February 16, 2021

Recycling dos and don’ts

Approx 445 words.

Recycling is one of the easiest ways to live more sustainably. When you recycle, you prevent waste from being incinerated or going to landfill, where it can break down to release greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide and methane.

As well as cutting harmful emissions, recycling also conserves our natural resources – while protecting local ecosystems and wildlife from pollution. 

At Co-op, we’re committed to choices that are good for the planet. Recycling has always been high on our agenda and in 2016, we published our recycling-focused Tipping Point report.

Today, we’re proud that over three-quarters (77%) of our products come in recyclable packaging. This is thanks to reducing unnecessary packaging and swapping unrecyclable materials like polystyrene and dark coloured plastics for clear plastics, foil and cardboard.

But we’re dreaming even bigger, and in 2021, we aim to make that figure 100%. 

Follow these recycling dos and don’ts and see if you could make recycling an easy part of your daily routine.

Recycling dos

  • Read the label -One of the easiest ways to see if something can be recycled is to check for recycling labels on the pack. 
  • Shop at Co-op -77% of our own label products use packaging made from materials that are widely recycled, making it easy for you to shop more sustainably.
  • Check your area’s rules for recycling -Local rules on recycling can vary. Check with your council, or have a look on RecycleNow.
  • Donate unwanted goods -If you’re clearing out any old furniture, clothing, jewellery or electronics, take them to a charity shop, so they can be reused by someone else – and raise money for a good cause at the same time.

Recycling don’ts

  • Don’t recycle dirty containers – Food packaging that’s not clean will end up in landfill or the incinerator. Rinse or wipe anything you recycle. 
  • Don’t forget your bag – Normal polythene bags are not widely recycled at kerbside, that’s why ours are compostable in the areas where councils collect food waste. Alternatively, invest in one of our reusable shoppers. 
  • Don’t recycle the wrong things – Just over two-thirds of UK households put things in the recycling which can’t be recycled in their local area. Make sure you know what can and can’t go in the recycling by checking online

Rob Thompson
Co-op Packaging Technologist

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Join the conversation! 15 Comments

  1. Some good points made by everyone – thank you, and to the Co-op for “re-motivating” us all.
    *Sometimes I don’t recycle: for instance: in order to recycle, articles should be dry and clean of food, but how “clean” is “clean”?! So, if I find I am using a lot of water/hot water etc to clean the article I sometimes decide that is worse/less sustainable than just binning said article! (I do a quick “climate cost/benefit analysis”, of course!)
    *Also, re food waste: having seen quite a large rat calmly run across our garden towards our house wall, I stopped putting food waste in the garden compost bin provided by our local Borough, which got so stiff, I couldn’t “open” anyway. We try and eat up all food bought, but peel/preparation waste does go in our domestic bin. (We are next to our farm barn, but in a village, so I’m afraid rats also have to be “dealt” with for the sake of keeping barns, and stored grain “clean”; but I believe rats are everywhere in urban areas, too.)
    *Re litter: why are there so many Covid protection masks (apparently including “unused” ones) lying around now? Is it because our carers, and other users, are just so pressurized, they “escape” from bags etc in their hurry to get one out before visiting a client, or do they just throw used ones down, before getting in to their car to rush to the next client, or what?

    *By the way, was anyone else involved in the local authority led Local Agenda 21 process from the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s: locally we had organised workshops, and other community initiatives, when local residents met at intervals to get information about “sustainability”, and to discuss ideas for their respective areas? I do wonder if it would be worthwhile to have a “repeat” of something similar, feeding in to national government policy, as before. An opportunity to re-assess some of those ideas, schemes and goals, on all the “sustainability issues”, so that local communities and boroughs/council areas can see “how far they have come, and how they are going to get to the carbon neutral target year”, to try and communicate a standardized process (and avoid confusing the consumer, especially with recycling), and also what has been learned so far, good and bad things, and what needs to be improved/changed for the future; (as for instance this “passing our rubbish” on to other areas of the world to “deal with”, often to poorer, less “developed” regions; re-assess and reassure the consumer on processes; does the “market” work better than voluntary or non-commercial processes etc). Such a “forum” would also allow information and feedback on whether residents are planning to buy an electric vehicle, how willing are residents to use public transport, what are their problems and fears; what kind of “heating system” are domestic users going to use in the future, what is going to replace the gas boiler etc etc.
    * I do think “carbon neutral”, and most climate change protection initiatives will have to be more local/regional/community led, so that they can be appropriate to local residents, local geography and local needs; (depending on where, and what kind of community they are). So more “power” and resources should be pushed down to the local level from the national – and a good information “feedback loop” should be established – and back up to all the global agencies/consultancies that seem to have developed.

    *By the way does everyone know anyone can now subscribe to the UN Web TV Live and on demand for a daily (week day) email direct from the UN. This lists and gives links for all UN meetings/discussions/information videos etc on that day – which includes currently international summits on Global Food Systems (including logistics which must be a huge “carbon cost” for so much food supplied to British outlets); videos on local schemes to help very fragile communities adapt their agricultural and sustainable food producing processes as their climates do change (the series of videos are listed at the bottom of the screen, called Hungry Planet Series from the agency IFAD.)

    *I note Marks and Spencer say they will be carbon neutral by 2030; so the retailers’ race is on: Good luck to the Co-op and to everyone who shops at one, and thanks for everyone’s efforts.

