What Waste Cannot be Recycled?

In the last year, statistics show that the amount of waste recycled in UK households has decreased, falling to 43.8 percent compared to the previous financial year, when it stood at 44.5 percent. Despite attitudes around recycling waste in the UK improving, for the most part, there still lies confusion around which items can and cannot be recycled.

Not only can this misunderstanding deter households from recycling as much as they could – leading to a lot of recyclable waste going to landfill – but it can also lead to the contamination of recycling.

While rules on what can and cannot be recycled may vary depending on where you live, in this blog, we will discuss some of the most common household items you should not be recycling.

Plastic utensils and straws

These items typically cannot be recycled due to their small size and inconsistent shape making them challenging to be sorted by recycling facilities. Secondly, these products are commonly made with polystyrene, a material that is structurally weak leading it to break up and disperse through the natural environment.

Soft plastic packaging

Soft plastics such as carrier bags, bread bags, fruit and vegetable packaging, crisp packets and salad bags are not commonly collected by local councils for recycling. This is predominantly due to the fact this material can get caught in the sorting machinery at recycling facilities. And this can lead to costly jams and delays. However, there are many local drop-off locations that can take these off your hands for you.  A simple Google search will present you with yours!

Medical waste

Items such as needles, syringes and some prescription containers are classified as biohazards and cannot be recycled due to health and safety reasons. For example, sharps can cause injuries and items such as needles can carry blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B that can be passed on to other people. Instead, you should dispose of them in a hazardous waste box. These are bright yellow in colour and can be found at locations such as your local doctors, pharmacy, and hospitals. Alternatively, you can request clinical waste collection.


Disposable nappies should be placed in your general waste bin and not recycled. Due to the composite materials used, nappies are very difficult to recycle, leading to a colossal amount going to landfill every day (a whopping 8 million per day in the UK alone!). It’s for this reason that a growing number of parents choose to instead use reusable cotton nappies — a cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative.

Hazardous cleaning containers

Some cleaning containers and chemicals contain hazardous materials which makes them too dangerous to recycle. Ahead of recycling something like this, you should always check the label for disposal advice. Products that are identified as hazardous are typically marked with an orange logo and should be taken to your local recycling centre for safe disposal.

Household glass

While much of the glass you use day-to-day, such as jars and bottles, can be recycled, it must be known that there are also many household glass products that should not be. This is mainly due to the way some glass products are made. Some contain materials that cannot be reused and therefore recycled. Included in this list are mirrors and lightbulbs. Furthermore, small pieces of broken glass should be disposed of in your general waste bin, ideally contained within a bag to prevent any injuries.

Old clothing

In many areas, clothing and textiles cannot be recycled at home. The good news is, there are multiple other ways in which you can do your bit to recycle this material and keep all clothing in use, and away from landfill sites. Firstly, you can drop off any unwanted items at local recycling points and clothing and textile banks which are typically found in supermarket car parks. Secondly, you can donate your items to registered charities where they will be rehomed for a good cause. And then there’s the option of taking clothing to one of the many retailers today that offer collection services and “take back” schemes to help reduce waste.


Commercial Waste Collection, Recycling & Disposal

SL Recycling are leaders in waste management services for businesses across South Wales, providing fully tailored solutions to meet the demands of every type of business. We strive for zero-waste-to-landfill and achieve our high diversion through implementing waste minimisation, re-using and recycling methods. We currently recycle more than 90 percent of all the materials we handle. To request a free, no-obligation quote for your waste management, please get in touch with our team today.

Read next
How can businesses improve their waste management?
Read More
The Beginner’s Guide to Separated Waste Collections for Workplaces – Wales Workplace Recycling 2024
Read More

Working with respected organisations: