[Ad] How complicated is your kerbside recycling scheme? How diligent are you with doing it anyway? If we’re being honest, it’s confusing and time-consuming to keep on top of it, right? And that’s without taking into account the disadvantages of recycling, which sadly do exist. Of course there are pros and cons to everything in life, and hopefully you’ll agree that recycling is important, even if it is imperfect. It’s also why I’m supporting the BetterYou campaign, petitioning for improvements around recycling in the UK.

What Recycling Looks Like in the UK Today

In our area we have weekly collections for: 

  • General waste,
  • Food waste.

And fortnightly collections for our recyclables:

  1. Plastics sack,
  2. Box for cans and glass, 
  3. Paper sack, 
  4. Card sack,
  5. Garden bin. 

That’s quite a lot to manage. But we do it because despite the confusion, we know it’s worthwhile.  In fact, much to my husband’s irritation, I also keep a 6th bag of recycling in one of our kitchen cupboards beside our ironing board. It’s all the plastic which, while technically recyclable, our council doesn’t accept. So I drop it at our local supermarket every few weeks once it’s filled up.

Hands holding recyclable packaging.

Honestly? It’s all a bit (lot) of a pain. But it’s the only thing I can do to alleviate my guilt every time I open something else wrapped in plastic.

I just hope it gets to where it’s supposed to…

Did you know that up to 80% of the recycling we spend our time and effort cleaning and sorting is, in fact, sent abroad, incinerated, or sent to landfill? Isn’t that demoralising?

Worse, Indonesia and Thailand are in the top ten countries responsible for plastic ocean pollution – yet they continue to import UK plastic waste; and we continue to send it.

Despite a national appetite for recycling and reducing waste, understandably, the British public are losing faith in the current system, which seems unfit for purpose.

If you make a process confusing enough, people will eventually stop doing it.

BetterYou Founder and Managing Director, Andrew Thomas
Image shows a recycling bin full of colourful paper.

Disadvantages of Recycling

While I wish it were otherwise, there are currently too many hoops to jump through to make recycling an easy and efficient process. Coupled with the inconsistencies in council policies, it’s not hard to see why people might become disillusioned:

1. Recycling correctly is time intensive.

My husband (bless him) is in charge of the bins in our house. There are some jobs that, sexism be damned, we (I) still prefer to let the man of the house take care of. It takes him ages to sort and separate the recyclables each week, and sadly we just don’t have space for five different bins in our home. So this is the way it has to be: general waste goes in the bin and everything else gets chucked in a box outside for sorting later.

2. Inconsistent council policies regarding which plastics are considered recyclable.

Every council has their own policies regarding what’s considered recyclable plastic. This is the reason I still find myself regularly trekking to our local supermarket with a big bag of plastics that our council will not accept. It doesn’t feel right somehow, but needs must. And I know that these rules vary across the UK – the waste I can’t recycle in our area will likely be different to where you live, and vice versa.

Sadly not everybody has the option to drop items off locally either, which means that in some circumstances we’re left with no alternative but to put recyclables straight into our general waste bins.

3. It can be difficult to properly comply with recycling rules.

Are you aware that if you don’t adequately clean your recyclables then they’ll be rejected? Those plastic food containers you rinse and chuck into the recycling may be tossed straight into the general waste bin at the recycling plant. Which means you’ve wasted your time and effort, and the planet is no better off for it.

Recycling Symbols

4. Many items believed to be sent for recycling still go to landfill.

My understanding is that there are not always valid reasons, such as above, for recyclables going to landfill or otherwise not being recycled. Simply, there’s too much waste and not enough organisation/infrastructure/funding or, frankly, care about what happens to our waste.

And I don’t mean by Joe Public, I mean by those who are in a position to effect change. Because it needs to come from the top and be filtered down in order for it to be on a large enough scale to be truly valuable. 

It should be the responsibility of the government to take ownership of the staggering environmental problem and enforce positive change, through reduced manufacturing of plastics, and improved recycling.

Because what else can we do at a grassroots level? At the moment, shopping consciously and separating our rubbish for kerbside recycling are the only practical solutions to the problem facing consumers. And unfortunately, the past year has only made plastic consumption worse, as we’ve bought more products to make up for our lack of freedom. 

Most of us don’t want to be complicit, and so we keep on keeping on, while feeling there must surely be a better way.

Campaigning For Better Recycling, With BetterYou

In 2019 BetterYou launched The Better Planet Project, an initiative focused on making improvements to all aspects of its environmental footprint. Their ongoing commitment to becoming green includes the transformation of their entire product range to ocean recycled or plant-based plastic – all 100% recyclable – and the aim to be carbon neutral by the end of 2022.

Pros and cons of recycling. Image shows eco brand products and packaging with a green star-shaped candle.

In addition to their own goals, BetterYou are also campaigning for UK-wide improvements in the collection and recycling of plastics. The dissatisfaction with our current systems is driving the launch of their Plastic Petition for better access to better recycling. The BetterYou campaign aims to bring synergy and clarity to a universally adopted plastics collection and recycling programme which is: 

Standardised, independently monitored, and publicly reviewed annually.

It proposes that all local authorities are governed, monitored, and reviewed equally, upholding an agreed best practice programme for collection and recycling.

BetterYou Founder and Managing Director, Andrew Thomas

Sign the Plastic Petition For Positive Change

If the environmental disaster we face is as close to your heart as it is mine, please sign the petition and share. A petition which generates 100,000 signatures must be debated in Parliament.

References: Geyer R, Jambeck J R, Law KL. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances 2017 July 19, 3 

YouGov Results

Where Does Most of the UK’s Plastic End Up?

The Everyday Plastic Survey: Lockdown Edition Results (link now expired)


An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is a huge advocate of personal growth, focusing on journaling to increase positivity and facilitate mindful motherhood. With a wealth of experience in breastfeeding and CMPA, Kate is also an expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

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