Confused about what you can and can’t recycle? We’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to recycling.

We are all recycling more and becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to reducing our single-use plastic use thanks to programmes like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II and the BBC’s War On Plastic, not to mention the work of activists like Greta Thunberg.

But recycling can be confusing. What can and can’t go in your recycling bin? Can you recycle toothpaste tubes? What about plastic meat trays? Let’s clear up the confusion around recycling once and for all with your definitive list.

What you can recycle from home:

  • Glass bottles and jars (rinsed).
  • Paper including newspapers, magazines, catalogues, telephone directories, Yellow Pages, envelopes (with or without windows), junk mail, office paper, greeting cards, wrapping papers (not metallic/foil), books.
  • Shredded paper (in clear bags please).
  • Cardboard (flattened) including food and non-food packaging card,and non-waxed cardboard.
  • Food tins and drink cans (rinsed).
  • Aluminium foil and trays (clean).
  • Aerosol cans (empty) but not paint, fertilizer or weed killer cans or sprays.
  • Plastic bottles (rinsed and squashed with lids put back on).
  • Plastic bleach and cleaning bottles.
  • Plastic pots, tubs and trays including yoghurt pots, ice cream tubs, margarine containers and food trays (but no black plastic please).
  • Plastic bags and sacks (not black ones).
  • Plastic film including magazine wrappers and tops of food trays.
  • Plastic packaging including those that contained batteries or toys for example.
Plastic water bottles at Seven Sisters

Reducing, reusing and recycling helps keep plastic out of the environment.

Why should I rinse and clean items?

All recycling must be free from food and left over contents before placing them in the recycling bin. This helps keep the quality of materials before being collected and ensures it can be recycled. Recycling facilities rely on the material they receive being clean, dry and loose. It doesn’t have to be perfect – a quick rinse in your old washing up water will do!

What you can’t recycle from home:

  • Textiles such as clothes. Please donate these to charity or take them to your Household Waste Recycling Sites.
  • Food waste (If in Lewes please use your food waste recycling bin).
  • Nappies and other sanitary waste.
  • Food and drink cartons such as Tetra Pak.
  • Batteries.*
  • Refuse (if your bin is full, you can take any extra refuse to one of our Household Waste Recycling Sites).
  • Black plastic bags and sacks.
  • Black plastic trays.
  • Wood.
  • Garden waste. Please check your local council’s website for garden waste collections.
  • Polystyrene.
  • Bubble wrap.
  • Hard plastics such as toys and plant pots.
  • CDs, DVDs and their cases.
  • Foil-lined plastic pouches and bags like crisp packets.
  • Toothpaste tubes.
  • Medical blister packs.
  • Cling-film.
  • Pyrex or ovenproof glassware and drinking glasses.
  • Crockery.
  • Window panes, mirrors, light bulbs.
  • Tyres.
  • Scrap metal.
  • Wet paper and card.
  • Sand and building materials.
  • Electrical equipment.*
  • Bottles, cans or aerosols that have contained toxic or hazardous chemical.
  • Oil or pesticide containers.

It’s worth double checking that none of these are in your recycling bin as it can lead to whole recycling loads to be rejected!

*Batteries and everything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled if you live in Wealden, Rother or Hastings areas. Pop your items in a carrier bag and place them on top of either your waste bin or recycling bin on collection day. Always place batteries in a separate bag. If you live in the Lewes or Eastbourne area please take batteries to your local household waste recycling site. Many supermarkets also collect them.

Lewes District Council currently has a separate food waste recycling programme. If you live in this area, please check their web page about Lewes District Council’s food waste recycling to find out more.

You can find out more about composting your food leftovers on East Sussex County Council’s composting page.

Not enough room in your bin?

Bottles should be squashed (and lid kept on) and large pieces of cardboard should be folded. This will mean you have more room in your bin.

If you have more recycling than can fit in your bin, you can place extra in a clear bag next to your recycling bin. Or, a much better solution would be to reduce the amount of single-use plastic and packaging you buy.

Check out: How to ban single-use plastics from your home.

If your waste bin is full, you can take any extra refuse to one of our Household Waste Recycling Sites.

Is recycling the right thing to do?

The best thing for the environment is to reduce the amount that we buy and use in the first place. Is there a local refill shop near where you live or work that you can visit to refill on household items? Can you switch from bottled shampoo to shampoo bars? Can you meal prep on Sunday night and avoid purchasing lunchtime meal deals that often come in plastic packaging?

Even simple changes such as avoiding plastic bottles and purchasing their glass jar counterparts means you have a reusable item once you’ve finished the contents. Which brings us to…

If you can’t reduce, you should look to reuse. Can that glass bottle be used as a candle holder? Can that plastic bottle be adapted to grow kitchen herbs in? Why not paint that cardboard shoe box and use it for storage? Donating and re-gifting items are also great ways to reuse.

If you absolutely can’t reduce or reuse, then recycle. However, it is worth mentioning that we can’t recycle our way out of this crisis. Check out our interview with Claire from Surfers Against Sewage for her tips on going plastic free.

Reusable canvas bag

Who looks after what?

Your district or borough council looks after collecting your recycling from the kerbside. East Sussex County Council is responsible for the disposal, recovery and recycling of this material as well as that from our 10 Household Waste Recycling Sites.

You can find out more about what you can and can’t recycle by checking with your local district or borough council.

You can also check out the TerraCycle website which shows drop off points that collect and recycle materials that are not typically collected at the kerbside. The site can help you recycle everything from crisp packets, pet food pouches, toothbrush heads to pens and coffee pods.