how to recycle in london feature image

How to Recycle in London

This week’s fellow London New Girl and guest blogger, Elisa, shares everything you need to know about how to recycle in London. This post was originally published in Italian on Elisa’s blog, RomExperience – dedicated to the discovery of her home city of Rome (with a little bit of London thrown in). Keep reading to discover what can be recycled in London, which symbols to look out for, how collection works and plenty more.

Everything we throw away could be a lost resource if not recycled in the right way. If you’re not already a seasoned recycler, it’s never too late to take the first step. And I’m here to help!

Recycling in the right way means knowing which specific items are accepted under each category of waste. Therefore, let’s start with the different materials that can be recycled in London: Paper, plastic, glass, metal, clothes, garden waste and food waste.

how to recycle in london glass bottles

How to recycle in London: Mixed recycling

For mixed recycling, we’re referring to plastic, paper, cardboard, glass and metal. These materials can be collected at home in the same transparent or white bag (not black), and thrown away in the ‘mixed recycling’ bin. These bins will normally have a green lid and the Household Recycling icon.

The following list will help you identify which items can be recycled using the mixed recycling bin:


  • Cling wrap
  • Food pots and tubs
  • Margarine tubs
  • Plastic pouches
  • Plastic trays
  • Drink bottles
  • Toiletries and shampoo bottles

Paper and cardboard

  • Cardboard egg boxes
  • Fruit and veg cardboard punnets
  • Cardboard sleeves
  • Cereal boxes
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Food and drink cartons
  • Toilet roll tubes
  • Envelopes
  • Junk mail
  • Magazines
  • Shredded paper


  • Glass bottles and jars


  • Aerosols
  • Drinks cans
  • Food tins
  • Metal lids from glass jars

Ensure you rinse bottles/jars/tubs, etc. before recycling them. They don’t need to be spotlessly clean – just a quick rinse is fine. This is because liquids and bits of food ruin your recycling.

How to read recycling labels

If you don’t know how to recycle in London or you just can’t decide which bin an item belongs in – take a look at the label. Many companies are now adding symbols to their product labels to help us recycle them correctly. The labels also tell us where their packaging came from.

Usually, you can find this information on the back – or at the bottom – of the product’s packaging.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common symbols and what they mean…

Widely Recycled:

how to recycle in london widely recycled icon

You’ll find this symbol on the back of products that are widely recycled. That means at least 75% of local authorities in the UK will accept this item as recycling.

Check with your local council:

how to recycle in london locally recycled icon

The same symbol as above, only in black and white, means that it’s recycled by 20-75% of UK regions. So in this case, you’ll have to check with your local council first.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate):

how to recycle in london PET1 icon

PET plastic is recyclable and widely used in single use products (eg. drink bottles and food containers). Their repeated use increases the risk of bacterial growth which is why it shouldn’t be reused.

HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene):

HDPE is durable and considered the safest plastic to use. It is also the most recyclable type of plastic. You can find it in items like milk jugs, shampoo bottles and some toys.

Recycling glass:

This logo means you can recycle the glass container in a bottle bank. When it comes to glass in general – you can recycle bottles and jars of any colour, as well as non-food bottles (e.g. perfume and face creams). Remember that you can’t recycle drinking glasses or most other glass kitchenware.


Any product with this symbol is made with recycled aluminium. Aluminium can be recycled forever because it gets melted down and reformed without losing any quality.


The first symbol means the product is compostable. So you can pop it in your compost or garden waste bin, not your recycling bin. Meanwhile, the second symbol indicates that it’s suitable for home composting (if you have your own compost pile in the garden).

How to recycle in London: Food waste

Food waste can be really useful because when it’s turned into compost, it can be used to improve soil and grow more food. Food waste refers to the collection of food scraps, tea bags, coffee ground, expired food, raw and cooked meat, fish and vegetables.

However, keep in mind that the you can’t compost any of the following: oil, other liquids and food inside packaging.

It’s also really important to only use compostable bin liner for this type of waste. You can find free compostable bags at your local library or buy them in any supermarket.

how to recycle in london rubbish collectors

How recycling collection works in London

Depending on the type of housing you live in (and also the area), waste collection is organised on different ways.

If you live in a house, collection is done on specific days of the week, and picked up from the edge of the property. Check your local council’s website to discover the collection days in your area.

Similarly, if you live in an estate or block of flats, recycling and rubbish collections are organised on specific days of the week depending on the waste material, and picked up from communal bins.

For more information and tips on how to recycle and reduce waste, you can visit the official website RecycleNow.

How to Recycle in London: A note from London New Girl

Don’t forget that, at the end of the day, the best way to learn what you can and can’t recycle is to check with your local council. Annoyingly, every council in London collects different things. So jump on your council’s website to find out what’s relevant to you. Or take a look at this handy tool by RecycleNow – simply pop in your post code to view your options. After that, print a copy and stick it up on the fridge for easy reference.

Finally, it’s important to mention that relying on recycling alone is no longer enough. There have been plenty of updates in the media in recent years which expose the huge gaps in the recycling process. We need to make a collective effort to avoid waste altogether – recyclable or not. Especially when it comes to plastics!

Thank you Elisa for this week’s guest post. If you’re a blogger living in London and interested in featuring on London New Girl then get in touch!

About the Author

Elisa from Romexperience

Elisa has a passion for travelling and digital marketing. She runs her own blog, RomExperience, dedicated to the discovery of her beloved home city of Rome, and London – where she lives now. You can also find Elisa on Instagram @rome_experience and Twitter @lizromexp.

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