give your used trainers to The Running Charity, which donates activewear to young people who would otherwise be unable to afford them.

Similarly, ReRun Clothing accepts unwanted running shoes – the profits made go back into the running community.

Face masks

Littered face masks are now all too common (Picture: Getty)

You can now recycle your face masks at special collection bins located in 438 Morrison’s stores nationwide

The full list of participating Morrison’s stores can be found on the ReWorked website – they are the company that recycle the masks.

There are also 150 Wilko stores participating in a similar scheme.

Wilko estimates that a huge 400,000 masks could be recycled via the scheme. This equates to a whopping 966kg of single-use plastic.

Find your nearest Wilko face mask recycling bin on the Wilko website.

Once full, collection bins are taken away by ReWorked, where – after a 72-hour quarantine period – masks are washed and shredded down into raw materials, which can be manufactured into new products.

Crisp packets

Crisp packets can actually be recycled (Picture: Getty)

Although crisp packets should not be put in your recycling bin at home, you can pop them in one of Walkers’ 1,600 public drop-off locations nationwide.

There is a drop-off location within four miles of 80% of UK households – find your local one on the Walkers’ website

Any brand of crisp packets – not just Walkers – will be accepted.

However, Pringles lovers will have to take their empty cans to a Bring Bank – find your nearest drop-off location on the Pringles’ website.

The packets don’t need to be cleaned, but they do need to be empty.

Coffee cups

Only 1% of coffee cups are recycled (Picture: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

In the UK, we use over seven million disposable coffee cups every day, but less than 1% of these are recycled, according to recycling specialists First Mile.

Although you think it might be safe to pop your used coffee cups in the recycling bin, the plastic waterproof lining actually means they can’t be recycled with collections of paper and cardboard and may contaminate a load, causing the whole lot to be sent to landfill.

Currently, no UK coffee shop chain currently offer fully recyclable cups.

However, hope is not lost, as McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Pret a Manger, and Caffè Nero all recycle paper cups in-store – and will take any brand of cup.

However, the best way to remain eco-friendly while enjoying your morning coffee is to buy a reusable cup.

Soft plastic

Pop your soft plastics into a special bin (Picture: Getty)

Soft plastics are lightweight plastics that often cannot be placed in recycling bins at home.

This includes plastic shopping bags, yoghurt lids, and food wrappers.

Some types of soft plastic can be recycled at carrier bag collection points at the larger stores of major supermarkets such as the Co-Operative and Sainsbury’s.

The following items are accepted at the recycle bins:

  • Bread bags

  • Plastic bags
  • Breakfast cereal liners
  • Bubble wrap
  • Delivery bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Frozen food bags
  • Magazine and newspaper wrappers
  • Multi-pack wrapping
  • Plastic marked as low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – resin ID code 4
  • Toilet roll wrapping

Find your nearest soft plastic collection point using Recycle Now’s postcode checker.

Toothbrushes

Don’t bin your brush (Picture: Getty)

Public Health England recommends replacing your toothbrush every one to three months – meaning that Brits will get through up to 12 every year.

Fortunately, Colgate and hello have introduced an Oral Care Recycling Programme, which – with the help of waste management company TerraCycle – turns your old brushes into plastic pellets to make new recycled products.

You can drop off used brushes, brush heads, empty toothpaste tubes, empty floss containers, and the packaging at public drop-off locations across the UK – find your local one on Google Maps.

Cooking oil

Turn your used oil into Biodiesel for London vehicles (Picture: Getty)

Thames Water reports that they have to clear around 75,000 blockages per year, mostly caused by cooking fats and oils.

When the oils cool down, they harden to form a thick layer of gunk, which can turn into huge lumpy blockages called ‘fatbergs’.

To avoid clogging drains, small amounts of oil can be added to your food waste recycling bin, provided it has cooled down first.

If you do not have access to a food waste recycling service, put it in a sealed container and place it in the general waste bin.

Your local council may also have a special way to dispose of oil – check with them to find out more.

Alternatively, you can order a cooking oil recycling container, which First Mile will collect and turn into Biodiesel.

This Biodiesel is used to fuel vehicles throughout London.

However, it is worth noting that this service is pricey, starting at £24.56.

Mobile phones

Make money while saving the planet (Picture: Getty)

Upgraded your phone? Time to upgrade your recycling methods.

Make money while you save the environment by selling your old phone to Envirofone.

The company even accept broken phones, and end up recycling 98% mobiles sent its way.

You can also buy refurbished phones from the site – which is not only better for the planet, but will also save you some money.

If you have a spare iPhone lying around, then Apple can take that off your hands as part of their trade-in scheme – no matter the model or condition.

In return for handing in an eligible device, you can receive either credit towards your next purchase, or get an Apple Store Gift Card.

