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Plastic recycling in Essex

A resident recycling a plastic bottle

Wednesday 1 January 2020

The use of plastic items especially single-use items, which are only used once, is accelerating climate change. There are lots of different types of plastic around the home, some of them can be accepted in your plastic recycling.

Why recycle your plastic?

When you place accepted plastic items in your kerbside recycling collection, your plastics are sent for recycling and can be made into a wide variety of new plastic items. Using recycled materials in the manufacturing process to make plastic, significantly reduces the use of non-renewable resources, energy and carbon emissions.

Plastic accepted for recycling 

All plastic bottles are accepted for recycling in your kerbside collection in Essex. This includes plastics bottles from all around the home, so don’t forget to pop items like bleach bottles and shampoo bottles in your plastic recycling.

Plastic food packaging such as pots, tubs and trays are sometimes accepted for recycling. Find out if your local council can accept plastic food packaging for recycling.  

Plastic not accepted for recycling 

Hard plastics such as toys, buckets, boxes and washing baskets cannot be accepted for recycling and should be placed in your general rubbish bin.

Crisp packets, sweet wrappers, biscuit wrappers and laminated pouches cannot currently be recycled at the kerbside. However you may be able to use a local Terracycle drop off location to recycle these items. Alternatively they can be placed in your general rubbish bin.

Other items such as nappies, polystyrene and bubble wrap are not recyclable and should be placed in your general rubbish bin.

Recycling logos on plastic items

To make things easier, in Essex, we do not use the plastic type numbering system (triangle with a number) as collection crews are unable to check each individual item to see whether the correct number is on it. Instead, they use the shape of the item such as a plastic bottle.

Another useful way to check is to look out for the on-pack recycling labels on food packaging. Find out what recycling logos to look out for on Recycle Now.

Plastic recycling at recycling centres

All 21 Essex County Council run recycling centres accept plastic bottles for recycling, however the easiest way to recycle plastics is using your kerbside collection. Unfortunately, recycling centres are unable to accept other plastics for recycling such as pots, tubs and trays for a number of reasons:

  • Recycling centres are designed to provide additional services to those at the kerbside.
  • Each local authority will have an agreed set of recyclables they can accept at the kerbside. As most local authorities collect pots, tubs and trays this is not a service that can be replicated at recycling centres.
  • Only small quantities of pots, tub and trays are received at recycling centres, and therefore the small quantities and unstable markets means it is not viable to offer a collection. 
  • Due to the lack of space at recycling centres, material steams that are not already offered at the kerbside have to be prioritised.

Recycling collected in sacks?

Recycling sacks provided by your local council are made of a specific type of plastic and colour. This makes them easy to be identified and removed at the beginning of the sorting process by a bag splitting machine.

Plastic films and other bags mixed with your recycling cannot be separated in the same way, as the automatic sorting equipment is only able to separate plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays. Plastic films and bags can cause issues in the sorting process such as wrapping around conveyor belts and clogging machinery.

Your local supermarket may be able to accept plastic bags and films for recycling as this is collected as a single material stream.

Reduce your plastic, take the Essex Plastic Pledge

Join us either as an individual or household and sign the Essex Plastic Pledge. You will receive a monthly e-newsletter packed full of hints and tips and be entered into prize draws to win items that will help you reduce your plastics.

Sign the Essex Plastic Pledge for residents here.

If you're a school in Essex, you can sign the the Essex Plastic Pledge for your school. You will then receive a bi-monthly newsletter full of inspiration from other local schools on how to reduce plastic waste as well as access to an online resource pack full of activities and tools to help your school succeed in reducing plastic waste.  

Sign the Essex Plastic Pledge for schools here.

If you're an organisation in Essex, such as a business, college, university or community group you can sign the Essex Plastic Pledge as an organisation. You will receive a bi-monthly newsletter full of inspiration from other local organisation sharing their experiences and success stories on reducing plastic waste, as well as access to an online resource pack to help you on the journey to reduce plastic waste.

Sign the Essex Plastic Pledge for organisations here.

Find out more about plastic

Ideas to help reduce your plastic

Plastic recycling journey

Tips to improve your recycling

What's the difference between biodegradable, compostable and eco?