How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh

Person recycling cardboard.

You’ve got your different coloured recycling bins and food composting and you try your best to follow the rules. But there are many items that at first glance seem almost impossible to recycle in Edinburgh. We feel your pain.

The Edinburgh-based team at Real Foods, Scotland’s largest online independent retailer of eco-friendly, sustainable and plastic-free products, give their top tips for how you can recycle in Edinburgh – including the seemingly impossible!

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh Real Foods Broughton Street

Did you know? Currently over 50% of rubbish in Edinburgh is being taken to a landfill site in Dunbar.

As a result, Scotland has a Zero Waste Plan, which aims toreduce waste and increase recycling significantly by 2025.

What can I recycle in Edinburgh?

Firstly, you can find out what can be recycled in your kerbside collection and which day you need to put your bins out by checking the calendar on the City of Edinburgh Council’s website.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh

“There’s a useful guide to understanding recycling symbols that I always find handy at Recycle Scotland.”

–  Kleo

Where does my recycling in Edinburgh go?

Mixed plastic recycling in Edinburgh is separated and goes into various material streams by recycling contractors across the UK to create raw and new products.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh castle


All your paper recycling in the Edinburgh bins goes to ChangeWorks, who are based in Newhaven, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and is turned into newsprint.


Glass recycling in Edinburgh goes to Newhouse, Scotland, where Viridor turn it into materials for glass containers and fiberglass.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh Kerbside collection

Food Waste

Food waste in Edinburgh goes to a special food waste management plant run by Biogen in Millerhill in Dalkeith.

Waste food is processed by anaerobic digester that can turn it into renewable electricity and also fertiliser.

You can put both uncooked and cooked food items, including fruit, vegetables, teabags, pasta, meat and bones into your council food waste caddy.

It’s recommended that you don’t put in any liquids, like milk or cooking oils, food packaging or garden waste, animal waste or stones.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh food bins

If you are business that produces extra food that cannot be sold, then you would be mad not to support Edinburgh’s award winning homeless social enterprise, Social Bite.

Did you know? If food waste ends up in landfill, as it decomposes it will create the greenhouse gas methane, which contributes to climate change.

Methane is between 23 and 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide!

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh food waste

Garden Waste

Garden waste is taken and turned into a soil improver that you can buy back as compost from Caledonian Horticulture.


All the textile waste that is collected by the City of Edinburgh Council is collected and sorted by Nathans Waste Savers based in Stirlingshire, who then send it to developing nations across the global for reuse and further recycling.

Where can I recycle items not picked up in Edinburgh’s kerbside collections?

If you have large amounts of recycling to do, then take them to your nearest household recycling centre.

“You can find out where your local recycling is at Recycle Now.

–  Kleo

Recycle now has a store locator, so people can put their postcode and instantly find where the closest recycling/drop-off point is.”

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh old furniture

There are numerous items that you can deposit for recycling at these centres: garden waste, bricks, rubble, solid wood, laminates, plasterboard, packaging (including empty aerosols and kitchen foil), carpet, car batteries, metal, hard plastics such as toys, gardens furniture and plastic boxes, energy saving lightbulbs and fluorescent tubes, fridges and freezers, small electrical equipment such as irons, IT or game consoles, TVs, mattresses, paint pots and tyres.

Mobile Phones

“If you don’t use a trade-in scheme when you replace your old phone, then you can donate your old mobile phones to any Oxfam shop.”

– Katie
How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh scrap mobile

Where to recycle household furniture

Check if any of your family of friends require any household furniture you no longer need before throwing it away.

Several charity shops across the Scottish capital accept household furniture, such as British Heart Foundation. You can find your nearest charity shop by using the handy map provided ChangeWorks.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh broken furniture

If you don’t want to donate your household furniture to a local charity shop then you can get a free uplift of any large household items that are in a good condition by the City of Edinburgh Council, such as beds, sofas, tables, chairs and bikes. Simply call the dedicated re-use line on 0800 0665 820.

“The Edinburgh remakery takes obsolete computer parts and furniture that’s not good enough to be reused or go to charity stores.”

Where to recycle household furniture

If you want to recycle polythene packaging such as magazine wrappers then you can collect it and send it to Polyprint once you have removed any sticky tape or paper.

Mark your package as “For Recycling” and send to Polyprint Mailing Films Ltd, Mackintosh Road, Rackheath Industrial Estate, Rackheath, Norwich, NR13 6LJ

Where to recycle car components

If you still do your own car repairs then you can head to your local household recycling centre.

Where to recycle batteries

Your regular household batteries can be recycled by the City of Edinburgh Council’s own recycling scheme. The council uses G&P Batteries who efficiently recycle all the common chemicals present in batteries.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh batteries

Where to recycle non-recyclable plastic

Believe it or not, even non-recyclable plastic can be reused or recycled. Our team have some top tips!

