What can and can’t be recycled?

27 Mar 2020

Environment & Ethics

Recycle Week takes place each year, aiming to encourage people to recycle more. Recycling is very easy, and has a huge impact on the environment – but what can we actually recycle?

Set up by WRAP under the Recycle Now brand, Recycle Week aims to bring awareness to the importance of recycling, making people think about just how damaging it can be to the environment to throw away recyclable waste into an ordinary bin. Now in its 15th year, Recycle Week is growing stronger by the year – join us this year from September 23 – 29 as we celebrate the importance of recycling.

Sometimes, recycling can be a slight struggle. Although we know it’s good for the planet, it can sometimes be difficult to know what can and can’t be recycled. This can be stressful – the British Science Association has reported that failing to get it right means recyclable waste can go to the landfill. However, don’t let this put you off the idea altogether: our guide aims to clarify some of the common misconceptions surrounding recycling.

Why we should recycle

Recycling can help the environment in multiple different ways. Throwing away waste sustainably saves the Earth’s resources – recycling items like paper and wood can reduce the demand for deforestation, which destroys habitats and can severely alter the food chain.

Recycling materials also helps wildlife – plastics which aren’t or can’t be recycled can be washed into rivers and seas, polluting coastlines. Any animal which ingests or becomes entrapped in plastic debris can die: over 1 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic waste.

Recycling waste materials requires a lot less energy than making products from new, raw materials. This means that lower amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, reducing the rate of global warming, and ultimately lowering the impact that climate change has on the environment.

What we can’t recycle

Unfortunately, there are still many products out there that can’t be recycled, and have to go into the landfill. And sometimes the line between waste that can be reused, and waste that must be thrown away, isn’t as black and white as it could be. Items such as greasy pizza boxes or coffee cups might seem like they can be recycled, but because they’re contaminated or contain materials that can’t be reused they have to be thrown away.

Whilst some plastics can be recycled, items such as plastic straws, plastic toys or hand soap pump dispenser tops have to be thrown away. However, you can mitigate the damage done by these products by trying to switch to eco-friendly alternatives where possible: bamboo straws, wooden toys, and a block of soap can be easily used instead, and have a much less damaging effect on the environment.

So, what can we recycle?

Plastics with the recycle symbol can be recycled, as well as most paper, glass, cardboard and tin cans. Foods can also be recycled, and once broken down it makes great compost for plants to grow in. Other items which might surprise you include clean kitchen foil, empty aerosols and empty bleach bottles.

At Hotel Chocolat, we believe it is paramount that we do everything we can to minimise our impact on the environment. This is why we set up our Planet Pledge: by 2021, 100% of our packaging will be compostable, reusable or recyclable.

However, this doesn’t mean that we haven’t already started the recycling process. Within our cafes we’ve banned plastic straws, and our gift bags, cups, spoons and napkins are fully recyclable. All of our plastic trays are made using 70% recycled plastic, and we are currently trialling a 100% plant based compostable tray. We’ve stopped using polystyrene fillers to protect our products during delivery, and we’ve saved over 125 tonnes of cardboard a year by reusing all cardboard boxes used for shipping products between stores.

This year, celebrate Recycling Week by making an extra effort to recycle any material that you can, not just for the one week, but every day.