How to recycle … so you make a real difference


Although recycling may be the norm in UK households, it’s shocking that there are still a fraction of homes that choose not to recycle their waste. With home schooling and working from home meaning we’re filling up bins faster than usual, more than ever it’s important that we all make a conscious effort to reduce the waste going to Cornwall’s incinerator.

If you are already recycling (Huzzah!), do you find yourself still confused about exactly what items we can and cannot put in our recycling bins? You’re not alone. According to organisation WRAP, on average, UK households dispose of 1.5 items that could be recycled in the general rubbish (including foil, aerosols and plastic detergent or cleaning bottles). With different materials and new products in our shopping trolley every week, it’s difficult to keep up!

We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country, and at Plastic Free Penzance, we want to work towards clean beaches, streets and green spaces. This means less going out in the bin to be burnt in the incinerator and more in our recycling bags.

However, as important to the planet as recycling is, reducing the products we consume and waste, and reusing as much as we can, is something that we all need to start seriously thinking about. If we were all able to Reduce, Reuse and Rethink our consumption, then this is a massive step in the right direction to helping save the planet.

If you’re not sure about the recycling process in Cornwall and you’re uncertain about what items belong where, then we’ve laid out a simple guide to help you separate your recycling from your general waste, it’s super easy and requires a small effort for a big gain.

Image: Cornwall Recycles

How to Recycle in Cornwall

Order some handy containers

If you haven’t got any already, then the first step is to request recycling boxes and bags from The online form takes two seconds and the boxes will be delivered straight to your door, free of charge. If you find the boxes are not enough, you can request additional storage boxes to suit your needs. You can fill out the hassle free form here.

Find out when your pick up day is

Don’t be THAT neighbour who forgets recycling day! Find out when the pick up day/time is for your specific area online by searching on this easy to use database. Set a reminder on your phone so you get into the habit of doing it. After a few weeks it will be second nature.

Know your bags

All bags and containers should be labelled, but make sure you know what item goes where. It’s pretty simple but here’s a reminder:

  • Orange bag – Cardboard (this includes wrapping paper and brown paper but you’ll need to remove any staples, sticky tape and plastic bags.)
  • Red Bag – Household Metal and Plastics (i.e drink cans, food tins, plastic bottles, tubs and trays)
  • Blue Bag – Paper (including newspapers, magazines and envelopes)
  • Black Box – Glass Bottles and Jars (unfortunately this cannot include broken glass so dispose of this safely in your general waste)

Note: Textiles (such as clean, dry clothing, towels and sheets) can also be recycled if placed on top of the black box in a plastic bag to keep them dry

Keeping it clean

Smelly bottles outside your house all week doesn’t seem that appealing anyway, so ensure that all containers are thoroughly washed before going into recycling otherwise they may not be able to be used again.

Use those green fingers!

If you’re already into gardening, then why not get a compost bin for the garden? Transforming your kitchen and garden waste is a cheap and easy way to feed your plants. Composting is great for the environment even if you don’t use it for your garden as it saves on waste going to incineration, saving money and resources. Food waste will soon be collected from your home. You can find out more about composting on the Recycle Now website.

Have recycling or waste that can’t be picked up?

If you’ve got a lot of waste or recycling that will be too much for your recycling or materials that can’t be taken by the council, then you can visit one of the 14 Household Waste and Recycling points in Cornwall. Check before you visit, as there might be charges for depositing certain materials.

Pick the REAL Solution – and Reuse

As well as recycling our goods, it’s also important that as a community, we try to improve the throwaway culture. There are many small changes each individual or household could make in order to cut their plastic footprint. We’ve laid out some tips to inspire you to think the next time you’re shopping, ordering a coffee or cooking at home. So here we look at Reuse ,,, and what you can do

Buy refillable cups and bottles

Invest in a refill bottle for as little as £2 and get a decent refill hot drinks cup. You’ll not only be saving money on plastic water bottles, but coffee shops usually offer a discount if you have your own cup. Plus you’ll be saving a millions ( yes MILLIONS) of bottles and cups going into landfill, incineration or ending up in the environment each day.

Use ‘tupperware’ and reusable wraps

Instead of reaching for the cling film or silver foil, invest in some lasting plastic or stainless steel tubs for your sandwiches. Other options such as paper or beeswax wrap are a great way to wrap your food, time and time again too. Check out Hobbs Kitchen shop in town for a few ideas if you don’t already have some neglected storage tubs lying around the kitchen.

Switch to refillable bottles (or no bottles at all) for the bathroom

The beauty industry has never been so booming with ‘essentials’, coming in bottles and packets of all shapes and sizes. If your beauty regime has got out of hand, then why not consider switching to a bar of soap/shampoo or getting top ups at refill shops? Say goodbye to buying endless plastic bottles every week, and reduce your waste in the bathroom. Pure Nuff Stuff have some excellent beauty products on hand and Archie Browns do refills and have plastic free options of all the essentials.

Make your own cleaning products

There are so many different commercial cleaning products these days, filled with toxic chemicals and wrapped in elaborate plastic packaging. So ever thought about making your own at home? From baking soda to white vinegar and lemon juice, there are many natural ingredients available to use in your DIY cleaning products. You’ll be saving on plastic waste and harmful chemicals going down the drain. Just do an online search for ‘recipes’ and look out for our community workshops.

Think about reusable period products

Tampons and period pads get flushed into the ocean every day and are detrimental to the plastic pollution crisis. So consider switching to reusable options. From cups to period pants, there are plenty to try so you can find one that suits you. Find out more about the alternatives here.

Ditch nappies

We’ve said it before, but disposable nappies can take up to a shocking 500 years to break down. With millions and millions used everyday, why not consider switching to reusable nappies instead? Check out The Cornish Real Nappy Library and UK Nappy Network for all you need to know.