Eco Living

How to Recycle : Know What Can and Can’t be Recycled

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans revealed that 62 per cent worry that a lack of knowledge is causing them to recycle incorrectly. The study, commissioned by Covanta and conducted by OnePoll in advance of Earth Day,  found that despite good intentions, many face a variety of barriers when trying to live environmentally-friendly lives.

And results found that fear to be substantiated – a high percentage of respondents struggled when quizzed on whether or not different materials could be recycled.

Over half of respondents (53 per cent) erroneously believe greasy pizza boxes* can be recycled, while 68 per cent incorrectly think the same for used plastic utensils.

Twenty-two per cent of respondents report not having enough information regarding recycling, and 18 per cent admit they don’t understand what can and can’t be recycled.

* Pizza Hut Delivery statement: Our cardboard pizza boxes can be recycled, however we understand that some councils will not accept heavily soiled packaging.

In addition to a lack of knowledge, Americans struggle with the cost to purchase environmentally-friendly products (41 per cent) and face a lack of access (38 per cent) when trying to be green.

“While done with good intentions, many Americans are practising aspirational recycling – tossing things into recycling bins that they think should be recycled, rather than what can be recycled,” said Dr. Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer at Covanta.

“This practice has led to the contamination of recyclables and a crisis in the market.” 

So let’s start by understanding what can be recycled.

First and foremost, please wash/rinse your items before you place them in the recycling bin to avoid contamination. This will make a significant difference when it comes to recycling.

In the UK, does an excellent job in spreading recycle knowledge. In Wales, citizens are encouraged to recycle with bin collections for recycling goods happening once a week – as opposed to general waste bin collection every two weeks.

Things you can recycle, and how to pack them… by


  • Toothpaste boxes – flatten;
  • Toilet roll tubes – flatten;
  • Plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles – empty and rinse items, replace lids/tops;
  • Shower gel containers – empty and rinse items, replace lids/tops;
  • Liquid soap bottles – empty, rinse and remove pump dispenser (throw pump into the rubbish bin);
  • Bleach bottles – empty, replace lid;
  • Bathroom cleaners – rinse and replace the trigger spray.


  • Envelopes;
  • Newspapers;
  • Cardboard packaging from online shopping – remove packaging tape and flatten to save space in your recycling bin;
  • Even air fresheners can make a difference – if one aluminium air freshener aerosol is recycled by everyone in the UK; enough energy could be saved to vacuum over 876,000 homes for a year – that’s a lot of tidy homes!


  • Washing-up liquid bottles – empty and rinse;
  • Bleach bottles – empty, replace lid;
  • Surface cleaner bottles – rinse and replace the trigger spray;
  • Washing liquid and conditioner bottles – empty and rinse;
  • Aerosols tins of furniture polish and air fresheners – ensure empty and remove plastic caps (recycle with plastics);
  • Empty dishwasher tablet boxes and kitchen wrap boxes – flatten to save space in your recycling bin.

In addition to recycling, there are other ways to live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, such as reducing consumption of materials that wind up in the waste stream, like single-use plastics.

A few respondents report taking steps to do so – just three in 10 avoid using plastic water bottles on a weekly basis, while 29 per cent avoid plastic straws. But, we can do better than that.

Though the majority of respondents aren’t eschewing plastic straws and water bottles, they do report caring about the environment – with 61 per cent “very concerned” about keeping the oceans clean.

So there you have it, recycling can become very easy once you get the hang of it. It doesn’t have to be a chore if you plan ahead of time. Many recycling bags/bins are available on Amazon; there are very handy when it comes to separate your waste. Just remember every little helps.


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