The surprising things that you can’t recycle and how it is causing a real problem Posted on 20 Dec 16:00

Figures released this week by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs revealed that for the first time the percentage of household waste being recycled has declined. With the government aiming to increase recycling levels to 50% by 2020 this step backwards is an unwanted set back.

There are two main reasons why recycling is declining, confusion and contamination. Biffa Municipal's managing director Roger Edwards said "Contamination can cause entire lorry-loads of recyclables to be rejected, at high cost to already-stretched councils." By not correctly washing out your milk bottles or Coke cans you could be responsible for whole lorries full of recyclable material being dumped in landfills or burnt in incinerators. Many U.K residents are unaware of what they can and can’t recycle. Add to this the fact that most local councils have different recycling policies and will accept or reject different materials you can see why so many people are confused.

Recycling bin confusion- envirobuild

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK has been the leading voice in calling for change. He is calling for a “polluter pays” policy which would see manufacturers taxed according to the amount of non-recyclable materials used in consumer goods with the cost being passed onto the customer. Palmer-Jones claims that "The tax would help pay for better household collection of recyclables and help address the huge funding challenge that local government faces." 

landfills envirobuild

Aidan Bell Director of EnviroBuild believes that "the current recycling system is unnecessarily complicated and is causing an important service to fail." He agrees that "changes needed to be made to make the system simpler and wants to see a blanket policy across the whole country."

Time to test your recycling knowledge.


Which of the following do you think are recyclable?

Crisp packets


Paper plates

Coloured glass

Kitchen foil


Kitchen roll


Shampoo bottles

Fruit Punnets

Pizza boxes




Yes: (but check your individual council's policy as they vary)

  • Paper: cardboard boxes, newspapers, magazines, envelopes, junk mail, food and drink cartons including Tetra Pak
  • Plastic: margarine and ice cream tubs, yogurt pots, fruit punnets and ready meal trays
  • Bottles: drink, shampoo and detergent bottles
  • Tins and cans: both steel and aluminium, as well as aerosols
  • Kitchen foil and foil trays
  • Glass: all colours but no broken glass or ovenware



  • Tissue and kitchen roll
  • Plastic wrap, cling film, bubble wrap and plastic bags
  • Coffee cups
  • Plastic and paper contaminated with food - including grease-stained pizza boxes and paper food plates
  • Crisp packets and sweet wrappers
  • Polystyrene
  • Nappies
  • Soft plastic / metallic packaging like pet food pouches


At EnviroBuild we focus on only using recycled products, from our little fastener clips to our 4m decking boards. One of the products which is particularly interesting is our Manticore Plastic Lumber which is made from 100% recycled plastic. It is made from plastics which are traditionally very hard to recycle and therefore end up in landfills. They use plastics such as HDPE, LDPE, PET, PVC and polypropylene to form a non-absorbing and weather proof material that has a lifetime that lasts over a millennia that can be used in a variety of construction and DIY scenarios.