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Knowing what to recycle or not can be confusing. We hope to dispel myths and give answers to these common questions to help you carry on recycling.

What's the point in recycling, it only ends up in a landfill


All the recyclable materials you put into your green bin have value. Incinerating waste is very expensive – even when energy is recovered from this process. To offset the cost of disposal we sell your recyclable materials to sustainable markets. The money we get back supports council services.

Only materials that don’t fit in the incinerator get sent to landfill. This makes up about 4.2% of all waste collected in Portsmouth. Portsmouth’s landfill rate is one of the lowest in the country.

It's got a recycling symbol on it. That means I can recycle it at home.


Most packaging will have a recycling symbol on it. The recycling symbol means it can be recycled, but not always by us. In Portsmouth, just remember these five things that can be recycled:

  • paper
  • card
  • plastic bottles
  • metal cans/tin
  • aerosol cans.

Other places recycle other plastics so you must be able to


Some councils and business may collect all types of plastics but this doesn’t mean it’s always recycled. There is very little demand for lower-grade plastic (pots, tubs and trays). There are only markets for 20% of these materials. Other places may collect them, but may send it to be incinerated or to landfill.

In Portsmouth, we would rather not collect these plastics if a long-term sustainable market for them is not available.

It doesn't matter if I put the wrong things in the recycling bin


When we take recycling to the sorting facility, anything that is not a material we recycle gets removed from the sorting process. The non-recycling is then taken for incineration or landfill. This costs the council tax payer a lot of money each year – money which could go towards providing extra services.

The worst things to put in your recycling bin are soiled items (such as nappies and food covered packaging) and glass. If these enter the lorry it can contaminate the whole load and be rejected. This means other people’s recycling efforts are wasted, as well as your own.

The most common non-recyclable items in recycling bins are plastic pots, tubs and trays. These must go in your black bin/bags, and not in the recycling bin. The only plastic that can go in your green recycling bin is bottle shaped plastics such as plastic milk bottles, shampoo bottles and water bottles.

If we throw plastic away in the general rubbish, it could end up in the ocean and harm sea life.


In Portsmouth, we incinerate the waste we pick up from your black bags/bins, recovering energy. This means it’s burned to produce heat. This heat is then used to make steam which turns turbines, producing electricity. The electricity is then put into the National Grid. So, plastic you put in your general waste bin will not end up in the ocean.

Plastic litter that is left on beaches or in the street could end up in the ocean, so please take your rubbish home with you or put it in a public litter bin.

Frequently asked questions