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The Reality of Recycling

Updated: Mar 16

Only half of the plastic placed in these sample bins could be recycled via curbside collection!


Making a conscious choice to do things for the good of the planet should be easy! Environmentally-motivated people like you are out there doing what you can in a busy world, and recycling is a big part of that. When faced with so many different types of packaging, which may, or may not, be recyclable, it can seem like a lot of work to do the right thing!

The consequence of getting it wrong is more waste to the landfill or shipped overseas; some if it, potentially ending up in the ocean. Our findings suggest that the Government target to recycle 50% by 2020 looks to have been missed. Meaning more than half of our efforts could have been for nothing! The Resources and Waste Strategy policy for England was published in 2018, since then there has been little information about whether or not targets have actually been met. The latest information suggests by 2035 the aim is to increase recycling by another 15%. A target that might be more easily reached if clearer guidance was given and manufacturers and retailers stopped labeling which seems designed to confuse.


The kerbside recycling collections of different local councils vary wildly. Add to this misleading recyclability claims and logos on the packaging and you have a recipe for the confusion we all face. In an attempt to uncover some facts about what is actually recycled, we rolled-up our sleeves and got stuck into the trash! Ten local households in Newcastle donated the contents of their recycling bins to find out if they were getting it right.


1,328 individual pieces of recycling between 10 local bins in Newcastle were counted.

In this survey every 2-person household was responsible for 133 pieces of packaging for every bi-weekly recycling collection, of which more than 30% was plastic waste! With over 7 subcategories of plastic and only 2 commonly recycled, it became quickly evident that plastic is the biggest problem.



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