• Jessica Evans

What's really recyclable?

You’ve been there. We all have. You get to the recycling bin and you’re faced with the decision: to recycle? Or not to recycle? You don’t know. Nobody really knows what is and isn’t recyclable. You throw the piece of rubbish into the recycling bin. It’s fair – you think it might be??? Recyclable? But… maybe it isn’t recyclable?? At all? But you don’t know, really. So you leave it and move on with your day, never to think of it again.

It happens regularly. Our confusion with what is and isn’t recyclable is actually messing up the recycling process and doing more harm than good – even though you threw that thing in with the recycling with a laudable intention “just in case”.

Hold onto your hats, people. You’re about to be blown away. Here’s a list of what really is (and isn’t) recyclable. Prepare to be surprised at times. Happy recycling.

DO recycle:

  • Cereal boxes, cardboard packaging boxes, biscuit boxes, and the cardboard sleeves around food

  • Egg boxes

  • Newspapers and magazines

  • Flyers and pamphlets

  • Phonebooks

  • Office paper and colourful paper, blank or printed

  • Juice cartons and long life milk cartons (surprisingly)

  • Plastic bottles and their lids, including toiletry bottles and house-cleaning products – just be sure these are empty and dry

  • Ice cream, butter, margarine an hot chocolate tubs (if they’re clean)

  • Tinfoil (as long as there is no food on it still)

  • Aerosols, food tins and cold drink tins provided they are empty and dry

  • Glass jars and bottles, as well as their metal lids

  • Yoghurt and feta containers as long as they have the symbol 5 on them (the little five surrounded by three arrows)

  • Shopping bags, milk bags, bread bags, and frozen vegetable bags

  • Computers, printers, washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, freezers, telephones and telephone wires

DON’T recycle:

  • Food or garden waste – compost those if you can

  • Pet food bags

  • Washing powder bags

  • Chip packets, chocolate or sweet wrappers, and cereal packets

  • Transparent food packaging like fruit punnets, muffin trays and ready-to-eat sandwiches and salad containers (unless they have the number five or number 2 symbols)

  • Clothing and fabric

  • Sanitary wear (pads, tampons, panty liners etc)

  • Nappies

  • Medical waste like syringes

  • Needles

  • Bubble wrap

  • Batteries (don’t throw these in with non-recyclables either – see tips)


  • Not all plastic bags are recyclable – generally, if the bag makes a crackling sound when you crunch it up, it isn’t recyclable.

  • Batteries are hazardous waste (yes, even the small ones). If disposed of incorrectly, they can pollute the environment and cause harm to humans and animals. Dispose of them by taking them to a nearby grocery store and leaving them in the hazardous waste bin at the front.

  • Christmas waste deserves a post of its own, so watch this space.

#recycling #recyclable #southafrica #johannesburg #waste #whatcanyourecycle #whatcantyourecycle

©2018 by Bite-sized Sci | Jessica Evans