What can you recycle?

Recently, we have seen questions about recycling and there appears to be some confusion on what can and cannot be put in the clear plastic SHDC bags.

South Hams District Council have committed to improving the systems and say theyt will be able to process more materials over the next couple of years, so we have investigated what you can do right now.


can have plastic bottles – and only plastic bottles. Packaging trays, yogurt pots and wrappings are not accepted and there is a danger that your bag may be left on the pavement on recycle day. If they can’t process the contents, there is no point in taking it. Tins, cleaned foil, jar lids and drink cans are also fine.

what can you do?

Morrisons have introduced a scheme to encourage the use of your own sealable containers at their fresh food counters. The also offer extra ‘More’ points for this. There is a bin (always full up!) in the foyer in which you can put plastics (trays, yogurt pots and used bags) bought from the store. They claim to be cutting down on plastic packaging generally but it’s taking them a long time. You can also be direct and politely leave the wrappings at the checkout. There’s no law saying you must take it away and it forces the store to take action. It can be a pain for other waiting shoppers being inconvenienced and you are more likely to get criticism from fellow customers than from the staff. Also check out Plastic Free Totnes who organise events outside the supermarket collecting up the packaging and handing it back. The next one is on the morning of the 8th of December.  Or, if you can, how about dumping the supermarkets altogether and shopping local. The Zero Waste Shop is dedicated to eliminating packaging and are also organic. They provide a large range of the staples needed in one small shop in the narrows. Annies in Ticklemore Street deliver and also have engaged in dropping plastics. The Happy Apple provide paper bags for purchasing fruit and veg.


Can be anything paper or cardboard and now also includes ‘Tetra Pac’ style packaging. So rinsing out the cartons and recycling those is a recent step forward. Large cardboard boxes can be folded up and left next to bags on the pavement but not in bad weather – The collectors will leave behind wet cardboard!

For everything else you will need to use the Recycling Centre on the Babbage Road Industrial estate. Much of what they accept is free but some items like rubble and DIY plastics is annoyingly chargeable. You can check out the details of what is and isn’t acceptable here.

End of the World!


NONE of this is recyclable in the Clear Bags

With the latest reports saying we only have 12 years to combat climate change and more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050, some may argue that this is all pointless and nibbling at the edges of planetary problems, however if we’re not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. Living without plastics is claimed to be easy so perhaps now is the time to start?

Turning off the Plastic Tap‘ is today at Schumacher College

What shops have we missed out, what else can we do? Comment below…







John Caley – 6th October 2020 – If in doubt, look on the back of the plastic carton or tray. If it has a triangle with “PP5” inside, then it can’t go into the SHDC recycling bag, but it can be taken down to the recycling centre where there is a special bin for PP5 and some other plastics.

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10 months ago

Where can I recycle yoghurt, cream, cittage cheese pots and pkastic fruit trays? Thanks

John Caley
John Caley
11 months ago

If in doubt, look on the back of the plastic carton or tray. If it has a triangle with “PP5” inside, then it can’t go into the SHDC recycling bag, but it can be taken down to the recycling centre where there is a special bin for PP5 and some other plastics.

Ros Bourne
Ros Bourne
2 years ago

The main car park in Ashburton has a plastic recycling bank which takes plastic trays etc – in fact most packaging apart from plastic film !

darcy jones
darcy jones
2 years ago

It’s innacurate to show a picture of plastics and say NONE of it’s recyclable in Totnes!!
The food trays ARE as stated in your link within the article..
Otherwise very helpful as long as people don’t start binning plastic trays as a result of your picture!


Margi knight
Margi knight
2 years ago

I am alarmed by the take away food stalls on the market which sell their produce in polystyrene boxes. Some offer a 10p card alternative which I note most people appear not to take.
I truly believe that ALL takeaways on the market should be required to use only card. No polystyrene/plastic packaging please.

2 years ago

The Totnes Friday market is a great place place to see (mainly) locals puuting recycling into action. The Fish van usually has a queue brandishing their reuseable boxes; the Olive Stall are happy to fill your own container time and again and Sue “the egg lady” has been selling off the tray and into your re-used box for many years and long before recycling became fashionable. A fine example of a local (Cornworthy) product with minimal ‘food miles. Sue also sells honey when her bees have been busy and always appeals for empty jars for bottling her harvest. It would be good to see a Totnes branded reuseable coffee cup – perhaps the many coffee shops could get something together – “Single use cups Costa Planet” or something!