Recycling plastics in Sheffield – what can we actually recycle?

One of the most common questions asked regarding plastics is what can we actually put in our recycle bins? We as a nation seem to be unclear on what plastics are recyclable and which are not. But who can blame us? When it comes to recycling plastics, the information available is limited at best, and the information we are provided with is unclear, confusing, and entirely dependent on where you live.

WRAP conducted a study in 2015 looking at recycling knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. They found that when it comes to recycling, ‘levels of uncertainty about what is and isn’t collected locally for recycling are still high’. This is absolutely key as they also found that increased confidence in what can and can’t be recycled, also has an important effect on recycling levels.

The British Science Association found that 8 out of ten Brits have the belief that recycling make a difference, but when quizzed further on their recycling knowledge, nobody was able to score full marks. All of this uncertainty around plastic recycling is reflected in the plastic recycling levels that RECOUP UK analysed in their survey results. They found that in 2018 there was a rate of 46.2%, which falls short on the government’s target for recycling.

So, what about Sheffield?

Well, your first port of call would be looking on Sheffield City Council’s website to check which plastics they take in the brown recycling bin. However, having had a look through their website, there is no clear-cut guidance on what we can and can’t put into our brown bins when it comes to plastic. They simply state that they take ‘plastic bottles’. But plastic bottles can be made from different plastics, so it hasn’t really answered our question.

The next step would be to check the council’s waste management partner, Veolia UK, to see what they list. There is a useful graphic provided for what you can take to one of the many recycling sites dotted around Sheffield. The graphic lists five forms of plastics that can be recycled at these sites. However, they do not list which of these can be recycled in our brown bins.

An organisation that the council link to on their website is Recycle Now. There is a bit more information on there, for example they list the following under plastic bottles: cleaner and detergent bottles, milk bottles, drinks bottles, toiletries and shampoo bottles. But again, these do not specify what sort of plastic these should be.

In comparison, Leeds City Council detail on their website which forms of plastic they take in their household recycling bins. It clearly states that they take the following plastics: types 1 (PET/PETE), 2 (HDPE/PE-HD) and 4 (LDPE/PE-LD). This may not mean anything to you now, but it will very shortly!

In a recent press release published in June this year, Sheffield City Council has attempted to address the public’s confusion when it comes to plastic recycling, and why they don’t recycle more forms of plastic.

However, it puts it down to affordability and not having the necessary technology in place. RECOUP UK found similar stories to Sheffield with other local authorities, where funding was cited as one of the major barriers to effective recycling.

Moving on to what these different forms of plastic are. Have you ever seen a plastic bottle with numbered triangular sign and wondered what on earth that means? We have put together a short and simple guide to explain what the different forms of plastic are and how to recycle them here in Sheffield.

We reached out to Sheffield City Council and Veolia UK for further information on plastic recycling, who both reiterated what is stated on their websites - that they only accept plastic bottles in the brown bin. But they did say that they accept any plastic bottles that are marked with any numbered triangle. The image below shows what to do with each type of plastic here in Sheffield.

As well as these numbered symbols, there was also the introduction of additional recycling symbols by the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) in 2009. They provide more direct information than that plastic numbered triangles. Which is great!

However, presently these symbols are only used by around 400 companies. There isn’t a legal requirement to have these additional symbols on products, so these symbols are not always on ALL plastic products. We’ve outlined in the image below what these recycling symbols mean for us.

At Intelligent Facility Solutions, we have subscribed to the TerraCycle service for all those plastics that we can’t recycle in the usual way. TerraCycle is a global recycling company that prides itself on recycling the ‘non-recyclables’. It offers both free programmes and waste stream options you can purchase.

We have chosen the ‘All-in-One Zero Waste Box’, which allows us to recycle items without having to think about separating it all and TerraCycle collects the waste, so we don’t have to worry about removing it either. It is a really useful service for those that want to recycle all their plastic waste and other forms of waste.

Want to know more about how we're reducing our plastic use at work? Take a look at our how to reduce plastic waste in the office guide.

We hope you found this information useful and can now feel more confident when it comes to recycling your plastics at home!

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Written by: Shahed Ezaydi

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1 Comment

Jill TurnerPosted on August 27th, 2019 at 15:28

Brilliant and crammed with practical info - we have been at the Earth Stories at the Eden Project and if plastic is not recycled it ends up in landfill or in the ocean where it breaks down into such small particles it is being absorbed by plankton which if not killed are being eaten and so the food chain at the very beginning is becoming polluted and endangered - scientists are working on solutions but much better we change our behaviours

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