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Monday 21st September 2020

What does ‘mixed recycling’ mean to you? In many cases we are led to believe that anything put into mixed recycling will be magically recycled – we call it wish-cycling. In reality, materials like crisp packets and plastic containers half full of food cannot be practically recycled. Putting them in a mixed recycling bin just contaminates all the good quality recycling. A waste of everyone’s time and effort.  

As pioneers of the circular economy, we work hard to retain quality throughout the recycling process, for the highest environmental benefits. Quality recycling is important to us. We even upgraded our entire facility back in 2019 so that we could improve the quality of our recycling even further.  

Over the past year, we’ve been conducting research from over 80 offices, analysing what actually goes into their bins. 

Our research revealed extraordinary results.  

Contamination levels in mixed recycling were found to be on average 35% and in some cases up to 50%. That’s half of the mixed recycling - essentially rubbish! That also means the other 65-50% of good materials are at risk of being contaminated.   

It’s for this reason we are calling time on mixed up recycling.  

The term ‘Mixed Recycling’ is vague and often confusing, meaning different things to different people. This leads to so-called wish-cycling.  

In a bold move to help our customers recycle better, we have decided to change the name of our Mixed Recycling service to Paper, Cans & Plastic Containers with a brand new ‘Clean and Dry’ motto.  

Paper, Cans & Plastic Containers does what it says on the 'bin'.  

All we want to see is in your Paper, Cans and Plastic Container bins are clean and dry: 


- Paper & Card 

- Plastic containers (bottles, pots, tubs, and trays) 

- Cans 

Nothing else! 

Why have we made this change?

Historically, Mixed Recycling was intended to make recycling easier by allowing different materials to be placed in one bin. The concept of a mixed stream stemmed from the principle that if recycling is easy enough then people are more likely to do it. However, the term is too broad and confusing and left the interpretation of what can be recycled to the person stood at the bin.  

Work is already underway in the EU to change the way recycling performance is reported on. The proposals suggest that recycling rates should be calculated from the ‘output of a facility that sends municipal waste for recycling’. Essentially, rather than counting the tonnage of recycling at the point of collection (where, as shown in our audit data above, it might actually contain a high proportion non-recyclable items), but at the point it is sent off for reprocessing after it has been through a sorting process. This will lead to a lower figure but one that is a real recycling rate. Although the UK is yet to formally adopt this approach, best practice guides like this one already suggest that businesses should measure they’re performance in this way. 

In this time of climate emergency, the circular economy is no longer an ideal – it is a necessity.  We are commitment to helping businesses to do more with their waste by protecting the quality of their recycling.  

Update your mixed recycling posters today to Paper, Cans and Plastic Containers, so your scheme can do ‘exactly what it says on the bin’. 

Want to go one further? Read our blog post about what can be achieved at an office building when you get #paperout.

Jessica Parrilla

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