Can you recycle bubble wrap? UK recycling guidelines for plastic

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Recycling – although necessary for the environment – can be a bit of a pain sometimes, with local councils usually giving varied and detailed instructions on what can be recycled, what is considered general waste and what you need to take to the dump.  Yes, bubble wrap is made out of plastic, but it’s one that confuses a lot of people as it works slightly differently. Lockdown’s seen a huge rise in home deliveries, with many of us piling up endless amounts of cardboard boxes, padded envelopes and bubble wrap. But what can be disposed of with the recycling? Here’s all you need to know…

Is it possible to recycle bubble wrap?

In short, yes it is possible, it’s made from plastic after all. However, you can’t just chuck it in with your other general recycling.

Plastic is non-biodegradable, but unlike old milk cartons or egg boxes, bubble wrap can’t be melted down as it releases toxic fumes, which are a health hazard.

Bubble wrap and other plastic-based items such as cling film or carrier bags work differently, as they typically aren’t taken through a home collection service, although this can differ depending on your catchment area.

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It’s important to check your local recycling programme and guidelines for clarity, so you know exactly what you should be doing with your waste.

Some councils do offer a household collection, but the best way to recycle bubble wrap is by heading to a nearby recycling point or centre.

How to find local recycling centres and collection guidelines

If you’re not already familiar with your local recycling centres, head to your local council’s website for more information.

Alternatively, there are a number of websites that simply break it down for you, all you need to do is enter your postcode.

RecycleNow offers a quick service that will show you exactly where you can recycle specific items, – such as bubble wrap – what you should put in your home recycling bins, and also locates all your nearby recycling stations.

Where does British homes’ recycling go?

In the UK, the recycling rate for household waste sits at just under 50 percent, with Wales as the country with the best overall rate.

The exact journey of our recyclables varies from area to area, but typically after it’s collected it’s then sorted at a recycling facility.

At these facilities, all the dry household recycling is put on a conveyor belt and is separated into different categories, such as cans, paper, glass and plastic.

Usually, there is a filter which sorts out the different sizes, allowing smaller objects to fall through holes, and larger ones to stay.

When it comes to plastic, they are sorted once more as there are a number of different polymer types meaning that milk cartons, water bottles and so on are all made differently.

Someone typically checks the items by hand for any food or product residue at this stage and once the items are clean and separated they are usually sold on to reprocessing facilities.

Here, they’ll be either shredded into flakes or melted down into pellets, which can then be used to make new products.

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