Welcome to Recycling 101

We’re not going to lie: you know that pot of yoghurt you threw away in the organic waste bin at lunch? Yes... your colleague noticed that you didn’t place it in the recycling bin. And it wasn’t that hard to do.

There’s a lot of misinformation about recycling out there, so let’s debunk some of the most common myths that prevent us from helping to clean up the planet and reusing raw materials.

  1. I don’t know what to place in the recycling bin.

    Is it packaging? Then place it in the recycling bin! This is the question you should ask before throwing anything away. In general, any type of packaging used for a product we eat, drink or use can be placed in a recycling bin. If it’s glass, place it in the green recycling bins. Paper and cardboard go into the blue bins. And plastic or metal, including aluminium, should be placed in the yellow recycling bins.

  2. I don’t have time to wash packaging.

    You don’t need to! The machines at the sorting facilities wash packaging before it is sent to its final destination. So all you need to do is drain and flatten the packaging well. If you only have time to go to the recycling bins once a week, for example, and prefer packaging to not have an unpleasant odour, rinse it with water – but try keeping this to a minimum to not waste water. Paper and cardboard that is contaminated with grease or fat should be placed in organic waste bins and not in the blue recycling bins.

  3. I don’t even produce that much waste, so I can just put everything in the organic waste bins.

    On average, a person produces 1.5 kg of rubbish per day. The Valorsul sorting facility, in Lisbon, for example, processes 1,200,000 kg of waste per day, and it only processes municipal solid waste from Lisbon and the western region (a total of 19 municipalities). If all this rubbish were to go to a landfill, we’d need to build a new landfill every four years!

  4. I don’t think Styrofoam can be recycled. And what do I do with light bulbs? Or batteries?

    Clean styrofoam can be recycled, provided it is placed in the yellow recycling bin.

    Fluorescent lamps, as opposed to single-ended light bulbs (which should be placed in the organic waste bin), are made of a flammable and pollutant material. When this type of lamp blows, you should hand it in to the establishment where you are going to buy a new one. You can also place it in the waste electrical and electronic equipment bins or at recycling centres that accept them.

    As for batteries, they should be placed in the appropriate recycling bins. And that old appliance you recently replaced should also be disposed of in the dedicated recycling bins. There are 370 Pingo Doce stores with recycling bins for different types of waste (used batteries, waste electrical and electronic equipment, used cooking oils, ink and toner cartridges and coffee capsules of any brand), depending on the store.

    If you travel to Poland, 98% of Biedronka stores have the same facilities for recycling used batteries and waste electrical and electronic equipment. In Colombia, you can dispose of used batteries at 250 Ara stores.

    Don’t remove plastic bottle caps from plastic packaging and place the packaging in the yellow recycling bin so that it can be sent for recycling.

    In Portugal, Quercus offers a mobile app, WasteApp, which is also available on its website, that tracks national collection points, including Pingo Doce stores that have recycling bins.

  5. I’m not really sure what happens to recycled material, nor have I ever seen products made from recycled materials.

    We use several articles that have been made using recycled packaging every day without realising it. Used metal can be used to make bicycles, scooters, stove and water heater burners or car parts, and recycled plastic is used to make new packaging for detergents, fibres for clothes, jars, plumbing pipes, urban furniture, paving and plastic bags. Recycled paper and cardboard can be used to make new paper, corrugated boxes and packaging, while recycled glass is used to make new bottles, jars and pots.

  6. The dustcart in my area collects waste from all recycling bins together

    Dustcarts usually join waste, especially because most municipalities have specific days to collect rubbish, whether from recycling bins or door-to-door collection. However, when this happens, the dustcarts have separate compartments, so the waste isn’t actually joined together.

Fun fact: in 2021, there were almost five times the number of recycling bins in Portugal as there were ATM machines.