Freedom of Information requests were sent to all UK local authorities to find out what percentage of waste is recycled each year, and if they enforce recycling through fines, warnings, monitoring or refusals. Of the 433 local authorities, 214 replied with information.

Public confusion around recycling based on a survey of 2,000 UK adults (nationally representative) carried out by One Poll on behalf of between 16 and 20 August 2019.

Can I recycle it?

Here are 10 things people find confusing to recycle.
Select an item to reveal what can, and can't, be recycled.

Not recyclable - but some councils may accept it. Check with yours!


Recyclable - as long as it's not too greasy!

Pizza box

Not recyclable - some councils may miss it, clear or coloured plastic is better.

Black plastic packaging

Recyclable - just check the can is empty first!

Aerosol can

Not recyclable (yet) - but Walkers runs its own recycling scheme.

Crisp packet

Not recyclable - try using a reusable cup instead!

Coffee cup

Recyclable - Paper receipts, yes; thermal paper or plastic-coated receipts, no.

Paper receipt

Not recyclable - food waste, grease, and even bodily fluids mean you should throw them away!

Paper towels

Recyclable - as long as it's clean!

Tin foil

Recyclable - but rinse it out first!

Clear plastic packaging

What confuses people about recycling?

Recycling bins Recycling bins

The top performing councils: How does yours compare?

Councils are trying hard to encourage people to recycle. Initiatives to encourage uptake include leaving explainer-style postcards, delivering newsletters, and arranging local talks. As a last resort, some councils may hit repeat offenders with a fine.


Recycling rate (2018)

Are warnings given?

Do they monitor bins?

Do they refuse waste?

Recycling: A clearer future

Recycling can be confusing, but the future looks clearer. Under 2022 plans, plastic packaging could face a new tax. And in the future, standardised weekly food waste and rubbish collections could be introduced.

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Find out more on what you can and can't recycle

Read our guide