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Plastic recycling

Plastic bottles, tubs and traysYou can recycle plastic pots, tubs and plastic bottles.

They can be placed in:

  • your blue wheelie bin or box;
  • in mixed recycling or plastic recycling bins at blocks of flats;
  • in plastic recycling banks at recycling points around the city.

We accept these plastic items:

  • All plastic bottles (eg from milk, shampoo, or sprays)
  • Bottle tops, lids and triggers
  • Yoghurt pots
  • Cream or custard pots
  • Instant noodle pots
  • Plant pots (empty)
  • Margarine or spread tubs
  • Ice cream tubs
  • Tubs from dishwasher tablets
  • Trays from chocolate or biscuit boxes
  • Trays from meat, vegetables or fruit
  • Trays from microwave meals
  • Takeaway boxes from Chinese/Indian meals
  • Sandwich packets
  • Moulded plastic packaging from non-food items, e.g. from scissors, batteries, toys, etc.

Please rinse in old dishwater to remove food.

We do NOT accept these plastic items:

  • Hard plastic items (eg toys, washing-up bowls, storage boxes etc) - see further down this page for how to recycle hard plastics
  • Plastic film or wrapping
  • Plastic bags
  • Expanded polystyrene or Styrofoam

Frequently asked questions

Why don't you tell us which plastic numbers we can recycle, eg 1, 2 and 3?

The numbers embossed into some plastic packaging can be used to identify which polymer it is made from. However some items made from the same polymer can be quite different and can not be recycled together - for example, milk bottles are made from HDPE (2) and so are some buckets. The thickness of the plastic, the way the item was made and what it was used for also influence if and how it can be recycled.

Another reason is that most people find it easier to identify an item, eg a bottle, than to look for a number on it. Also, not all packaging has a number on it.

Is there anywhere that plastic bags and plastic film be recycled?

Yes - but not in your blue bin or at recycling points. Most large supermarkets have plastic bag recycling points at the entrance to their stores. Since April 2011 the following shops will also accept other plastic film packaging, such as plastic from bakery goods, breakfast cereal liners, plastic-wrapped groceries, toilet-roll wrap and multi-pack shrink-wrap in their carrier bag recycling bins:

  • Asda
  • The Co-Operative
  • Morrisons
  • Sainsbury's (large stores)
  • Tesco (large stores, excluding Fulbourn)
  • Waitrose (large stores)

Please note that these carrier bag recycling bins are provided by and emptied by the supermarkets, not the council.

Currently you cannot recycle plastic bags or film in your blue bin or in the plastic banks for tubs, pots and trays.

Is there anywhere that hard plastics like toys or garden furniture can be recycled?

Yes. You can recycle rigid plastic items like corrugated pipe, buckets, dustbins, water butts, garden furniture, plant pots, and non-electrical children's toys at the County Council's large recycling centres - the closest to Cambridge are near Milton and Thriplow. However, plastic bottles, yoghurt pots, ice cream tubs, PVC pipes and UPVC door and window frames are not suitable.

How are plastics recycled?

After collection, the plastics are taken to a sorting facility where they are separated into their different types by automated machinery, using techniques such as infra-red imaging.

The plastic is flaked and turned into pellets for sale to manufacturers to make new products including plant pots, compost bins, water butts and fleece jackets.

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