Recycling doesn't just help the environment; we can all benefit from recycling the things we use. Find out more about why recycling matters and what happens to things after you've put them in the recycling.
Why recycle?

Everything we throw in the rubbish bin is potentially a lost resource, meaning new things need to be made out of virgin material to replace what we’ve thrown away. If every one of us re-used or recycled just one more thing each day, it would make a huge difference.

For example, if every Londoner recycled just one more aluminium can, with the energy saved we could power a TV set every day for nearly 63 years!

Recycling also reduces the need for extracting, refining and processing raw materials from the earth, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. At our current rate, UK recycling is estimated to save more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 a year – the equivalent to taking 5 million cars off the road.

Why recycle plastics?

It is estimated that an average of 35.8 million plastic bottles are used EVERY DAY in the UK, but only 19.8 million of these are recycled. This means there are on average, 16 million plastic bottles are not being sent to recycling each and every day. In London, on average we get through two million plastic bottles of water every day. In terms of energy, each 500ml bottle that is recycled saves enough energy to make three rounds of toast. So if every Londoner recycled one more bottle of water every day, we’d have enough spare energy to make 9.4 billion rounds of toast annually!

Watch this video to find out more about what happens to the plastic containers you send to be recycled.

Why recycle glass?

No one really knows how long it takes glass to decompose in landfill, because as far as we know, none has ever actually decomposed. What we do know, is that glass can easily be recycled back into new bottles and jars over and over again, without its clarity deteriorating.

If every Londoner recycled one more glass jar every week, we could prevent 10,000 tonnes of glass being thrown away every year. That’s almost half the weight of the glass façade on the Shard.

It's always better to re-use than recycled however, so if you can repurpose your glass containers, choose to do this before you choose to recycle.

What this video to find out more about the glass recycling process:

Why recycle paper and card?

Recycling paper conserves our natural resources, saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. For every tonne of paper recycled we are saving 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 4,000 kW of energy and 7,000 gallons of water.

Every year, we produce tonnes of paper throughout the world. This is used for all sorts of products such as office paper, newspapers, envelopes and for packaging millions of different types of items.

Paper and packaging make up huge proportions of the waste we produce and as they can be recycled into new products over and over, it makes sense not to send them to waste.

However, almost 5 million tonnes of waste paper is still sent to landfill or incineration each year. This means that new paper and card needs to be constantly produced, which does not make environmental or economic sense.

Watch this video to find out more about how paper is recycled:

Why recycle metals?

Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy needed when making it from virgin materials and recycling steel saves 74%.

Fortunatley, both aluminium and steel can be recycled easily and used again and again. That’s why us Londoners recycles nearly a tonne of household metal every day.

In the UK more widely, we recycle around

  • 75% of steel packaging
  • 50% of aluminium packaging 

You may think that's not too bad, but that still means that a quarter of steel tins for things like baked beans and sweetcorn, and half of aluminium products for things like coke or deodorant end up incinerated or in landfill when they could be turned into something new.

Simply remember to rinse and recycle your tins and cans and you can make a big difference.

Watch this video to find out more about recycling metal: 

Why recycle clothes and textiles?

Just because something might have gone out of fashion or is worn out doesn't mean it's a load of old rubbish. Clothing that can still be worn can easily be donated to charity shops, taken to your local textiles bank or sold online or at car boot sales.

Clothes and textiles - even old underwear, damaged clothing and faded curtains - that aren’t suitable to be passed onto someone else can be recycled and made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets. Check to see if your local council collects textiles to be recycled or if your local charity shops accept rags.

When clothes and textiles aren't recycled and are thrown in the bin, they end up being incinerated or in landfill. When they end up in landfill, they can produce toxins which pollute the water we drink and the air we breathe. Every year an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK. This has a huge environmental impact in terms of carbon, water and waste footprints.

If clothes stayed in active use for just nine months more (extending their average life to around three years), this would reduce their carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%!


Why recycle food waste?

Food waste that is sent to landfill doesn't harmlessly breakdown. It has a big impact on the environment as it rots and releases methane – a harmful greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. However, food waste can be recycled, even bones and egg shells, into compost or electricity and food waste recycling services are being rolled out across more and more of London and the UK.

At present, 24 million slices of bread go to waste every day from UK homes - enough to go up and down the Shard almost 400 times – so let’s put food waste to good use instead and where available, make use of the food waste recycling system.

If you'd like to find out more about food waste and how it is recycled, watch this video:

Why recycle garden waste?

If you have a garden or an allotment, in many parts of London you can turn your waste into compost by recycling it – even if you can’t compost it at home. When garden waste is recycled it is transformed into nutrient-rich soil conditioner and most types of garden waste can be recycled, including bark, flowers, grass and hedge cuttings, leaves, plants, small branches, twigs and weeds.