Together we can get our recycling right

Recycling helps the environment by reducing carbon emissions. It also reduces the need for new products to be made from raw materials.

It’s important to put the right items into your recycling bin. Currently around 10,000 tonnes (about 20%) of the items we collect in Suffolk is rejected due to the wrong items being placed in the recycling bins. 

Why is this a problem?

  1. Quality is key - Companies that use your recyclables to make new products will not accept spoiled items.
  2. It’s wasteful - Putting the wrong items into your recycling bin also means that good items will become ‘spoiled’ and won’t get recycled. 
  3. It’s expensive - Cleaning up spoiled items costs Suffolk’s taxpayers over £1,000,000 a year.
  4. It could be dangerous - Spoiled items are unpleasant and dangerous for staff at Suffolk’s Recycling Facility to remove. This often has to be done by hand.

Remember that all items need to be empty, clean and dry when you put them in your recycling bin. Please do not include any bagged items.

Please read the information below or view our handy video on Youtube!

Thank you for helping, it really makes a big difference!

What can I put in my recycling bin?


We ONLY want these items in your recycling bin

Items should be empty, clean, dry. No bagged items



Plastic bottles picture Plastic yoghurts pots, tubs and food trays picture Bathroom and household cleaning plastic bottle picture

Plastic Bottles

Plastic pots, tubs & food trays

Bathroom & household cleaning 

Empty, wash, squash

Recycle with lid on
Empty, clean and dry

Empty and recycle with top on




Food and drink cans picture Aluminium foil and trays pictures Empty Aerosols picture (deodrant and air fresehner)

Food & drink cans

Aluminium foil & trays

Empty aerosols

Empty, clean and dry Should be clean and rolled into a tennis ball size

Please empty but do not squash. Put plastic lids in rubbish bin.

Empty paint or hazardous aerosols are not accepted.


  Paper and card


Paper, newspaper, magasine and junk mail picture Cardboard, clean card food packaging and cards picture Paperback and hardback book picture

Paper, newspapers, magazines & junk mail

Cardboard, clean food packaging & cards

Books (paperback &

Keep dry Flatten, keep dry and remove excess tape. Donate books in good condition to charity shops 


What can't I put in my recycling bin?


Cross image

Please NEVER put these items in your recycling bin


They will spoil the recycling and





Put these in your rubbish bin

Black sack and plastic bag picture Food waste picture Nappy picture

Black sacks, plastic bags & wrappers

See 'Plastic bags and film' in the A-Z for information on recycling options. 


For tips to reduce food waste visit 


Nappies are not recycling campaign! 




These can be recycled elsewhere

Glass bottles and jar picture Pictures of shirt and shoes (Textiles) picture Cartons/ Tetrapak picture



Cartons (e.g. Tetra Pak)

 Recycle this at any Suffolk Recycling Centre or local glass bank  Recycle this at any Suffolk Recycling Centre or local clothes recycling bank Recycle this at any Suffolk Recycling Centre



Together we can get our recycling right video



Materials for recycling should be clean, dry and loose (not in bags). A quick rinse will be enough to clean most packaging and to remove most bits of leftover food.

There is no need to remove labels from the packaging.

Bottle tops and spray tops will be recycled as long as they are screwed back onto your squashed plastic bottle before it is placed into your recycling bin.

Loose bottle tops will not be recycled as they are too small and cannot be captured by the mechanical sorting process.

We are no longer able to accept cartons in your recycling bin. This is because:

  • We are unable to remove them mechanically and it is not cost effective to remove them by hand.
  • There is a limited market for cartons as they are a ‘mixed content’ material, making them difficult to recycle.

Cartons can be recycled at any of the 11 of Suffolk’s Recycling Centres, where they are collected separately, removing the need for further sorting. We also investigated whether it would be possible to introduce carton banks at other public locations (such as alongside bottle banks at Supermarkets and Village Halls). Unfortunately, this option was very expensive and would not have provided value for money for Suffolk taxpayers.   

If none of these options work for you then cartons should be placed in your rubbish bin.

When possible, please choose products sold in easily recyclable packaging. There are a number of re-use options for cartons here: 

When was this change introduced?

The Materials Recycling Facility (known as the MRF), where recycling collected from Suffolk households is sorted, underwent a major refurbishment during 2019. This state-of-the-art facility has the latest mechanical and optical sorting equipment with far less reliance on hand-sorting. The refurbishment was necessary because the companies that turn our recyclable items back into new products and packaging are now demanding much higher quality materials from us. This means that cartons can no longer be recycled with paper (as they previously were). As we cannot separate cartons mechanically nor cost effectively remove them by hand, we can no longer accept them in the recycling bin. It is worth noting however that cartons accounted for less than 1% of all the materials delivered to the MRF between 2015 – 2019.

Changes to carton recycling have been communicated online and via social media since 2019. Due to the increasing levels of spoiled recycling, particularly since the start of lockdown, the new (2021) campaign has been launched to remind people of what they can and can’t recycle at home. Last year the cost to remove and dispose of spoiled recycling was in excess of £1million.

