Why it is important to recycle the right items

Cartoon image of a householder putting items in the recycling binPutting the right stuff in the right bin is important. The ‘wrong stuff’ is called contamination and when contaminated loads of recycling are found it can result in:

  • Wasting the efforts made by people that are recycling correctly.
  • Increasing the cost of your recycling collection service as items have to be handled several times (collected for recycling, sorted and removed for disposal).
  • Reduce the amount we recycle when otherwise good recycling has to be diverted and sent for disposal.
  • Reduce the quality and value of our recycling material.


In extreme cases contamination causes an entire load of material, that was otherwise fine, to be rejected. The companies we sell our paper and card to send inspectors to check the quality of the material we are sending them. If they find food or a nappy in a bale of paper and card they will not accept any more of our material, until we pass future inspections. Paper and card that would have been going to them has to be sold to another company, which buys it at a lower price.

All this means a loss of  income which costs the councils and therefore you, the taxpayer, money. And that money could have been used on other services.

Norfolk’s recycling material is sorted by hand and baled by machine in a purpose-built factory in Costessey. So it’s really important to recycle the right items and to keep your recyclables Clean, Dry & Don’t Bag It.

Things That Should Not Be Put In Your Recycling

Image of disposable nappies

  • Nappies – The box your disposable nappies come in is recyclable, but the nappies themselves, in Norfolk, are not. Nappies (used or unused) must not go in your recycling bin. They make otherwise clean recycling dirty and someone has to  remove them by hand. Find out more on our page about nappies.
  • Tissues and used kitchen wipes.
  • Food waste – gets onto recyclable material and includes food on recyclable material that has not been rinsed out. Food waste must either go into you normal rubbish bin or food waste container of provided by your council.
  • Soft plastics – crisp packets, sweet wrappers, toothpaste tubes, Image of crisp packetscarrier bags, food wrapping e.g. cellophane wrap found round food punnets/trays, cling film, shrink wrap, bubble wrap and baby and pet food pouches. Some magazine wrappers (such as those from National Trust) can now be safely home composted, look out for the TUV Austria certification logo.


  • Hard plastics – toys or broken garden furniture, plant pots and polystyrene.
  • Sharps items – this can range from a discarded needle right up to a full sized axe!  These items are dangerous and do not belong in your home recycling bin. Please dispose of responsibly.
  • Clothing and shoes. Click here to find out what you can do with your textiles.
  • Electrical and electronic items. To find out what to do with these items please click here.

Top tips to recycle correctly

  • Look out for recycling labels on packaging to help identify whether it is recyclable or not and make sure you put the right things in your recycling bin. You can find our helpful guide here.
  • Leave metal caps and lids on glass jars and bottles
  • Don’t forget to recycle items from all rooms in the house – e.g. shampoo bottles from the bathroom.
  • If in doubt, check before you chuck using our BinGenie.Make sure your recycling is clean, dry and don't bag it graphic.
  • Empty and rinse all containers and remember, all materials should be placed in your recycling bin Clean, Dry & Don’t Bag It.
    • Clean – empty and rinse containers so they are free of food, drink or other residue.
    • Dry – after rinsing, shake off excess water as liquids can make other things soggy and not fit for recycling.
    • Don’t Bag It – different materials need to go in your bin loose. Please don’t put things in carrier bags, bin bags or boxes as they can’t be separated and recycled.

Common Myths

There are plenty of common myths of what you can and cannot recycle! Despite belief you cannot unfortunately recycle these items in your recycling bin:

  • Glass cookware and ovenware, drinking glasses or ceramics – although it may sound unusual, these items cannot be collected for recycling from your home. Use our Bin Genie  to find your nearest recycling facility for these items.
  • Cutlery, crockery, pots and pans cannot be recycled at home but can be taken to your local recycling facility.
  • Nappies cannot be recycled. These must be placed in your general waste bin. If you have unused nappies consider donating them to a local charity or group that supports those in need.