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. Materials that cannot be recycled are incinerated. 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 in your household recycling bin or box:

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

There’s more information on what can be recycled from home and your nearest recycling bank.

Other places recycle other plastics so you must be able to


What each council can recycle depends on the technology available at their sorting facilities and on the partners they are working with.

Our Portsmouth sorting facility can only handle plastic bottles. This is why the only plastics you can put in your green recycling bin are bottles.

However, we have recently partnered with Biffa Commercial who own specialist plastic recycling facilities in the UK. We have installed orange plastic banks around the city, which accept plastic pots, tubs, trays and bottles. Find where the banks are located here.

Biffa Commercial collects these and take them to their plastic recycling facilities directly.

We are also working with Hampshire County Council and Southampton City Council to build a new sorting facility which will allow us to collect and recycle more items.

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, the whole load can be contaminated and rejected for recycling. This means other people’s recycling efforts are wasted, as well as your own.

The most common incorrect items in green recycling bins are plastic pots, tubs and trays. These cannot successfully be sorted by our Portsmouth facility. If you want to recycle these, take them to one of our orange plastic recycling banks.

If you cannot get to a recycling bank, place them in your rubbish bin.

The only plastics you can put in your green recycling bin are bottles. For example drinks, cleaning products and shampoo 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 and produces 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