There are several reasons.

  • The bottle bank system in Suffolk is very well used with about 70% of all the glass bottles and jars used in Suffolk currently being recycled in this way (around 16,000 tonnes of glass per year). There are over 1,000 bottle banks in Suffolk, many of them situated at supermarkets and village halls. To find your local bottle bank, click here. Glass can also be taken to any of our Recycling Centres, details of these are here.
  • Glass collected separately in bottle banks is high quality and can be turned back into new glass bottles and jars. This is called “closed loop recycling” and can be done an infinite number of times.
  • Glass breaks down into small pieces and spoils other materials such as paper and card. Due to this, the Government has previously encouraged Local Authorities not to mix paper and glass to ensure high quality recycling. Please do not put glass bottles and jars in your household recycling bin. If you do, it will cost Suffolk taxpayers significantly more to sort, remove and send to Suffolk’s Energy from Waste facility for disposal.

Please recycle glass bottles and jars whenever possible. This is both better for the environment and cheaper for the Suffolk taxpayer (as recycling costs less than disposal). However, if you cannot visit a bottle bank, then glass can be placed into your household rubbish bin as a last resort.

If you find your local glass bank is full, please contact the number on the bank or your district council, so they know that the bank needs emptying. Contact details for your district council can be found here

  • No, pet food pouches, crisps and pill packets are not accepted in kerbside recycling bins. This is because the packaging is made up of a blend of materials making them difficult to recycle.
  • Cans are a great recyclable alternative to pet food pouches and can be easily cleaned and placed in your recycling bin
  • Please place pouches or crisps packets in your rubbish bin or consider using a company called Terracycle. They offer services for various difficult to recycle products. You can find drop off locations as well as a list of other products here.

It would be impossible to list every product but nearly all plastic bottles, tubs and trays can be placed in your recycling bin. This can include items from every room in the house from the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom, such as:

  • Squash, soft drinks or milk bottles,
  • Yogurt pots, ice cream tubs and food trays,
  • Shower gels, soap and shampoo bottles,
  • Washing up liquids, cleaning sprays and bleach bottles.

Please do not put these plastic items in your recycling bin:

Most manufacturers are trying to avoid using black plastics but if you have them, they can go in your recycling bin.

Mixed plastics are separated using special machinery. This machinery cannot identify the colour black, so any black plastics need to be separated by hand. Please avoid buying or using black plastics if you can.

In Suffolk, mixed recycling is collected by your council and is taken to the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) at Great Blakenham in Suffolk. Here the materials are separated by optical sorters, drums and hand picking into paper, card, plastics and metals material types. These separated materials are then baled and sold on to companies who can recycle them.

The MRF sorting process also removes any spoiled and unwanted materials (such as black sack rubbish, glass, food and even nappies!) which goes to Suffolk's Energy from Waste facility for disposal.

Find out more about the MRF process and where Suffolk's recycling goes after being sorted here.

All rejected or spoiled recycling is sent from Suffolk’s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) to Suffolk’s Energy from Waste (EfW) facility for disposal. Once there, it is used to generate electricity. Further information on the EfW process can be found here.

Please put items smaller than 5cm in your rubbish bin.

If you put small items such as loose bottle tops or shredded paper in your recycling bin they will not be recycled and could spoil the other materials

Pots, pans and trays can cause blockages at the MRF and accepting these materials leads to other metal items ending up in the recycling bin such as brake discs, coat hangers and even engine blocks, which can cause further problems.

Metal pots, pans and trays can be recycled in the metal container at any of Suffolk’s 11 Recycling Centres.

Suffolk’s 5 District and Borough Councils and Braintree District Council all collect the same materials for recycling and deliver them to the same recycling facility for sorting.  

If you are a Braintree District resident and have received a Suffolk Waste Partnership recycling leaflet please visit Braintree’s recycling pages for further information.

Using Google Translate it is possible to view this page in multiple languages – links to the common ones in Suffolk can be found below. It cannot however translate images, attachments or links on the page/ website.

(The translation is provided via Google software, not Suffolk County Council, so we are not liable for any translation issues.)

Click here to view this webpage in Portuguese

Click here to view this webpage in Polish

Click here to view this webpage in Romanian

Click here to view this webpage in Lithuanian

Click here to view this webpage in Ukrainian

Click here to view this webpage in Russian

Google can translate this page into a number of other different languages. Translate this page by clicking on this link. (After clicking this link select the language you want from right hand side dropdown arrow, then click on right hand side blue link to open the translated page).

Google can also translate documents, so if you want a copy of the “Together we can get recycling right” leaflet in a different language follow the steps below:

  • Click here to open the leaflet - then download & save a copy of the pdf file onto your device 
  • Then go to Google Translate document section 
  • Upload the leaflet onto Google, pick the language you want it translated to (on the right hand side) and click blue “Translate” button.
  • Then when it has finished click “Download translation” button and the translated pdf copy will be downloaded onto your device.