Turns out I’ve been lying – read my confession

Filed in Blog by on January 12, 2018 6 Comments
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Rachelle Strauss my zero wasteTake a good look at the face to the left.

Yep that’s me – reportedly a respected authority on waste and recycling in the UK.

I’m proud of that accolade but right now I’m not sure how much truth is in it.

You see it turns out I’ve been lying for around seven years.

I didn’t mean to.

I did it with the best of intentions and I honestly believed I was right, but something, something made me question what I’ve been saying for all those years.

A hunch?


Or just my left brain needing a bit of rational ‘proof’?

Whatever it is I have a huge confession to make because what I’ve been telling you might mean you, me, all of us have been contaminating recyclates. Perhaps it’s on my head that landfills are filling up, turtles are choking and our kids are going to inherit a helluva mess.

Recycling stretchy plastic

For years I’ve been telling people that as long as the plastic is stretchy you can recycle it with the carrier bags at supermarkets.

It’s changed people’s lives and bins! I’ve had emails from people thanking me from the tip and sharing that they now have a more svelte bin.

But what I’ve shared hasn’t been true.

I wrote to the biggest supermarkets in the UK – Tesco, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Morrison, Sainsburys, Co-Operative and ASDA – and asked them the same question because ya know, I wanted a definitive answer about recycling plastic.

Do supermarkets recycle plastic?

Here’s what I asked:

Can all stretchy polythene (for example toilet roll and kitchen towel packaging, fruit and veg packaging and magazine wrapping) and cereal inners be recycled with carrier bags in your stores with the carrier bags?
What can I do with ‘film’ – the sort of packaging you put on your convenience meals?
What can I do with crinkly film that some of your bread comes packaged in?

And here are their responses:


all the packaging you describe can be put into our plastic recycling bins, anything unsuitable will be sorted at the factory and recycled elsewhere.


Customers are encouraged to recycle the following:
•customers carrier bags – including those from other retailers
plastic film packaging displaying the OPRL logo – including those from other retailers
These are the only plastics listed that are fit to go into the recycling bin of which you are referring.


Unfortunately, this varies from council to council and I would not be able to give you a definitive answer. I would recommend contacting your local council and recycling depot for an answer.


We only accept plastic carrier bag recycling in them containers. We don’t accept any other form of packaging in the same container as we want to reduce the risk of collecting any other plastic that shouldn’t be in that container as this can create quite a few problems when they reach their end point.

In regards, to the other points you have made, it will state on the packaging how to dispose/ where to recycle your items.


the only approved items that can be placed in our carrier bag recycling bins in store are carrier bags and the plastic liner bags from cereal packets.  These limitations are to avoid the chance of contamination.


Thank you for contacting the Co-operative Careline While we are still looking at ways to recycle plastic bags and wrapper they are not recyclable I am sorry about this.


My colleague Sarah, our Recycling and Waste Manager has advised, we would ask that only carrier bags be placed in these bins to prevent contamination of the plastics. For the other plastics such as cereal packets, we would suggest to contact the local authority to see if they can offer a local recycling route for this waste or visit the website www.recylenow.com.

The definitive guide to recycling plastic

So there you have it. The urban myth, that I may have been in part responsible for, has come crashing down around us.

The game of Chinese Whispers is over.

The definitive guide to recycling plastic is here in all its glory and it doesn’t give me much hope. I know YOU are a stalwart, YOU care enough to go to the trouble of separating your recyclables, heck YOU will even save stuff up and store it until you’re next passing somewhere you can recycle.

But what about everyone else?

All for one and one for all…

What about those who are ALREADY confused and frustrated by their local authority collections?

By having ‘one rule for all’ we stand a much better chance of getting people on board. Make it simple, make it fun, reward good behaviour and you’re onto a winner.

Have one rule for one Local Authority, another across the border. Have one supermarket who will accept ALL forms of plastic and those who will only accept carrier bags and you’ve got a huge monster that is out of control and nobody can tame.

How would you deal with the recycling issues?

Does it mean we should all give up and throw in the towel?

You know me by now – that isn’t my style…

But it does make you think, make you wish you had a magic wand for a day or two or perhaps that we could go back to square one and start the reuse / recycling infrastructure all over again.

Tell me – if you could make the rules about waste and recycling, what would they be?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (6)

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  1. Linda Mitchell says:

    Oh no. I have been so guilty of this. Putting all stretchy plastic and anything with a ‘4’ in the recycling symbol in the bin at Sainsburys. I am sure they used to accept it.

  2. Kate Cole says:

    Hi there!

    There is a very good explanation of what can and can’t be recycled on the Recycle Now website which is worth sharing with your readers.


  3. Philippa says:

    The On Pack Recycling Logo saying that something can be recycled in the Carrier Bag Recycling Bins at larger supermarkets should be adhered to by the supermarkets. They will be arguing about what a plastic carrier bag is next. I’ve asked questions too and I think that that there are many supermarket employees who are quite simply ignorant (in the true meaning of the word) because higher management aren’t bothered. It is about time that they were bothered because the people are getting irritated by all of this plastic stuff that they are having foisted on them especially when a lot of it isn’t necessary. No it isn’t!

  4. Philippa says:

    OPR Label to be absolutely correct!

    It shows that the information isn’t getting through to the schools now doesn’t it?

  5. Malikah Wachill says:

    Well, it would as you say it be that there are only one set of rules that apply what can be recycled and where to bring them. But the best is of course is not to buy things with packaging and this is more and more possible for every item of daily use.

  6. Philippa says:

    I’ve recently bought some sweet potatoes from Morrisons in a plastic bag and they have the “FILM: Recycle with carrier bags at larger stores – not at kerbside” Funny that because they still haven’t marked up the Carrier Bag Recycling Bin and it must be one of the few I’ve had from Morrisons. I like to buy their naked fruit and vegetables when I’m there – they do have quite a lot – but they irritate me enormously with some things eg the garlic bulb which costs more plus packaging than the one without and the Wonky Vegetables – yes they will let you buy these but to do so you will have to buy them in a unrecyclable plastic bag….

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