How to Recycle: A Londoner’s Recycling Guide

It is important that we take responsibility for our waste, and in order to do so we must understand the essential rules for how to recycle in London.

Recycling Facts

  • Almost half of all UK households throw away one or more items that could in fact be recycled.
  • Around 35.8 million plastic bottles are used EVERY DAY in the UK, but only 19.8 million of these are recycled.
  • Recycling 4 shampoo bottles saves enough energy to power a shower for 5 minutes

Improving our recycling habits can have an immense impact on the future health of our planet. In this post I am going to provide a Londoner’s guideline on how to recycle the right way, and together we can take control of how much we are disposing at home and improve our recycling habits in order to save energy, conserve resources and protect the environment for a brighter future. 

1) Find out what local recycling resources is available near you

An important step to improving your London recycling journey is having the knowledge of what can be recycled at your own home and knowing where your nearest recycling bank is in order to recycle unwanted items. All London residents can dispose of dry recyclables at home including paper, glass, plastic and metal through different recycling resources such as allocated recycling bins, communal recycling bins, and clear or green recycling sacks. Some boroughs and properties in London offer a wider recycling scheme to recycle food waste, garden waste, electronics and so on.  Find out your local recycling resources now.

2) Recycle correctly

All London residents have access to mixed dry recycling. So what exactly can you recycle? Check out the list below for examples of items that can be recycled at home. London recycling has never been easier!


  • Newspapers, magazines and catalogues
  • White paper, included shredded
  • Envelopes (including ones which have windows!)
  • Brown paper
  • Non-shiny wrapping paper
  • Cardboard boxes

Tip: Try the paper scrunch test, if you scrunch paper and it doesn’t spring back, it means you can recycle it!


  • Plastic bottles such as shampoo, shower gels, milk, skin care products, cleaning products (including nozzles) and drink bottles can all be recycled 
  • Trays , think ready meals, chocolate, fruits and biscuits
  • Brown Plant Pots
  • Pots from yoghurt, desserts and soup
  • Tubs such as ice cream, butter, spreads

Tip: Squash plastic containers if possible to save space, and recycle more!


  • Cans
  • Food tins
  • Aluminum trays and tubes
  • Aluminium foil (Only if there is no food residue of course!) 


  • Bottles of any colour
  • Jars, such as for sauces, baby food and jam
  • Perfumes, aftershave and beauty creams 


  • Food boxes such as cereals and egg boxes

Tip: Flatten or fold boxes to save space

If you’re unsure of whether you can recycle an item, it is always best to check ‘Recycling A to Z’

3) Check the labels

Are you unsure what packaging and materials can be recycled? Check the labels. There is a simple labelling system in place that you can find on the majority of products to help you recycle at home. The main 3 labels to look out for are:

Widely recycled: This label is a good indication that you can easily pop it in your recycling bin and it will be collected. This can include cardboard boxes, glass, metal, plastic bottles

Tray/Check local recycling: This symbol shows that 20-75% of local councils collect this type of material for recycling. Double check if your local councils collects item before recycling. This can usually be found on plastic pots, tubs and trays.

Film/Plastic not currently recycled: This symbol shows that less than 20% of local councils currently collect this packaging for recycling. Scroll down to rule #6 to find out what NOT to recycle.

There are a few more labels to look out for to help understand how to recycle better:

The Mobius Loop – This shows that an item can be recycled – not that it has been recycled or will be accepted for recycling. Sometimes this symbol is used with a percentage figure in the middle to explain that the packaging contains x% recycled material

The Green Dot- This sign does not necessarily mean that the packaging is recyclable or has been recycled. It’s a symbol that shows that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging

PET/Plastics – This shows the type of plastic used to make something. ‘Chasing arrows’ surround a number between 1 and 7 which represents the type of plastic used in the packaging. Double check which plastics you can recycle

Glass– ‘Chasing arrows with a man disposing a bottle’ means throw away your glass bottles and jars in a bottle bank (remember to separate colours) or use your glass household recycling collection if you have one

Check out our IG Story for visuals of London recycling logos and learn more!

4) Remember to empty and wash out all containers before recycling!

Food residue is a form of contamination that can ruin the recycling process. It is crucial to rinse out containers before recycling in order to ensure we are making every recycling contribution count towards a healthier planet. Moreover, contaminated recycling will be as a result sent to landfill or to incinerators to be disposed of. 

If you’re worried about wasting extra water on washing your recycling products then not to worry, simply rinse them after you’ve done your washing up, or use collected rainwater. For more tips on how to live sustainably, click here.(link)  This ensures your household doesn’t use extra water in your everyday routine, and that your London recycling waste is to the correct standard.

5) Recycle your clothes

There are numerous benefits as to why you should think twice before disposing of your old and unwanted clothes. For example, by recycling your clothes you are making a positive contribution to our planet by reducing greenhouse gases, minimising landfill waste, helping communities in developing countries and conserving energy used for its production! And its easy! Here are a few ways to get your clothes and textiles recycled!

  • Check to see if your council collects clothes and textiles to be recycled.
  • Donate items to registered charities and re-use organisations.  Check out our post to find out where you can donate second hand clothes and say NO to fast fashion
  • Drop off your unwanted items at recycling points and clothing and textile banks in supermarkets. Many high street retailers now offer clothing donation banks in-store to recycle! Click here to find where you can recycle your clothes

6) Know what NOT to recycle

Understanding what not to recycle is also an important part of improving your recycling habits. Avoiding recycling the wrong items ensures that there will be no extraneous waste sent to the landfill. Some examples of NON-RECYCLABLE MATERIALS are:

  • Sanitary products – so nappies and all other sanitary products. When nappies go in the recycling, they can cause entire vehicles (tonnes) of recycling to be rejected and sent to landfill or incineration instead
  • Any medical items such as needles, syringes and blood bags
  • Pet litter
  • Animal bedding

7) Understand your plastics

On the topic of what not to recycle, there are certain plastics that cannot be recycled at home. Remember to check your local council recycling resources to understand what plastic materials can be recycled at home. Here is a list of a few type of plastics to AVOID recycling at home:

  • Plastic bottles containing chemicals (e.g. anti-freeze). This is because strong chemicals can harm staff in recycling plants, as well as damage equipment 
  • Crisp packets and sweet wrappers
  • Film lids from pots and trays
  • Laminated pouches, such as for cat food and coffee
  • Plastic toys
  • Medicine blister packs
  • Squeezy toothpaste tubes
  • Polystyrene

Tip: Consider investing in a reusable water bottle and Keep Cup and avoid single-use plastic wherever possible to help reduce plastic waste

If you want to find out more you can use the internet to research or get in contact with us through our socials, and we will be happy to answer your recycling queries. 

Happy Recycling!

Photo by Catherine Sheila from Pexels

Written by,

Nicola San Lorenzo