OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Recycling in the UK?

When I moved to the UK from Germany a year ago I was shocked by the limited options to separate your trash.

Photo of Felix Reiners
10 10

Written by

In Germany you usually have all of the following options
  • Organic waste - there is a brown or green wheelie bin in front of every house
  • Recycable plastic and synthetic material - a yellow wheelie bin
  • Paper and cardboard - either another wheelie bin or community deposit containers which are rarely farther than a block away
  • Glass & bottles - on most of them there is a deposit (which by the way also applies to cans, yes also Coke cans), so people will return them to the supermarket. For glass and bottles without a deposit, there are glass containers in every neighbourhood (usually next to the paper containers)
  • Everything else, like electrical devices, paint, chemicals you'll have to bring to a community deposit, which is Ok as for me that rarely happens more than once a year.

When I move into my flat in London, I asked the property manager where to put my trash. She said, everything goes in the big containers on the ground floor!
Also paper?
yes, everything
And glass and bottles?
Electronic devices?
yes, no problem
What about furniture?
If it fits, feel free!

Well, I honestly hope that the system in the UK is just different and instead of me seperating trash, someone else along the line does it, but I'm not really sure thats true.
Also, even if the later was true I think involving people in the recycling process is helpful as it sharpens awareness and changes your mindset. In the end what you want is people who responsibly take care of their trash and bring this mindset to their workplaces, isn't it?


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Thank you for sharing and I have to admit that I felt the same way. I spent early childhood in Korea and I vividly remember about 5 different vividly coloured recycling bins and 1 huge general waste bin out in the streets allocated per flat. When I came over to UK in my teens there was not much of this coloured array. It seemed then most people weren't aware and the government hadn't issued the significance of it much. Which brings me to say, continuing from your last sentence, having a leader who is recycling conscious and active in that role is crucial. At a family home, whoever looks after the household would have a better knowledge of recycling and may be active about it but for the one working, if their workplace doesn't recycle then he/she would be clueless and may not care at all, may even excuse themselves as they are busy working. Therefore if the directors of the companies can be persuaded or informed of the significance of recycling, even those with busy life styles may begin unconsciously introducing such habits at home too? What do you think?

View all comments