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It’s a scene that plays out in homes up and down the country. You’re making dinner, with vegetable bags, jars and meat packaging strewn across the kitchen worktop. Then, as you go to put it in the bin, a debate breaks out about what can and can’t be recycled.
‘Two thirds of households in this country are putting things in their general household waste when they could be easily recycled by the council,’ says This Morning’s resident consumer expert Alice Beer. ‘The problem is there are 400 different councils across the UK and each one has its own specific set of rules. There are over 30 different sets of rules for plastic alone, so it’s confusing.’
However, Alice has some guidance for what you can and can’t pop in your plastics bin.
Alice Beer’s golden rules for recycling plastics
‘When it comes to what can be recycled, it’s very hard for me to say “always” or “never” because every council is different,’ says Alice, ‘but here are some “nevers”.’
Nappies and layered plastics
‘Never, never, never,’ says Alice. ‘Very clever things, lots of different lays, but anything that’s multi layered plastic of some kind, never put that in the recycling. It cannot be recycled.’
Takeaway food containers
Alice holds up a box that had toast in it which looks cardboard but has a shiny, lined interior. It can’t be recycled. ‘Also, because it’s got food in it, it’s been contaminated. Never put food into the recycling.’
Tissues and napkins
‘They should be able to be recycled, but they are contaminated. The recycling machine cannot cope with contaminated plastics. It costs seven times more to recycle contaminated plastic than it does a bag of ‘clean plastic’, so often, your local council won’t pick them up from the curb.’
Crisp packets and salad bags
These plastics often cause the most debate. ‘Never never never – they cannot be recycled,’ says Alice. ‘It’s such a waste, it’s ridiculous.’
Black plastics, such as sushi containers
‘The only reason these containers are black is because food like sushi looks nice in them,’ says Alice. ‘However, the pigments in black plastic mess up the machine so it cannot be recycled.’
‘The onus is put on us as the consumer, host Eamonn Holmes argues, ‘but if governments around the world were serious about this then they would say “We are going to ban single-use plastic within two years”.’
‘I’m with Eamonn,’ says Ruth Langsford. ‘Every time I go to the recycling and look on packaging and it says “not recyclable, not recyclable”. And I think why are the manufacturers not being forced to do something about it?’
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Alice believes that the power is in our hands as consumers. ‘If you’ve got packaging that’s not recyclable and you’ve got lots of it, take it back to your supermarket. Sorry supermarkets, we don’t want it, have it back again, get rid of it.’
‘Please look up the local rules. Visit the Recycle Now website, put in your postcode and you can find out what your local system is.’
Will you be sorting your plastics more carefully in future?