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  • Writer's pictureNatalie


Whilst many people are now educated on what types of things can go into a recycling bin, they might a few gaps in knowledge when it comes to thinking about what can’t go into it. It’s important to know what you can and can’t do with your household rubbish, so read on for further information.

Why it’s important to know?

It can be confusing to know what items can and can’t be recycled. However, it’s crucial that you only put things that can actually be recycled into the recycling bin, as disposing of non-recyclable items in this way can cause problems. Putting non-recyclable items in the recycling bin can contaminate the existing recycling system. When these items arrive at recycling centres, they can cause expensive damage to the equipment used in the recycling process and can reduce the efficiency of the whole system.

Non-recyclable items can jam up the equipment, even causing it to break down. Materials such as plastic bags, string lights, and hoses can even make their way into the joints and belts of certain machinery. Putting non-recyclable materials into recycling bins, therefore, causes frequent problems, and workers often have to hand-pick non-recyclable items from the rubbish, slowing the process down when they could be working on other things.

Common items that can’t be recycled

Even in this modern, progressing world, there are still many items that can’t be recycled, so let’s have a look at some of them.


Whilst many plastics can be recycled nowadays, it’s still important to check the label of each individual item to see if this is actually the case. When it comes to recyclability, this is often down to how the plastics are made, with thermoset plastics containing chemically bonded polymers that cannot be remoulded and, therefore, cannot be recycled. Many types of plastic like this are still not easily recyclable, including common items such as plastic bags, cling film, and bioplastics. Material such as polystyrene is also not usually accepted at recycling centres because this too can contaminate recyclable products and isn’t biodegradable. Other products like Styrofoam are made partly from polystyrene too, and this is one of the most commonly known non-recyclable items out there. Furthermore, bubble wrap can’t be recycled either due to the type of plastic that it is made from. This is usually low-density polyethylene. However, you can make the most of this non-recyclable product by saving and reusing it for postage and packaging!

Medical needles

This one is probably obvious. Any medical needle needs to be disposed of in the right way in a hazardous waste box at a specific collecting site. For health and safety reasons, this goes for other medical waste too.

Anything food-soiled

Whilst you might think you’re doing your bit to help the environment when it comes to throwing an empty pizza box away in the recycling, you could actually be doing more harm than good. This might come as a surprise! Items like empty pizza boxes, pastry packaging, or takeaway coffee cups may seem like they have the potential to be recycled, however, anything with food or drink stains on it will reduce the chances of it being able to. Leftover grease and small food scraps can make the material contaminated. If you want an item to be completely recyclable, you should wash any remaining food and drink out of it – good examples of this can include tins and bottles.

Hazardous wastes

Hazardous wastes can include items such as paint, batteries and oils. The harmful chemicals present in these products might contaminate recyclable products and so should never be taken to a recycling centre. These items can be hazardous if not dealt with correctly, although there are drop off points where you can dispose of items such as batteries. These can usually be found at your local supermarket.

Scrap metal

Scrap metal like your old kitchen pots and pans usually can’t go in your regular recycling bin. However, you can still dispose of scrap metal in the right way by turning to a nearby scrap yard or contacting your local council.


So, there you have it. Whilst some items on the list might have been a little surprising, hopefully, this will have opened your eyes to what cannot be recycled. Reducing the amount of non-recyclable waste that you put in the recycling bin can help out recycling centres to a massive extent, decreasing the chances of machines getting clogged up or wasting employees’ precious time. Start doing recycling right today!

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