Food discussions / Let's talk

Where to recycle your plastic packaging

Updated 26th November 2022

(Last updated 12th Aug 2021 with the addition of The Body Shop recycling scheme)

Do you know there are plenty of places to recycle plastic? Sustainability and recycling is something that everyone should care about, but often it’s hard to find information. This post aims to promote recycling initiatives available nationwide.

How does Terracycle work?

Terracycle works on the basis that they supply boxes to you, they get filled up and then you return the box to them for recycling. Many of the boxes come at a cost (processing items does cost money!), but there are a limited number of free recycling programmes which are usually funded by larger companies.

You can sign up for your own collection box for some items, but many are also available for public drop off. It is best to call each location beforehand to make sure the boxes are still open. Some are located inside schools and in those cases, they may only be open to children of parents of those children. Others are located in personal homes, and thus would require you to ring ahead to let them know when you are dropping them off.

An easy map is located on the Terracycle website for each recycling programme, so it is worth checking the map to see where you can drop off your recycling. Terracycle is a global company, so it is worth checking out their website to see if there are recycling initiatives in your country.

What can I recycle for free?

General recycling initiatives nationwide

First, let’s look at general recycling initiatives nationwide in public places that you may not necessarily be aware of! Please check with your local store ahead of time, especially because some boxes may not be open or may be moved to a less public place following on from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Click on each respective link to find out more from the company’s website:

  • Disposable contact lenses across any brand and their packaging – Boots Opticians and other independent opticians
  • Toiletries across any brand, including pumps, pipettes and lipglosses – Specific Boots stores, The Body Shop and Maybelline counters
  • Razors and razor blades across any brand – sponsored by Gilette. Fill in the form to get a free prepaid envelope
  • Batteries – Several retailers including Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Co-op, M&S, Lidl, Poundland, Mothercare
  • Medicine blister packaging (like the ones paracetamol come in) – Superdrug Pharmacy
  • Thin plastic – check your local supermarket e.g. Aldi (larger stores across Greater Manchester currently), Morrisons, Asda (larger stores), Waitrose, Sainsbury’s (North East currently), Tesco (South West and Wales currently), Co-op (select stores), Marks and Spencer’s
    The list, as taken from the Recycle Now website:
    • All plastic bags, except biodegradable or compostable bags
    • Bread bags
    • Breakfast cereal liners
    • Shrink-wrap & ring joiners from multipacks of water, cans etc
    • Frozen food bags, e.g. bags for frozen vegetables, chips, etc
    • Dry cleaning bags/bags covering new clothing
    • Magazine and newspaper wrappers
    • Bags for loose fruit and vegetables
    • Bubble wrap
    • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – resin ID code 4
  • Old electrical goods across many Currys PC World, O2 stores, Vodafone stores
  • Old electrical goods at some supermarkets if you purchase an equivalent from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose
  • Cosmetic and skincare packaging – The Body Shop (temporarily closed)
  • Packaging from Hotel Chocolat chocolates as well as other flexible plastic from other brands – Hotel Chocolat
  • Disposable face masks – Wilkinsons and Morrisons
  • Plastic toy recycling from Mattel for Mattel goods

Food specific recycling initiatives

This section will focus on food-related free recycling programmes, but once again, ring ahead and check if the drop off locations are still active given things have shifted since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Click on the links to find out more fromTerracycle’s website. Check the maps for your local public drop-off point.

Want Not Waste Shop

Of note, within Manchester, there is the Want Not Waste shop located next door to the Academy on Oxford Road. The shop is a volunteer initiative run by students which also sells sustainable items. Due to the nature of the shop, it is currently open 11 am-4 pm Weds-Fri during term time. This isn’t ideal for anyone who works standard 9 am-5 pm jobs, but it might be useful to those who work near the campus or those who work outside of these hours.


I hope this post has given you some insight into more places you can recycle your plastic. As quoted by Anne Marie Bonneau of Zero Waste Chef

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

Anne Marie Bonneau

For more ways to be sustainable, take a look at my post for 8 easy actions to combat climate change.