A robot clearing up plastic

In a world where environmental consciousness is becoming increasingly crucial, one of the simplest yet impactful steps we can take is to recycle. Packaging materials, in particular, contribute significantly to the waste stream. Diving into the world of recycling goes beyond a casual toss into the blue bin. Correctly recycling packaging involves navigating through specific guidelines that vary based on your location. Ignoring these guidelines might lead to the unfortunate scenario of your entire recycling contribution ending up in a landfill. The bright side? Mastering the art of recycling correctly is simply a matter of grasping the fundamental rules – understanding recycling symbols, identifying recyclable materials, mastering the art of cleaning and sorting, and knowing the proper recycling locations. It’s not as daunting as it may appear; so let’s embark on this eco-friendly journey together!


Cardboard and Paper Packaging: Unboxing Sustainability: Cardboard and paper packaging are among the most common materials we encounter. To recycle cardboard boxes and paper packaging effectively, ensure they are clean and dry. Flatten the boxes to save space in recycling bins. Remove any plastic tape or labels, as these can contaminate the recycling process. Recycling cardboard and paper not only conserves resources but also helps reduce deforestation. In Scotland, the blue bin is used for dry mixed recycling. This includes paper, cardboard, tins, cans and plastic bottles.


Plastic Packaging: Navigating the Plastic Dilemma: Plastic packaging has become ubiquitous, but its environmental impact is a growing concern. Different types of plastic have varying recycling capabilities. Look for the recycling symbol on plastic items, accompanied by a number ranging from 1 to 7. Common plastics like PET (1) and HDPE (2) are widely recyclable. However, plastics with lower recycling numbers may be challenging to recycle in some areas. Always check with local recycling guidelines to ensure proper disposal.

What about Cling Film? Unfortunately cling film cannot currently be recycled and should be put into your non-recyclable bin.  The image to the right was designed by Glasgow City Council and highlights the current issue: 60% of waste in our green bins is recyclable and can be placed in other bins for recycling.  For any more information on recycling (Glasgow) check out the government site.


Glass Packaging: A Clear Path to Recycling: Glass packaging is endlessly recyclable without losing quality. To recycle glass containers effectively, rinse them to remove any residues and separate colors (clear, green, and brown) to maintain the quality of recycled glass. Unlike plastic, glass can be recycled into new containers repeatedly without losing purity or quality. Embracing glass packaging is a step toward reducing our reliance on single-use materials. In Scotland Glass goes in a purple bin or a glass recycling point. Double check your local council website to find out where your glass should go!


Metal Packaging: Turning Cans into a Cycle of Sustainability: Aluminum and steel cans are valuable recyclables due to their high metal content. Rinse cans to remove any leftover contents, and if possible, crush them to save space in recycling bins. Aluminum, in particular, requires significantly less energy to recycle than producing it from raw materials. By recycling metal packaging, we reduce energy consumption and the environmental impact associated with mining and refining metals.


Flexible Packaging: Navigating the Challenges: Flexible packaging, such as snack bags and pouches, poses a recycling challenge due to their complex composition. Many traditional recycling facilities may not accept these materials. Look for specialised collection programs or drop-off locations that handle flexible packaging. Thankfully brands are increasingly adopting recyclable or compostable alternatives, so supporting these initiatives is another way to contribute to sustainable packaging practices.


In short, maximising recycling rates can bring about significant benefits to Scotland’s economy and environment. For example; supporting and expanding Scotland’s recycling industry will help reduce our demand for expensive virgin materials while also creating new opportunities for economic growth and jobs in the recycling sector. By reducing our reliance on landfill by increasing recycling will substantially reduce landfill emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And by processing food waste at anaerobic digestion facilitates we are able to harness green energy and produce high quality fertilisers.


