9. Recyclable plastics: which ones are which?

Unless you are Beth Terry, a lady from California who lives entirely without plastic, as hard as we try most of us will still have plastic in our lives. And until the mainstream shops start selling bare naked cucumbers (without being twice the price of the shrink-wrapped stuff) most will hope that at least some of the plastic we get through will get recycled. After all, plastic is made from petroleum… and hang on… I thought the world was running out of it?!

Recycling is still a firm third option behind ‘reduce’ and ‘re-use’ as it takes loads of energy and apparently in th UK only a third of recyclable plastic actually gets recycled. Worldwide, that figure is only 9%. Sweden is much better at 90%. Clever swedes.

Turns out, recycling labelling is incredibly misleading. I hope this helps to make it clearer:


THIS IS THE ONE YOU WANT TO SEE. Widely recycled. That means, if you lob it in your recycling bin, it will hopefully live to see another day.

Unless the dufus a few doors down has thrown their left over takeaway in the wrong bin and contaminated everything. Then it all goes into its landfill forever home.

You don’t want to see…

FILM - PLASTIC - Not Currently Recycled_0

AARRGH… ball bags… this cheeky little mo fo sits on the back of EVERY CRISP PACKET (if you find one recyclable, please let me know, I really miss crisps). It applies to every thin plastic film – on packs of biscuits, tops of ready meals, cheese packaging, punnets of fruit, on the tops of yoghurts, on bags of nuts and pasta and salad and all those healthy superfoods that are supposed to make us live forever, like quinoa and goji berries. That one’s easy to quit, can’t say I’ve ever bought goji berries.

And as for this tricky little monster…


FAKER!!! This little symbol, the ‘recycling green dot‘ is something I thought meant ‘recyclable’. WRONG. It means that the company throws money at the problem by financially contributing to recycling schemes. Cheeky.

In a similar way…


I thought these meant ‘recyclable’. No no, fool. They indicate what type of plastic they are, and they may or may not be recyclable locally because each local council has different facilities. And we can’t just ship it all to China anymore, they’ve got wise to that.

According to Recycle More, this is what they mean:


However, worth checking your local council website about recycling as new technology is developing all the time. Hopefully one day the triangles 4-7 on the chart will indeed be recyclable or perhaps already are in some areas.

The recycling industry needs to be kept going by us buying recycled plastic for recycling to make business sense. It will all end up in landfill (or the sea) if the recycling industry can’t sell its goods for enough money. It’s always all about money.

So, REDUCING plastic by not buying it in the first place and buying plastic free alternatives (eg the loose bananas and never the bagged ones) sends the strongest signal to retailers to change their ways. RE-USING plastic helps to stop us buying more of it (eg big lidded yoghurt pots can make great storage and would save you buying new tubs for stuff in the shed). But the good news for people find bar soap too slimy (clean freaks, generally, like my mum), is that buying things like Method hand wash or Ecover detergent in 100% RECYCLED AND RECYCLABLE plastic bottles is a justifiable compromise as it keeps recycling a viable business. It might still make Beth Terry shudder, but at least we’re trying to be a bit better.

Phew. Brain scrambled now? Thank you, wine, for being in a glass bottle and chocolate for being in foil and paper. Screw you, crisps.

If you enjoyed this then please LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE… if every person can even convince just one friend to change their habits, we’ll be on our way to a better future.


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2 thoughts on “9. Recyclable plastics: which ones are which?

  1. Make your crisps at home! Just cut or grate potatoes into very thin slices and fry it, than season it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ll try your method. Yes I have been resorting to using the potato peeler to attack a sweet potato, covering in oil and salt and baking in the oven until just like crisps to get my fix!!


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