Resource's top ten difficult to recycle household items

Even the best laid zero waste plans can go astray when confronted with these tricky materials

Difficult to recycle household items

Dental hygiene products
The whole dental care industry is a nightmare for recyclers. Plastic toothpaste tubes (once made from metal) are generally shunned by councils and reprocessors alike, and over 50 million pounds of toothbrushes end up in landfills in America alone every year. A market for recycled floss, meanwhile, has yet to open up.

Invented in 1953, clingfilm is impossible to recycle and difficult to reuse, making it one of the domestic market’s biggest waste problems. Because it usually contains PVC, recycling is potentially hazardous due to the fumes released when its structure is tampered with.

CDs and DVDs
Made from polycarbonate and aluminium, damaged CDs and DVDs are a bit tricky for reprocessors to handle. And when there are only so many bird scarers and drinks coasters you can fashion from old discs, what’s to be done with the rest of them?

Pill packets
Medicinal packaging in the form of plastic and aluminium blisters remains one of the toughest materials to deal with. With many manufacturers moving away from traditional plastic pill bottles (which are easier to recycle), we’re left with little choice but to pop them in the bin.

Bubble wrap and Jiffy Bags
Originally created in an attempt to invent textured wallpaper (ah, the crazy 1960s), bubble wrap – and by extension, Jiffy Bags – are hardly recycled in the UK (there are special bubble wrap recycling centres in the States, though). But if you can resist the urge to pop it all, bubble wrap can be easily reused.

Silica gel
Despite ambiguous ‘recipes’ online detailing ways to ‘reinvigorate’ silica gel, its small and unassuming presence means that more often than not the small packets end up in the bin. However, they’re useful for keeping moisture away from electronic equipment and easily perishable food.

Razor blades
As both refillable and disposable razors become increasingly complex with extra blades and ‘lubricating bars’, they’re more likely than ever to end up in the bin. Greenies advocate refillable models, but when razor cartridges are up to three times the price of disposables, it’s easy to see why this is such a problematic household waste material.

Cat litter
There are a few ecofriendly, biodegradable options on the market, so cat litter could – in theory – be compostable. However, Defra recommends removing faeces first in order to prevent disease – not a pleasant task! – so it’s no surprise that it all ends up in the residual bin.

Citrus fruit netting
The nets that citrus fruits are sold in are one of the most environmentally-unfriendly household waste materials. Not only are they non-recyclable, but they can cause all kinds of problems for birds and water animals.
Broken plates
The Romans would use broken plates as an integral part of building foundations. These days, crockery in a useable condition can (and should) be donated to charity shops, but with no recycling outlet for broken items, it’s off to the landfill.

So, that's it from us. Use the comment field below to let us know what you find difficult to recycle or reuse. What's in your bin?

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