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Recycling in York: A Student’s Guide

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Whether your motivations for recycling are economic, social or environmental; if not done correctly, your efforts may be in vain. You may have noticed that what you can recycle isn’t the same across England; even within York different providers, whether that is a private contractor, City of York Council or St Nicks will have different rules about what you can recycle with them and how they need it to be presented. In this article I’m going to discuss how to recycle rather than what you can recycle.


Check with your service provider to know what items you can recycle and how.

Why should you care about this? Well, to make sure everything collected can be recycled there has to be some guarantee of the materials’ quality. That means that you’ve given your recycling the best possible chance of actually being recycled.

Remember to rinse your recycling.

If contamination rates are high, re-processors (the people who actually turn your recycling into new things) might decide it is cheaper or easier to send the whole lot to landfill anyway.

By contamination we can mean anything from rainwater if your recycling is stored outside, all the way through to the wrong materials, food waste or anything else that just shouldn’t be put into your recycling. Keeping materials as clean as possible is essential for effective recycling. It doesn’t have to be spotless but we’ve even found complete pizzas in their boxes on our round! If you get into the habit of rinsing your recycling as you use things up its much quicker and easier to clean and guarantees it won’t get rejected. Excess (edible!) food can be donated to neighbours, friends and even strangers via apps such as OLIO. If you rinse your recycling not only will it be less attractive to potential pests, you’ll be reducing the amount of contamination for everyone involved.

Once you’ve rinsed what you can (glass, cans and plastic bottles) – squash it.

Obviously you can’t squash glass but if you crush your cans and squeeze the air out of plastic bottles (put the lid back on and it’ll stay squashed!) it will take up much less space in your recycling container. Scale that up and the wagons (or in our case electric vehicles and load bearing tricycles) will also be able to collect more on each trip out, cutting down the number of trips needed so saving carbon and congestion too.


If you aren’t sure if something can go in your recycling, check before assuming it will be OK.

A lot of recycling collections are happening on massive scales (such as City of York Council who collect over 70 000 recycling boxes a week! This means their crews can’t go through and check each box they have to make a quick judgment based on what they can see. This leaves quite a large scope for human error and mistakes do happen. Small mistakes add up and could result in rejection of a full container of recycling. The St Nicks team hand sort at the kerbside as we work on a much smaller scale. It does mean that we can ensure our contamination rates are negligible and our residents can be confident that anything we’ve collected will be recycled. If you aren’t sure who to ask about what can be recycled from your property, a quick call to your local authority will tell you who collects yours.

Recycle Now also have a really helpful online tool where you can search by area or material to find the nearest recycling points. The key with recycling is to be proactive. If you aren’t sure, ask – I’m happy to answer any questions about recycling or waste minimisation and can point you in the right direction even if St Nicks doesn’t collect your recycling.

Remember to refuse items you don’t need such as straws or carrier bags.

Reduce what you do use, reuse what you can and then finally recycle appropriately.

If you need any more information about recycling, sustainability or any of the (amazing!) work St Nicks do, please have a look at our website or feel free to get in touch!

Email: Contact number: 01904 411821

St Nicks are also very active on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can find the recycling team’s Instagram here, and the nature reserve’s here!

About the Author: Sam Taylor has a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology, and is currently working towards a Master’s degree  in Environmental Science and Management. She has run the Recycling and Waste Minimisation department of St Nicks – a job she adores – for two and a half years.

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