    Sorry rather too long, but thanks for reading through! LPM

  2. Any chance of the Co-Op “joining the conversation”!?!

  3. The flexible plastic bin in my local co-op is always full so I can’t add my recycling. It is not big enough “for purpose” and/or is not being cleared frequently enough. Such a pity as I was so excited that the Co-op was offering this scheme. I would like to understand more about the business model behind it to understand what might be possible to improve the offer.

    • It would be good if we could have a specific reply to Ilana and Anni’s questions. Also, having read about greenwashing, I would like to have information on exactly how and where the soft plastic collected is recycled, and what %age ends up in incinerators and landfill.

  4. We would like to offer the Coop a recycling solution nationwide for inkjet printer cartridges, we are happy to place small collection boxes in every store throughout the country. There are 65 million units thrown into landfill every year and this will only increase with more people working from home. Most printer cartridges have a value so we will donate back to the Coop and the community. We make recycling pay!

  5. Can we recycle bubble wrap at the co-op soft plastic bins?

  6. I wish there was more specific info on what can be recycled where.
    I’ve also recycled for decades – anybody remember when the Scouts used to collect newspapers, and Guide Dogs silver foil? They were about the only ones in those days.
    But why is there such variation from area to area? My local council collects plastic according to its purpose, ie basically anything that is a bottle, end of. (And nobody seems to know if milk bottle lids stay on, go in separately or don’t go in at all.)
    So half my recycling goes to my daughter in a different county where they recycle by number (1,2,4,5). Though they then say, oh, but nothing black or brown.
    I’m pleased with the new initiatives, but even these lack clarity. ‘Soft’ plastic at first seemed to mean film, but now we have ‘scrunchable’ (crisp, biscuit, sweet wrappers etc.) But what about clean, non foil yoghurt and cream lids, clean cheese wrapping, some types of cereal bags, not just inner bags, dried fruit bags, and more? What about citrus nets? And mini cheese nets?
    A big thank you to those producers who now have the label ‘Recycle with bags at larger stores’ on products such as fresh and frozen veg.
    Any ‘Check locally’ is sure to be a no from my council.
    It does get a bit disheartening, and how on earth do you motivate people who just have no interest, when it’s in everyone’s interest?

  7. have just been reading in the latest co op magazine that recycling bins for soft plastics will be rolled out in stores this summer. Is there any timescale for this and will it be in selected stores only? thankyou

  8. I recycle everything I possibly can, and as there are just two people in my household, I have almost no food waste. I have a council compost bin that can take fruit and veg waste as well as other garden bits, so that helps. Other suitable items I take to the charity shop. This being said, I get so disheartened when I see all the litter, fly tipping, and discarded food wrappers and bottles etc, and so much of it. So selfish! When I walk my dog, there is always stuff about, detrimental to animals and people. I wish I could do more, but not sure what. Recycling and not littering is so easy. I do agree with Joy Edwards, there is a lot of plastic on things that should not have it. The large supermarkets can and should be doing more in this regard, and I’m glad to see this is high on the Co-op agenda. Thankfully there are good people about, and I’m heartened by the comments on here.

  9. Please could you let me know if the Coop are going to be involved in a Spring Clean as was planned last year in cooperation with Keep Britain Tidy. It would be great to be involved in something like this locally as litter is becoming more and more of a problem.

  10. I have been recycling and reducing my waste for more than 30 years. Where I came from in Wales there was a recycling centre that took virtually everything. When I first moved to England over 23 years ago I was surprised at how little was recycled. I still try to reduce, reuse, recycle everything I can but my bin still contains food scraps (peelings etc) and too much plastic. I don’t have a garden and my local council does not have a scheme for food waste. I use a refill shop for my washing up liquid, laundry liquid etc. As for the rest of the plastics, there are still too many that cannot be recycled and I am also concerned that the majority of our plastics are sent overseas where they’re are dumped and are causing pollution in those countries, rather than being dealt with here. Co-op says that they’re trying to reduce plastics so why do you still wrap individual vegetables in plastic?
    I do not have a car so rely on my local Co-op and so many varieties of fruit and vegetables are wrapped in plastic. In my fridge I currently have a swede, broccoli and cucumber shrink-wrapped in plastic. Why are you still doing this? I know that it is done primarily to keep them fresh and protected but surely by now you could have found an alternative?

    • Well said and indeed, well written Joy Edward’s. You’ve hit a very significant nail right on the head! Your comments and description of the recycling ethos and it’s importance really well! Good for you; you’ve certainly made me think and I was onside anyway! Power to you, and your vitally important message. Thank you and best wishes.

    • I agree with Joy Edward’s unanswered question and would like to see a reply.
      Also, it is high-minded to say the Coop’s plastic is easily recyclable, but it is NOT in Hampshire. My bin gets filled with plastic pots, punnets and trays that all bear the No 1 recycle code. How about our local Coop becoming a collection point?

  11. I’ve always been dedicated to recycling everything that can be recycled (and ensuring I’m aware of what’s accepted by my local council, and what isn’t); but I remain extremely concerned about the fate of the materials when they leave our kerbside (or the bottle banks etc.). Much of our waste has in the past been sent to countries which can’t deal wth it, or have children go through it (or even live in it), while some of it is disposed of in the oceans; and I really can’t imagine that the situation has changed for the better in recent years! We need to be provided with information about the very precise destination and end result of all our recycling.

  12. Another good and relevant article from the COOP. We can all do our bit for the environment this is one way of doing it. Recycle everyone!


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