Other stores with similar trade-in schemes include Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone, Samsung, Virgin Media, EE, and O2.

CDs and DVDs

Only 90s kids will remember discs (Picture: Getty)

Video and music streaming sites such as Netflix and Spotify have made discs a thing of the past.

Have you got any old CDs, CD-ROMs, and DVDs collecting dust that you no longer want?

Discs can’t be put in your normal recycling bin as they contain chemicals that can be harmful when burnt.

Damaged or broken discs can be sent to Retro Plastics Ltd to be recycled.

Discs that are in good condition can be sold on sites like eBayMusic MagpieZapper, and Ziffit – many charity shops will also happily accept them.

Cigarette butts

Don’t be a butt – recycle your used cigarettes (Picture: Getty)

Cigarette butts are often seen scattered on the streets, but there is actually a way to recycle them.

You can sign up to TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Recycling Scheme where you can send your cigarette butts to a warehouse.

The warehouse staff then use the filters, foil, and plastic to recycle into plastic pellets while composting the tobacco.

Or, you can simply make sure you drop your butts in the special cigarette waste collection bins scattered around most UK high streets.

Batteries

Battery bins can be found in most supermarkets (Picture: Getty)

Some councils collect batteries as part of their household collection service, but in most areas you will need to take them to a recycling centre or a collection point.

All shops selling more than 32kg of batteries a year (approx 345 x four-packs of AA batteries) have to provide battery recycling collection facilities in-store – meaning that major supermarkets and DIY stores will have drop-off bins.

Find your local battery recycling bin by using the Recycle Now postcode checker.

Bras

Send your bra to someone who can’t afford one (Picture: Getty)

If your bra has seen better days, then why not recycle it with a charity?

Smalls For All accepts new or ‘gently worn’ bras of any size and donates them to women who need them most in Africa.

You can also donate your bras to Against Breast Cancer, which sends them to Togo, Ghana, and Kenya, whilst also raising vital funds for breast cancer research.

Find your nearest Against Breast Cancer bra bank by using their locator tool.

Electrical items

Is your vacuum cleaner collecting dust? (Picture: Getty)

Household electrical items can be recycled at some retailers and Household Waste Recycling Centres.

Find your local electricals recycling point using the Recycle Now location tool.

Carpets

Thouands of tonnes of carpet is wasted each year in the UK (Picture: Getty)

Each year, 40,000 tonnes of carpet is wasted in the UK, according to Carpet Recycling UK.

Carpet is a complex make up of materials and fibres which can mean that the recycling of the material is difficult. However, it is possible to recycle all elements of carpet.

The organisation suggests listing your carpet on Freecycle, or using the Reuse Network location tool to find out if there are any carpet recycling services near you.

More information about recycling carpets is available at Carpet Recycling UK.

Old pound coins

Donate your old pound coins to charity (Picture: Getty)

Still finding old pound coins in between your sofa cushions? Then put them to charitable use.

Recycling For Good Causes will accept the coins and then turn that into money for a chosen charity or good cause.

Makeup and beauty packaging

Fancy a free MAC lipstick? (Picture: Getty)

Being eco-friendly has never looked so good.

Maybelline, MAC, Kiehl’sBoots, The Body Shop, and Origins all have recycling programmes for your makeup and beauty empties.

At MAC, you even get a free lipstick when you give back at least six empty MAC cosmetic containers.

Lush runs a similar scheme where customers can get a fresh mask when they return five Lush empties.

If you have any makeup or toiletries hanging around that you haven’t used – maybe they aren’t your shade – then you should consider donating them to The Hygiene Bank.

This charity then distributes the donations to those who need them most.

Other charities you should consider donating unwanted or unneeded toiletries to include Beauty Banks, Toiletries Amnesty, Give and Makeup, and any local homeless shelters and women’s refuges.

Bikes

Old bikes can be donated to asylum seekers and children in Africa (Picture: Getty)

Instead of dropping your bike off at the tip, why don’t you donate it to a wonderful charity?

The Bike Project takes second-hand bikes, fixes them up, and then donates them to refugees and asylum seekers in London.

Similarly, Re-Cycle donates old bikes to children in Africa.

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Things you didn’t know you could put in your home recycling bin

Recycling starts at home, and although you may be trying your best to be eco-friendly, many of us are still unknowingly binning items that could be put in the recycling.

You can put the following items in your home recycling bin:

  • Coat hangers
  • Aluminium foil and trays (make sure they are washed)
  • Metal lids
  • Plastic bottle tops
  • Empty erosol cans
  • Empty shampoo, detergent, and shower gel bottles


MORE : The plastic recycling system is broken — here’s how we can fix it


MORE : Vodafone switches to recycled plastic SIM cards

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