Blog Post

Guest Blog by Louise Kelly

FEB 25, 2023

10 things I learnt about recycling

Louise Kelly, Sustainability Officer for Historic Environment Scotland.

"One of the most interesting aspects of my job for me personally has been learning about things I thought I knew"

My name is Louise and I started doing yoga about a year ago as a way for my body to feel better after a day spent at my desk. I chose Summerhall Yoga because it was close to my work and seemed very approachable for a beginner like me which hasn’t always been my experience with yoga studios. Despite thinking I’d try out other yoga studios in Edinburgh this is the only one I’ve tried! It’s just so welcoming! I think it’s really important to respect and look after ourselves which is the main reason I have continued with yoga. I also think it’s really important to respect and look after other people, animals and the planet. This is what drove me to working in Climate Change, I am Sustainability Officer Historic Environment Scotland. One of the most interesting aspects of my job for me personally has been learning about things I thought I knew.


One of these is recycling which when done right can have a big impact on reducing the amount of waste and the resources available to us. Reducing waste can also help us reduce emissions. I’ve become passionate about sharing what I’ve learned with family and friends because it really is something that we can all do to make a difference. So here are 10 things that I personally have learned about recycling.


There are no universal rules

Facilities vary from area to area. Even if you live in a different council to the one where you work it might be different. It’s important to check when you’re somewhere new. While I’ve tried to focus on things that are fairly widespread in this post there will be some that might not be applicable if you are not in Edinburgh.


Aluminium and Glass are infinitely recyclable

Unlike plastic which can only be recycled a certain number of times, and usually into lower quality items each time, aluminium and glass can both can be recycled over and over. That makes them valuable resources so please rinse your cans, jars and glass bottles and put them in the recycling bin. Foil should also be rinsed and balled into a ball about the size of your fist before going in the recycling bin.


Shredded or torn paper will not be recycled

Once the paper has been shredded it is difficult to recycle because the fibres are so short. That doesn’t mean they can’t be recycled but it is difficult so it’s important to only shred when necessary. If only the front page of a document contains sensitive information the best option is to shred that and recycle the rest.


It’s important to recycle batteries

Batteries count as hazardous waste which means we have a responsibility to dispose of them correctly. The good news is that most supermarkets and many other places that sell batteries also have a responsibility to have a place where you can drop them off for recycling. Batteries can be dangerous if the begin to degrade so next time you go to the supermarket drop off any used batteries.


Receipts cannot be recycled

Due to them containing a mixture of materials including various chemicals receipts cannot typically be recycled. This also goes for many tickets like bus and train tickets. So when

you’re sorting out the pile of papers be careful to ensure that these items go in the general waste not recycling bin. Honestly this one shocked me!


Contaminated items cannot be recycled

Most people don’t know that if an item like paper or cardboard has food, grease or something similar on them they cannot be recycled. The reason for this is there is no way for that to be cleaned off of the paper meaning it is impossible to make something new. Dirty plastic and metal can also be difficult to recycle as well as contaminating paper items if you have mixed recycling. So it’s important to clean and dry plastic and metal before sending it for recycling.


Bottle lids should stay on the bottle

This only applies to plastic bottles. Of course you need to ensure the bottle is empty and clean before you recycle it. But I recently learned that the lid can also be recycled but usually only if it is put back on the bottle as small items are difficult to sort. If you are not based in Edinburgh please check local advice


Don’t put things in a recycling bin because you hope it will be recycled

As well as food and liquids contaminating recycling non-recyclable items can also be considered contaminants. When you put items in the recycling just in case that’s called ‘wishcycling’ and it uses valuable resources to take out or it can lead to the whole load not being recycled. Many recycling centres have people who physically pick through the recycling to sort it into the right groups so imagine how much longer it takes if they have a lot of items that cannot be recycled.


Recycling is expensive

Recycling is a great way for us to continue to use valuable resources however it is expensive and resource intensive to do. Try to consider whether you are able to reuse your item before sending it for recycling. This is particularly important for larger or difficult to recycle items.


Recycled items have to go somewhere

This is the big one! Waste and Recycling is an entire industry that only works if they are able to sell the materials which only happens if these will be profitable once made into something else. Basically if there is no market for recycled products then the waste has nowhere to go. Currently there is not enough of a market for recycled items which can mean that some items sent for recycling are never made into something new. This is also the reason why some areas/businesses do not recycle some materials. You can help create a market by choosing to buy recycled items when possible

Written by Louise Kelly
for The Refillery