things you should never recycle

8 Things You Should Never Recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is a phrase that most of us have grown up with, but did you know that not everything should actually be recycled? Recycling is an art in itself, with many rules on what can and can’t be recycled. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of eight things that you should never recycle:


Plastic Bags 

plastic bag

Plastic shopping bags and plastic bags aren’t usually accepted for recycling because the lightweight material can tangle or otherwise damage the machinery used in recycling centers. Plastic bags are typically made from Plastic #4, otherwise known as “Low Density Polyethylene,” which is very reusable but normally not recyclable.

The solution: Reuse your plastic bags and be sure to bring your own reusable grocery bags instead.



Commonly used in takeaway boxes and cups, styrofoam is made from Plastic #6: Polystyrene, which is extremely difficult to recycle in Hong Kong and contains chemicals that are harmful to human health. Avoid using styrofoam at all costs!

The solution: Bring your own takeaway containers, or try to reduce ordering from restaurants that still use styrofoam containers.


Cling Wrap

Cling wrap is often made from Plastic #3: PVC, which cannot be recycled easily and could contain carcinogens that leach into the environment. It also cannot be recycled in Hong Kong.

The solution: Swap cling wrap with reusable beeswax wraps, containers or silicon bowl covers.


Disposable diapers

Unfortunately, disposable diapers contain too many different materials (paper, plastic, absorbent material) to be recycled – not to mention, they are completely contaminated with human waste. This makes them garbage that goes straight into landfill.

The solution: Look for more sustainable diaper options such as those made from eco-friendly materials like bamboo.


Medical Waste

This might seem obvious, but needles, disposable face masks, plastic syringes and prescription containers are classified as biohazards and therefore cannot be recycled.  

The solution: When it comes to face masks, why not go for a reusable fabric option instead?

See also: 8Shades Of… Katheryn Pang of Green Sisters Creation


Paper Towels

Try to avoid paper towels wherever possible – unused paper towels cannot be recycled because the fibres are too short to be made into new paper. On the other hand, used paper towels are often soiled with food or grease, contaminating the recycling process, so these, too cannot be recycled.

The solution: You’re better off using reusable cloths!

See also: 3 perfectly sustainable dish cloths for around the house


Takeaway Coffee Cups

takeaway coffee cup

Takeaway coffee cups cannot be recycled because they’re coated in plastic, which is how they’re able to hold liquid without leaking all over the place. Unfortunately, this means that these cups will end up in landfills!

The solution: Bring your own reusable coffee cup to the shop – as a bonus, it may even stay hotter for longer.


Chips Bags

chip packet never recycle

Chips bags can’t go in single-stream recycling bins because they are often made from aluminium-laminated polypropylene, which cannot be separated by recycling plants.

The solution: Look for compostable packaging or get your savoury snacks from zero-waste stores where you can bring your own containers.

Follow us on Instagram (@8shadesofficial) for more tips on how to live a greener and more sustainable life.

See also: 8 Zero-Waste Stores in Hong Kong