For food businesses the recipe for success resides in purchasing and production efficiencies that mitigate waste as there is a direct correlation between waste and the profitability. Recycling food waste is good, but preventing food waste is even better. Food waste harms the environment by wasting the energy, fuel and water that went into producing it. When disposed of to landfill it produces methane, a damaging greenhouse gas. Composting or recovery of biodegradable waste (such as food or garden waste) could help you save money on your waste disposal costs and reduce environmental impact as food is heavy and you pay per uplift. Composting can be considered as recycling if it meets the standard of a quality protocol (such as PAS 100).


By understanding how to recycle different types of packaging, we can actively participate in creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future. Whether it’s cardboard, plastic, glass, metal, or flexible packaging, each material presents an opportunity to reduce waste and contribute to the circular economy. Small actions on our part can collectively make a big difference in preserving the planet for future generations.


Recycling symbols- what do they actually mean? Specs at the ready folks…


WIDELY RECYCLED: Let’s begin with a straightforward one. The symbol on the right indicates that a minimum of 75% of local councils offer recycling services for this particular packaging. Remember to check for additional labels nearby, and you may need to detach lids or plastic films.


CHECK LOCAL RECYCLING: This symbol on the left is employed when recycling for that packaging type is available in 20% to 75% of councils. Determine if your area is covered by utilising the recycling sorter, and consider saving the page as a favorite on your phone for convenient future reference.


NOT CURRENTLY RECYCLED: Recycling for this packaging type is available in fewer than 20% of councils, but don’t lose hope just yet. Verify with your local council before consigning it to your general waste bin; they could be among the fortunate 20%. Moreover, recycling capabilities are continually advancing, so there’s a possibility it could be recyclable in the future.


WIDELY RECYCLED AT RECYCLING POINTS: This symbol is employed when recycling for that packaging type is available in 20% to 75% of councils. Determine if your area is covered by utilising the recycling sorter, and consider saving the page as a favorite on your phone for convenient future reference.


PLASTIC FILMS: Certain plastic films can now be recycled at designated collection points in supermarkets. Keep an eye out for the ‘Recycle with carrier bags at large stores – not at kerbside’ label on items like bread bags, breakfast cereal packaging, toilet and kitchen roll wraps, grocery produce, multipack shrink wrap, and magazine wraps. Simply drop them off when you’re doing your weekly shopping. Typically, these collection points are located near the entrance or after the checkout counters. Some more info can be found here on recycling plastic film.


METAL PAINT CANS: It’s as straightforward as it sounds. When you come across this symbol (and if, like us, you’ve accidentally splattered paint on the side, you might need to search for it), your empty metal paint can is eligible for recycling at the majority of local recycling centers. Refer to your council’s website for additional details.


MOBIUS LOOP: Many of us recognise the Mobius loop, but what you might not be aware of is that it indicates the packaging’s recyclability, though it may not be accepted by all recycling collection facilities. It’s advisable to confirm with your local council before placing it in your recycling bin.

Occasionally, you may come across a Mobius loop accompanied by a percentage figure in the center. This signifies that the packaging contains x% of recycled material.

TIDYMAN: The Tidyman icon’s origins are a topic of debate, but one thing is clear—he has become one of the most universally recognised symbols globally. While not directly associated with recycling, Tidyman serves as a reminder to be a responsible citizen by disposing of packaging carefully and thoughtfully, discouraging littering. It’s worth contemplating while enjoying your next can of Irn Bru.


THE GREEN DOT: Distinct from the Mobius loop, the green dot doesn’t necessarily imply that the packaging is recyclable, will undergo recycling, or has already been recycled. Instead, it indicates that the producer has made a financial contribution to support the recovery and recycling of packaging.


PLASTICS: This is the point where clarity can become a challenge. The numbers 1 to 7 enclosed within the ‘chasing arrows’ symbol (or Resin Identification Code) indicate the type of plastic resin utilised in the packaging. As a general guideline, if the center number is 1 or 2, it’s likely suitable for most household recycling collections, but it’s always advisable to verify the specifics with your local council for information in your area.

