This is how to avoid a ticking off from the 'bin police' checking recycling sacks in Milton Keynes

Most people are putting at least one wrong item in their recycling, study shows

By Sally Murrer
Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 2:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 7:26 am

Recycling sacks are being checked on doorsteps all over MK - and the results show clear confusion about what can or cannot be put inside them.

Results have revealed that the vast majority of people are putting at least one thing they shouldn’t into their recycling.

MK Council is this week urging people to remember that just because something is recyclable, it does not mean they can recycle it here in Milton Keynes. And they've come up with a new buzz phrase - 'If in doubt leave it out'.

Spot the 'wrong' items in this recycling sack

A council spokesman said: "Being a good recycler is as much about what you leave out. If you’re not sure, put it in your black sack."

The council has taken out a £97.500 contract with the charity Keep Britain Tidy to provide 'specialist communication support for recycling contamination'.

This means Keep Britain Tidy officials are paid to check recycling sacks for offending items such as nappies, greasy pizza boxes, unwashed plastic containers and crisp packets.

The charity has also updated the council's website about MK' recycling rules. Today we can bring you a definitive guide of what is allowed to go in the clear sacks and what is not permitted.

This is MK's Council's new recycling advice

Some may find it surprising. For example sweet wrappers are forbidden, as are thick plastics. Paper is obviously permitted but padded envelopes, tissues and kitchen roll are not.

Perhaps most baffling, considering the world's plastic problem, is that plastic bags cannot be recycled in MK and should not be put in the sack.

The items below are NOT allowed:

Items with food or drink still inside

Plastic bags or cling film

Bubble wrap

Fruit nets

Crisp, biscuit or sweet packets or wrappers

Thick, hard plastics like toys or reusable food containers

Padded envelopes

Tissues, kitchen roll or cotton wool

Wet wipes or cleaning wipes

Nappies (disposable or biodegradable)

Disposable or compostable coffee cups


Laminated paper

Items with food or drink still inside

Plastic bags or cling film

Bubble wrap

Fruit nets

Crisp, biscuit or sweet packets or wrappers

Thick, hard plastics like toys, lunchboxes or reusable food containers

Coffee capsules/pods

Pet food pouches

Metal pans or tools

Clothes, fabric or rags

Broken glass or china

The following is a list of items allowed to be placed in the clear sack:

Food and drink cans

Pet food tins

Sweet and biscuit tins

Loose metal lids from bottles and jars

Empty aerosol sprays cans

Clean tin foil or foil food trays


Shredded paper

Paper envelopes, including window Envelopes



Cardboard, broken down so fits in the bag


Clean pizza boxes

Milk and juice cartons

Drinks and milk bottles – wash, squash and lid back on

Plastic bottles with pumps and triggers

Cleaning product bottles

Loose plastic lids from bottles and jars

Plastic pots, tubs and trays, including black plastic

Ready meal containers

Disposable plastic cutlery

Meanwhile, there's also confusion about what should go in the blue box, designated for glass. Only glass bottles and glass jars are permitted and their lids should always be removed first.

Not allowed in the blue box is broken glass, as this can cause injuries, drinking glasses or Pyrex (this melts at a different temperature to glass bottles and jars so can’t be recycled by the MK plant) and any other glass items such as perfume bottles, light bulbs or mirrors.

At this time of year, when people are busy in the garden, green bins are filling quickly. In these, people can put any food waste, cooked or raw, and most garden waste.

But NOT allowed is any quantity of soil and branches that are more than 15cm in diameter.

Cllr Emily Darlington, who was Cabinet member for public realm when Keep Britain Tidy specialists were recruited earlier this year, said: "We know that more and more people in Milton Keynes are committed to recycling and are trying to get it right, but every week we see a lot of things in the clear recycling sacks that shouldn’t be there, like dirty nappies, glass bottles, food waste, and old clothes.

"Dealing with things that cannot be recycled costs Milton Keynes Council hundreds of thousands pounds per year. That’s money that could be better spent to help local people. We are very pleased to be working with Keep Britain Tidy to help residents recycle correctly.”