 “Head to Lush to recycle your bottle tops for free! They turn them into their black tubs, which, handily they also take back.”

– Katie

How to make Eco Bricks

Where to recycle plastic carrier bags

Most large supermarkets now have facilities for recycling plastic carrier bags.

“There are a few initiatives that turn old plastic carrier bags into mats for homeless people.”

– Katie
How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh Real Refills

Where to recycle cooking oil

“You can recycle old cooking oil at a bunch of Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland. Find out more at Recycle for Scotland.” – Kim

Dispose your waste carefully

As of now, is your responsibility as an Edinburgh citizen to dispose your waste with care.

With that in mind, you might wish to rethink what potential future waste items you bring into your home in the first place.

If you can, avoid packaging on your products, especially items that you know won’t go in your regular collection bins.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh PET plastic

Top tip! If you wish to dispose of liquid paint then ensure you dry it first or cover it with sand or cat litter.

Trickier Items

Several items still cannot be recycled easily and you should seek advice from the City of Edinburgh Council’s recycling team for support.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh

Some of the trickier items that will need specialist removal include fuels such as petrol and diesel, explosives including fireworks and airbags, firearms, fire extinguishers, diving bottles, poisons, asbestos, heavy metals, thermometers and barometers containing mercury, and biological waste.

Alternatively, Real Foods team member Kim has a nifty trick!

“If you’ve got anything odd to recycle like contact lenses or bread bags or writing instruments, then check out Terracycle. They arrange points all across Edinburgh for you to drop off items.”

“For example, you can drop off all of your empty baby food pouches at some primary schools, and in return the school gets points for every 5kgs that they dispatch.”

“Terracycle are also the company who recycle loads of different packaging for some of the major brands, such as Walkers’ crisp packets and Pringles chip cans.”

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh crisp packets

Top Tip! Use the SNUB technique – Say No to Unwanted Bags, and bring your own cotton bags with you when shopping. Always have them handy in your bag, bike panniers or car so you don’t forget to bring them!

Go Zero Waste!

If you’re still unsure about how to recycle in Edinburgh, then there are always new ways to reuse items instead of recycling them.

Remember: One person’s trash is always another person’s treasure!

You might wish to join the Edinburgh Freegle community, where people from across Edinburgh are invited to give stuff they no longer need to people who need stuff they don’t have.

Above all, it’s an amazing solution to reducing waste – and basically anything goes! You can give away the most weird and wonderful items.

You can buy loose fruit and vegetables instead of items that have been packaged.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh loose vegetables

Real Plastic Free

The team behind Real Foods has just launched, which has wonderful products to aid you on your zero-waste journey.

For example, you might want to consider using soap and shampoo bars instead of liquid toiletries, and bulk buy your most popular food products.

Real Refills

Use the Real Refills scheme at the Real Foods Tollcross store, where you can refill cleaning and household products from Bio-D, Ecover, Ecoleaf and Faith In Nature at competitive prices in a range of sizes from 250ml to 1.5 litres.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh Real Refills

Try Reusables Not Disposables

Disposable nappies are known to be a stinky addition to our landfill challenges.

Modern reusable nappies are much better than they once were, so you might want to give these a try! If you are a resident in Edinburgh then you can use a subsidised real nappy starter kit!

If real nappies don’t work for you, you can pick up biodegradable nappies from Real Foods.

How to recycle anything and everything in Edinburgh biodegradable nappies

Also, you might want to use a reusable glass bottle delivery service for your milk.

Wiseman Dairies can arrange doorstep deliveries in Edinburgh for you. Just call 0131 440 4828. You can also try Pete’s Farm Shop on 0131 337 6551, and Yester Dairies in East Lothian on 01620 810 998.

“If you live around Leith in Edinburgh or are part of the Broughton community, then check out Zero Waste Leith.”

“They organise plant, clothes and big swap days every now and then, and all this information is available on their Facebook page.”

They are doing an amazing job at spreading the word in the area and have a whole range of useful leaflets online. I love their Sunshine guide!” –  Kleo

Get inspired to recycle in Edinburgh

Recycle for Scotland


Edinburgh Freegle

Greener Scotland

Zero Waste Near Me

Love Food Hate Waste Scotland

Recycle in Edinburgh! Love your community, and love the world! Your friendly neighbourhood Real Foods stores in Tollcross and Broughton are always on hand to support you with any queries you have about going plastic-free and zero waste.

So, now you can also purchase all your favourite plastic-free products online and enjoy the perks of home delivery. Therefore, what are you waiting for?

Get Social!

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