Are you making these recycling mistakes?

Take our quiz to find out



Did you know that 84% of people put the wrong items in their recycling bins? In truth, we can all be guilty of lazily or hurriedly throwing something into the recycling bin before checking.

And even though we might diligently rinse our yoghurt pots before placing them in the recycling bin, the reality is, that even if there is a recycling symbol on your packaging, it doesn't mean it has been recycled or even that it can be recycled in your area. The most common recycling symbol in the UK actually means that at least 75% of local authorities will collect and recycle that item. That's not close to 100%.

That's why the first place to start is learning what can and can't be recycled. It’s estimated that the average household in the UK throws away a scary 100 billion pieces of single-use plastic packaging each year, and that’s got to change.

Earth Day 2024 was in April this year and we decided to support their 2024 mission to raise awareness of plastic use and ensure a 60% reduction in global use by 2040.

We created a quiz to help you determine whether you’re unknowingly making these common recycling mistakes. Take our quiz below to test your knowledge and find out if you’re one of the 84% of people making these recycling errors, or whether you’re one of the few people in the UK who have got their recycling down to an art.

And don’t worry, if it turns out you’re making some recycling mistakes, keep reading to learn our tips on how to reduce plastic waste in your everyday life.

Quiz: How good is your recycling knowledge?

Are you ready to see whether you’re making recycling mistakes? Wonder if you’re putting the wrong items in the recycling bin? Can you tell these recycling symbols apart? Will you be able to separate your plastic rubbish from your single-use correctly? Let’s find out.

If you want to brush up on your knowldge, then our friends over at Recycle Now, have the full list of symbols.

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Our quiz does not collect any identifiable, personal information. But we are keen to know a little about who and where in the UK, people have the best understanding of what all the symbols mean - which is why we ask 3 generic 'about you' questions first.

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What is single-use plastic?

Single-use plastic products describe the products we can only use once - or for a very short period of time - before we have to throw them away.

Single-use plastic has an astounding effect on our environment, and in the UK, several of our nation’s governments have introduced single-use plastic bans on some items.

Introduced in England in 2023, the ban now means that businesses are no longer allowed to supply items like polystyrene cups or plastic cutlery.

Some other examples of single-use plastic include; cotton buds, balloons, plastic bags, wet wipes, and food packaging like the plastic bags our bread comes in.

5 tips on how to reduce single-use plastic waste

1. Get to know your recycling labels

Sixteen. That’s the number of recycling symbols available, which means there are sixteen ways to recycle something. Now, be honest with yourself: if we asked you to name and know the meaning of them all, could you?

In our quiz, we put your knowledge of recycling labels and symbols to the test, but it’s so important to ensure that we recycle as much as possible. But if we’re going to make the effort of recycling, we need to make sure we’re doing it correctly.

If you recycle incorrectly, the item will eventually end up in a landfill. This is a bigger concern than you may think because every recyclable item that gets wrongly added to landfill takes up valuable space—which is running out - with the UK being warned that it could run out of landfill capacity in the next eight years.

2. Use refillable stations at the supermarket

Refillable stations and aisles have been popping up in supermarkets across the UK for the past couple of years, and they can be an excellent way to reduce your everyday plastic waste.

A study from Greenpeace found that two billion units of single-use packaging are thrown away in the UK each week, and 99% of this plastic packaging is made from environmentally damaging fossil fuels.

The organisation estimates that if every household in the UK refilled just one item in their weekly shop each week - for example, instead of purchasing a new bottle of dishwashing liquid, using the same bottle and buying refillable sachets or filling up at a refill station - we’d be able to eliminate over 1.4 billion items of plastic packaging waste each year!

To find out which stores near you have refill stations and plastic-free stations, use the Refill app.

3. Use beeswax food wraps instead of cling-film

A worrying (or rather unbelievable) 1.2 billion metres of cling film are used in the UK each year - the equivalent of 745,000 miles - enough to wrap around the world 30 times - and that’s just for the UK!

Even though cling film, or cling wrap for those US readers, is a type of plastic waste, it can’t be recycled at home. Instead, it must be taken to a specialist facility. But if it’s put in the general waste (which most people do), it may be sent to a landfill site where it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose naturally. So, what’s the alternative?

In the past few years, beeswax wraps have become increasingly popular, and they’re great alternatives to cling film for wrapping food.

They’re made out of pieces of fabric, with a layer of beeswax to form a waxy, grippy coating. They’re super easy to make if you have any old clothes or fabric lying around. The Natural History Museum has a great tutorial on DIY beeswax wraps on their website.

4. Don’t forget your reusable bag for the supermarket!

In the UK, it’s estimated that the average person now buys around three single-use carrier bags a year - a figure down from a staggering 140 in 2014, which is when the plastic bag charges came into place in stores. However, Greenpeace research shows that British supermarkets sold 1.58 billion ‘bags for life’ in 2019 - the equivalent of 57 per household and more than one bag purchased every week.

No one needs 57 bags for life, but we know how easy it is to forget bags for your shopping, especially if you’ve had an unplanned trip to the supermarket. So, to ensure you’re not buying plastic bags in surplus every time you go shopping, try moving bags closer to a nook near the front door, or into the boot of your car.

Alternatively, why not invest in a packable bag you can always keep in your jacket pocket or bag in case of any spontaneous trips to the shop?

5. Get a reusable coffee cup or water bottle

Just like food, drinks have a lot to answer for when it comes to contributing to plastic waste. It’s estimated that each year in the UK, 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away - that’s enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times!

It’s also estimated that using a reusable hot drinks cup saves 10.32kg of CO2e, with one reusable coffee cup being equal to around 500 reusable ones. For perspective, if the UK switched from disposable cups to reusable cups, we could curb overall CO2 emissions by a whopping 52,000 tonnes each year.

Not only does using a reusable hot drinks cup massively reduce your plastic consumption, but it also saves you money, with many coffee shops offering discounted coffee to those with reusable cups. Similarly, plastic bottles take anywhere from 75 to 450 years to break down, so switching to using a refillable water bottle is undoubtedly a great way to reduce your plastic waste.

The Refill app can also show you free water refill stations near you. To do this, they partner with over 80+ councils across the UK. You can find your nearest Scheme on their app, or start your own and create a lasting change where you live!