Where Does All Our waste Go?

According to official Government statistics, the UK produces 200 million tonnes of waste every year. This is total waste for households and Business with around half generated by households, the amount that is sent to landfill is just over 26%.

The UK has, in recent years, exported a lot of non-recyclable waste to Europe – more than 3m tonnes in 2016 – where it is used as fuel to generate heat and electricity in specialist Energy-from-Waste (EfW) power plants.

England now has 7 years left of non-hazardous landfill life, based on 2016 inputs, according to the Environment Agency.

England landfilled a total of 44.7 million tonnes in 2016 and managed a total of 203 million tonnes of waste. That’s a lot of waste.

Zero Waste The 5 Rs

Refuse – Learn to say no! Say no to food wrapped in plastic, say no to that plastic straw.

Reduce – Think before you buy.  If you switch to homemade natural cleaning products you only need some White Distilled Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda to cover most jobs link

Reuse – If things break, repair them or have them repaired. Upcycle items you would otherwise throw away, paint that old chair and give it a new lease of life. Buy second hand.

Recycle – If you’ve managed to Refuse, Reduce and Reuse then you shouldn’t have a lot left but make sure you separate out your remaining rubbish and put the recycleable rubbish in the recycling bin.

Rot – Compost your food waste and use it to fertilise your plants and many grow a few veggies or salad leaves of your own.


As you can see Recycling isn’t top of the 5 Zero Waste Rs but it’s still important.  However, in the UK it’s a bit confusing when it comes to recycling as every Council has different criteria for what you can and can’t recycle in your weekly waste collection.

Some Recycling Facts and Figures

In the UK almost two-thirds of plastic that could be recycled is in fact sent to landfill or incinerated, according to new research. With most families throwing away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.

Of the 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used by consumers in Britain in 2015 only 500,000 tonnes was recycled, according to the figures compiled by Co-op from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection survey.

Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy and conserving the environment. And, we should be doing everything we can to keep it out of landfill as Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Did you know that:

  • 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
  • 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.
  • 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.

Some Interesting Facts

  • Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled.
  • The unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours.
  • The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with rubbish from the UK in 8 months.
  • On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish.
  • As much as 50% of waste in the average dustbin could be composted.
  • Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.
  • 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made easier.

You can find lots more interesting fact in this Recycling Guide

What can You generally recycle at home

When you want to know what you can recycle at home you should check the packaging recycling labels.  The first symbol is for items that are widely recycled by Councils in England through household recycling collections.  Anything that has the second symbol on you should check with your local council and the third symbol shows packaging that can’t currently be recycled.

recycling symbols
recycling symbols
recycling symbols

Not everything will have a recycling label on it.  If it doesn’t have a recycling label then list will help you identify what you may be able to recycle your local recycling collection.  However, do check with your local Council.  This is a list of what our Council will collect in our Green Recycling Bins (Vale of White Horse)

Paper and Cardboard

  • books – only if not suitable for taking to a charity shop
  • catalogues
  • phone directories (including the Yellow Pages)
  • cereal boxes
  • corrugated cardboard
  • envelopes (including envelopes with windows)
  • greeting cards (no foil or glitter)
  • junk mail
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • shredded paper
  • tissue boxes
  • toilet roll tubes
  • writing paper


  • Mixed glass bottles and jars – any colour (and bottle tops, but please separate them).


  • All plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays (except film)
  • empty carrier bags (except black bags)
  • detergent bottles
  • drinks bottles (and tops)
  • food and drink cartons (like soup or juice cartons)
  • food trays (including black trays)
  • ice cream tubs
  • margarine tubs
    plastic milk cartons and bottles
  • shampoo bottles
  • yoghurt pots

Remember: When possible, please remove the tops and squash the bottle to make more space in your bin.


  • aerosols
  • clean foil
  • food tins
  • steel and aluminium food and drink cans (please wash and squash them first)
  • metal lids (bottle and jar lids)

Which Plastics Can I recycle and what do the symbols mean

In addition to the recycling symbols you probably know that plastic containers are stamped with a symbol which shows which type of plastic they are made from.  But, do you know what the symbols actually mean.  Below is a list of the 7 most commonly used plastics found in the home.


What you can't recycle in your home recycling

This is a list of things that you can’t generally recycle at home:

  • Hand soap pump dispenser tops
  • Kitchen roll
  • Non-paper gift wrap
  • Coffee cups
  • Plastic bags (check with your Council)
  • Tissues
  • Wine glasses
  • Glass cookware
  • Window glass
  • Straws
  • Soft plastic/laminated foil packaging such as pet food and baby food pouches
  • Photo paper
  • Nail varnish bottles
  • Crisp packets
  • Post-it notes
  • Plastic toys
  • Mirrors
  • Cutlery
  • Pots and pans

For items that you can’t recycle at home you should check to see if you can recycle them at dedicated recycling points.  

You may see the following symbols on the items which will help you identify them.

recycling symbols
recycling symbols
recycling symbols

A few more symbols you may find useful

And, if all that wasn’t confusing enough here’s a couple more symbols you may come across.

recycling symbols
recycling symbols

This shows that a product is capable of being recycled.

This only shows that the producer has financially contributed to the recovery and recycling of packaging.

Glass recycling, the majority of glass is recyclable.

This logo lets you know that this product is made from recyclable aluminium.

This logo certifies that the product is ‘industrially compostable’ according to European standard EN 13432/14955’.  However, there are very few facilities in the UK that can take this type of product.

As I said, It’s all a bit confusing but there are lots of useful resources out there to help you find out exactly what you can and can’t recycle.  The information above should give you a good starting point but do check your local Council website and another great resource is Recyle Now.


Written by 

Hi, I’m Frankie. This is my blog (Thoroughly Modern Grandma) about blending old fashioned values with modern technology, whilst trying to reduce our waste and be a little kinder to our Planet.

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