Recycling confusion: people in the North West call for clearer recycling rules

Date published: 13 October 2019

We are more committed than ever to saving our planet, with people trying to cut down on plastic usage and recycling everything in sight. 

However, there is still a high level of confusion on what can, or can’t, be recycled.

According to new research by, more than half (55%) of people in the North West region don’t recycle properly because they’re confused by the rules.

The research shows that people want to recycle and are giving it their best shot. In fact, more than a third (36%) of adults in the North West will improvise, despite not fully understanding the rules.

More than one in seven (15%) will also try their best to follow the rules, even though they’re confused.

However, research shows that very few people don’t recycle at all, which raises the question of why some councils aren’t meeting recycling targets. And it seems much of the confusion comes down to certain items, such as black plastic, tin foil, and even receipts.

Polystyrene topped the list, which is in fact not recyclable, but according to the research, more than half (57%) of people across the UK will put it in with the recycling.

Rounding off the list were the following items: clear plastic packaging, crisp packets, aerosol can, pizza boxes, coffee cups and kitchen roll.

Aerosol cans and clean aluminium foil can be recycled here in the Rochdale borough and are collected from households in the light green bin with a blue lid. Clean pizza boxes and receipts go in the blue paper and card bin ready to be recycled into paper or toilet roll.  

It isn’t currently possible to recycle polystyrene or kitchen roll so these need to go in the dark green waste bins or to a household waste recycling centre.

Unlike plastic bottles, which are mainly made of two types of plastic, pots, tubs, trays, bags and film are made of a range of different types of plastic.

In theory, all plastic can be recycled but it is not always technically or economically viable. In Greater Manchester, only plastic bottles are collected because there is a sustainable market for them and a guarantee they will be recycled.

Crisp packets may look like aluminium foil but are actually made from metallised plastic film which cannot be recycled and needs to go in the dark green general waste bin. Similarly, disposable coffee cups from high-street coffee shops are lined with plastic that is bonded to the cup.

These are not able to be collected as part of household recycling but there are locations across the borough where you are able to take them to be recycled. Costa Coffee in Rochdale town centre offers free recycling for any disposable coffee cup, not just their own.

Councillor Neil Emmott, cabinet member for environment at Rochdale Borough Council said: “Our residents have helped us make great improvements so that we currently recycle over 50% of household waste collected. In our borough and across Greater Manchester, residents can recycle all types of plastic bottles because the plastics are readily recycled in the UK and Europe. The market for other types of plastic such as pots, tubs and trays is not as strong and they are, unfortunately, harder to recycle.

“What we really need to see is tougher action from the government on plastic packaging so that there is less of it around.

“If you’re unsure of what can and can’t be recycled here in Rochdale and which bin to use, there is a comprehensive list available on our website at”

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