The recycling mistakes which see plastic and cardboard sent to landfill

  • Alex Beresford presents new climate change series on ITV News.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing us as a species.

Human activity over the past 200 years has left us standing on the brink of an environmental disaster - but it is not too late to make a change.

Weather presenter Alex Beresford has been finding out about the small, positive ways we can minimise our impact on the environment as part of a new series on ITV News.

In the latest episode, Alex visits a Bristol Waste recycling centre to find out how much plastic is collected - and why some of it ends up in landfill.

Here are some tips on how make sure your recycling is actually recycled...

Less than half of plastic waste collected from the kerbside in the UK last year was actually recycled.

1. Check what can - and can't - be recycled

If items which cannot be recycled are left out with genuine recycling, it can contaminate whole bales of products meaning they are then sent to landfill.

This includes flimsy and soft plastics as well as mixing up different types of recyclable material which should be separated.

Different local authorities accept different items so check with your local council what can and cannot be recycled on the kerbside.

2. Rinse off food

Food left inside cans or plastic packaging and liquids left inside plastic bottles or bins can contaminate recycling - meaning it may get rejected when it's processed.

Jennifer Rollason, who works for Bristol Waste, said: “If your recycling is contaminated - which is when you might have food in there or flimsy plastic in with the rest of your plastic that can be recycled - then when it’s baled up, that bale might contain too many of the wrong things.

“That bale might be rejected.”

3. Keep paper and cardboard dry

Paper and cardboard cannot be recycled if it is too wet - meaning you should check the weather forecast before putting your recycling out the night before collection.

Jennifer said: "You should keep it as dry as possible. It’s much harder to process it for recycling if it’s damp when you put in the box or it’s left out in the rain."

Cardboard should also be flattened or folded up before it is put out for collection.

4. Rip off plastic tape and labels

Plastic tape and labels can contaminate cardboard and paper so rip it off before recycling it.

5. Recycle soft plastic

Many large supermarkets have collection points for soft plastic - like crisp packets, bread bags and ready meal lids.

Paula Chin, who works for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said: "There are so many different types of plastic and one problematic area is those soft plastics - the scrunchy plastics as well call them.

"Supermarkets are starting to collect them and it's important that we recover this material - ultimately these are valuable resources which have been sourced from the planet and we need to try to keep those valuable resources in the circular economy so we can use them over and over again.

"These initiatives by the supermarkets are very significant and it's great to see consumers engaging with these initiatives."

How much do we recycle?

Last year in the UK, nearly 2.5million tonnes of plastic was collected - but less than half was recycled.

‘Plastic the most visible symptom of environmental crisis’

Paula Chin continues: “Plastic is everywhere.

“It’s been found in the highest mountains and the deepest parts of the ocean, it’s in the air we breathe and it’s been found in water we drink.

“It is one of the most visible symptoms of the environmental crisis that we are facing.

“We have to think about our overall resource consumption and make sure we’re tackling our throwaway culture.