Empty, Rinse, Recycle, Repeat

Did you know that 20 percent of the wrong items in Southwark’s recycling are food, or food and drink packaging that hasn’t been emptied or cleaned?

Pop-art style graphic showing four panels on a dark blue background: a can of beans being emptied, rinsed under a tap, put in a recycling bin, and full of beans again. The words, ‘Empty’, ‘Rinse’, ‘Recycle’ and ‘Repeat’ are at the top of each panel.

While we spent more time at home these last few years, the amount of recycling we’ve collected has risen. There are certain items that we’re all pretty confident about recycling, such as glass jars, tins, paper and plastic bottles. However, some simple mistakes are having a big impact on what can be recycled, after it's been collected.

Food and drink spoil recycling

Two things that should never end up in your recycling bin are food and drink. Recyclable items like paper and cardboard are easily spoiled by food, drink and other liquids. If they’re dirty they can’t be recycled and have to be discarded as rubbish. This wastes your recycling efforts, and those of other people in Southwark as well. That’s why we’re asking you to Empty, Rinse, Recycle, Repeat – it helps us recycle even more!

Wrong items in Southwark’s recycling

Here are a few of the wrong items that we found in Southwark’s recycling:

  • Unfinished tins of baked beans
  • Half full glass jars of sauce
  • Cans of fizzy drink
  • Unemptied household cleaning bottles
  • Margarine tubs with spread still inside

Recycle right

75 percent of all household waste can be recycled, reducing waste in your rubbish bin and saving precious resources. See which items can and can’t go in your recycling and follow the simple steps below to make sure you’re recycling right!

Recycle empty graphic 2

Make sure to empty your containers

  • Pour water and other liquids down the drain. (Oil should go in a sealed container in your general waste.)
  • Use up leftovers.
  • Shake, scoop or scrape any unwanted food or sauce into your food waste caddy or rubbish bin.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to recycle your food waste, but not in the same bin as your other recycling. Check your services and see how you can recycle your food waste.



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Give containers and packaging a quick run under the tap to rinse away any remaining food and liquids, such as:

  • Sauce.
  • Soup.
  • Butter, Spreads and Oils - rinse with a bit of soap and hot water to help remove these stubborn liquids.
  • Other bits of food – give any stubborn bits of food a scrub too.
  • Soap or cleaning products.



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Once your recyclable items are clean and empty, put them loose in your recycling bin to be collected. Recycling should not be in plastic bags unless you receive clear bags provided by Southwark Council. Our crews will take them to Southwark’s recycling facility to be sorted into different materials. Watch this video to find out what happens to your recycling.

Top tips!

  • Put lids on plastic bottles so that they travel through the sorting process and can be recycled into new plastic items
  • Take lids off glass jars and bottles so metals and glass can be separated in the sorting process



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Keep emptying, rinsing and recycling your food and drink packaging, cleaning and cosmetics containers, so we can all recycle even more!

Page last updated: 21 June 2023


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