MVDC: Recycling Plastics in Mole Valley

Message from Josh Lambe, Recycling Officer, MVDC.

Hopefully the following information regarding plastics will be valuable to the group:

Firstly, it’s important to understand that ‘the message’ and how it’s presented to 100,000 residents is of vital importance. Mole Valley DC promotes a deliberately straightforward and hassle free message when communicating what items we can accept for recycling.

In practice, this means we keep the message as broad as possible, and purposely shy away from giving residents huge great lists of items which we can accept. It also means we deliberately do not publish the Recycling Identification Codes ( ). Research shows that you’ll gain the highest yield of plastics for recycling when you keep the message simple, as it is understood the ‘average recycler’ will be put off by always having to check the code on every article they’re disposing of, or
having to check a long list of products/materials.
So, in Mole Valley, we try to give the consistent message that as far as plastics go we will accept:


And that’s it.

So, when considering whether a plastic item is fit to be put in the recycling, firstly, if it is a plastic bottle of any kind, it is accepted for recycling. Secondly, if it is a plastic tub, pot or tray that held any kind of food substance, it is accepted for recycling.

For those diligent recyclers who wish to know what codes can be accepted, the codes we can accept are:

  • 01
  • 02 (but not plastic carrier bags)
  • 03 (but only in bottle form)

However, some plastic items may have one of the above codes, but will be of the hard plastic variety. We cannot accept what are known as ‘rigid plastics’. Therefore a good rule of thumb is that if you cannot bend the plastic by hand, it is not suitable for recycling via the green bin (plastic kitchen utensils and children’s toys are good examples of this). Conversely, some plastic items may have one of the above codes, but be ‘flimsy’. The second rule of thumb then is that if you can crush the plastic in your hand and it stays in that shape,it is of too low-grade to be recycled (plastic bags or cling film are good examples of this). Lastly, if you think the plastic item could fall in between rigid and flimsy but you’re still not sure, the test is that if it is pretty hard plastic that still bends, but you can snap it in your hand, then it’s not accepted for recycling (flower pots are a good example of this) I hope all that will be of use. I’m always happy to answer any further questions you may have, so please do not hesitate to get in touch. I’m sorry I could not make the meeting.

Kind regards,
Josh Lambe
Mole Valley District Council
01306 879118

Other information from correspondence:

Thanks for the information. I only have one question, which is, what happens if we put an item in the recycling bin, which should not be put in there? Does this invalidate the whole contents of the bin, or is it just a nuisance because it has to be fished out?

Hi ,

When our crews notice something in a recycling bin that is not accepted for recycling, they will reject the bin and leave a ‘contaminated bin’ sticker on it, to inform the resident. The onus is then on the resident to fish the errant item out and present their recycling again next time round. Sometimes things are only discovered once the load is delivered to the recycling facility. This will then have to be handpicked out by one of the ‘pickers’ at the site.

We’ve had bad instances in the past where people have put things in their recycle bin so bad that it has meant the whole vehicle load has been rejected at the recycling facility. For example, someone once tried to dispose of a whole massive tin of cooking oil via a communal recycling bin. This burst inside the compacter in the vehicle and… well, you can imagine the mess. A similar thing happened when a resident tried to dispose of a bottle of engine oil. Not good!

Kind regards,
Josh Lambe
Mole Valley District Council
01306 879118

Posted in Environment, Local Government.