Most popular recycling questions answered

At DS Smith, we are always looking to tackle the confusion around recycling. Explore what you can and can’t recycle at home as we answer your most searched for recycling questions.

In an era of remote working, where ecommerce sales, home deliveries, takeaways all continue to rise, it has never been more important to understand what can and can’t be recycled at home.

What can I recycle?

At DS Smith, we want to lead the way towards a circular economy through engaging and educating the next generation. In fact, our Now and Next Sustainability Strategy states that by 2030 we will engage 10 million people on the circular economy and circular lifestyles. Therefore, we asked a number of UK families what can and can't be recycled to see who knows more about recycling, kids or adults. Find out who won in our Recycling Quiz below.

See more of our Recycling quizzes on our YouTube channel here

At DS Smith, we manage around 6 million tonnes of material for recycling every year, so as one of the leading integrated packaging and recycling companies in Europe, we’ve put our expertise to good use.

So, what can you recycle? To help ensure that all materials which can be recycled are recycled, we’ve looked at some of your most searched questions surrounding recycling at home.

Can you recycle wrapping paper?

Sometimes. Non-paper gift wrap, such as foil-based wrapping paper or bags, cannot be recycled. The best way of checking if your wrapping paper can be recycled is to scrunch it; if it springs back when you scrunch it, it’s not recyclable.

Check out some more of our top tips for recycling wrapping paper.

Can you recycle tissues?

No. Tissues, paper towels, or kitchen roll cannot be recycled once used. Although the fibres are recyclable there is a high chance that this material could be contaminated and is therefore not accepted in European paper mills.

Can you recycle plastic bags?

Plastic bags cannot put in with your kerbside recycling, although most major supermarkets have carrier bag collection points for recycling.

We recommend saving up your plastic bags and re-using them for future shopping trips, or even better, investing in a canvas bag.

Can you recycle takeaway cups?

 Yes. Hot drink paper cups, such as coffee can be recycled, but due to their plastic lining they need to be collected separately from other paper recycling streams. Always look out for separate coffee cup recycling bins.

Can you recycle magazines?

Yes. Magazines can go in your regular paper recycling streams.  Although it’s useful to remove any plastic wrapping and other non-paper products that may be attached to them.

Can you recycle newspapers?

Yes. Newspapers are commonly recycled through your regular paper recycling streams.

Can greeting cards be recycled?

Yes, as long as they are not covered in glitter or other non-paper materials.

Can you recycle glass?

This depends on the type of glass. Glass bottles, jars and broken glass can be recycled, but glass cookware and drinking glasses cannot. This is because these types of glass need different temperatures to melt down and recycle effectively. 

Can you recycle pizza boxes?

Yes. Pizza boxes are 100% recyclable even when greasy, as long as there is no food left in them and they aren’t heavily soiled. The best way of ensuring your pizza box can be recycled is to remove any crusts, leftover food, and soak up any excess oil.

Can you recycle aerosol cans?

Yes, you can recycle aerosol cans as long as they are empty and the cap is removed.

Can you recycle receipts?

Unfortunately, you cannot recycle receipts because of the ink that is used during the printing process. This contaminates the paper and prevents recycling.

Can you recycle mirrors?

Mirrors cannot typically be recycled. These types of glass do not melt at the same temperature as bottles and jars. If they enter the glass recycling process it can result in containers being rejected. However, if you want to recycle mirrors, you can take them to your local household recycling centre where it will be recovered with aggregates such as building waste. 

Can you recycle books?

Firstly, consider ways to reuse the book, such as donating it to your local school or library, passing them onto a friend, or selling them at a car boot sale. If not, paperback books are commonly accepted as recyclable, although hardback books can be a bit trickier as the covers may include leather, plastic, glue and string – so look to remove the cover if you can.