BOTTLEMAN: Meet Tidyman’s distant relative, whom Zero Waste Scotland have named Bottleman. He appears in this symbol, depositing his glass into the bottle bank, serving as a prompt to recycle your glass bottles and jars. When using a bottle bank, be sure to separate colors. Alternatively, utilise your glass household recycling collection if available.


RECYCLABLE ALUMINIUM: One for the drinks cans and deodorant bottles, this symbol shows that the item is made of recyclable aluminium. For more info check out Zero Waste Scotland’s post about recycling aluminium foil.


RECYCLABLE STEEL: The symbol look like a magnet with a battery or torch, but it actually shows that the product is made of recyclable steel.


WASTE ELECTRICALS: This sign shows electrical items, ranging from household appliances to mobile phones and IT equipment, should not be discarded in your regular wheelie bin.



COMPOSTABLE: The ‘seedling’ symbol, a registered trademark of European Bioplastics, signifies that the product is certified as industrially compostable according to the European standard EN 13432/14955.

However, avoid placing these items in your recycling bin since they cannot be recycled. Instead, dispose of them with your general waste. Consider opting for reusable alternatives for items such as coffee cups and takeaways.


PAPER: In order to receive the National Association of Paper Merchants’ mark, paper or board must be crafted from a minimum of 50%, 75%, or 100% authentic waste paper and/or board fiber. It should not include fiber generated as waste in mills.



WOOD: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo indicates products that incorporate wood sourced from responsibly managed forests and adhere to the rules set by the FSC.


What else can we do to promote a more sustainable future? REUSE. 


Surplus Box Packaging

Buy Once Used Packaging: From UPAC PACKAGING: Using “once-used boxes” refers to repurposing or reusing cardboard boxes that have been previously used for shipping or packaging. There are several compelling reasons why utilising once-used boxes is a good idea:

Environmental Benefits: Reduces Resource Consumption: Manufacturing cardboard requires significant amounts of energy and raw materials. By reusing boxes, we extend their lifecycle and decrease the demand for new cardboard production.

Minimises Waste: Repurposing once-used boxes helps divert them from landfills, contributing to waste reduction and a more sustainable waste management system.

Energy Savings: Lower Carbon Footprint: The production of cardboard involves energy-intensive processes. Reusing boxes eliminates the need for the energy required to manufacture new ones, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions associated with cardboard production.

Cost-Effective: Saves Money: Purchasing new boxes can be an added expense, especially for individuals or businesses that frequently ship items. Reusing boxes is a cost-effective alternative, helping to save money on packaging materials.

Convenience: Readily Available: Once-used boxes are often readily available, especially in commercial and industrial settings. Many businesses receive shipments in sturdy boxes, and repurposing them is a convenient way to meet packaging needs without the need for additional purchases.

Promotes a Circular Economy: Encourages Recycling Practices: By reusing boxes, individuals and businesses actively participate in a circular economy, where resources are reused and recycled to minimise waste. This mindset contributes to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach to consumption.

Versatility: Adaptable for Various Uses: Once-used boxes come in various sizes and shapes, making them adaptable for different purposes. Whether it’s for shipping, storage, or moving, repurposed boxes can fulfill a range of needs.

Educational Value: Promotes Sustainability Awareness: Choosing once-used boxes can serve as an educational opportunity to raise awareness about the environmental impact of packaging choices. It encourages a mindset shift towards reusing materials and making more environmentally friendly decisions.

Community and Business Impact: Community Engagement: Businesses that offer or promote the use of once-used boxes demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, potentially fostering a positive relationship with environmentally conscious consumers.

Corporate Responsibility: Companies that actively incorporate reuse into their operations showcase corporate responsibility and contribute to the broader goal of sustainable business practices.

In summary, using once-used boxes aligns with principles of sustainability, resource conservation, and waste reduction. It’s a simple yet effective way for individuals and businesses to make environmentally conscious choices in their daily activities. As consumers, we hold the power to drive change in packaging practices.