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Recycling in Merton - A Practical Guide

Updated: Nov 23, 2018

Our objective is Zero Waste, this is our aim and we really hope it becomes achievable in the near future. But in the meantime, like everyone else, we do generate some waste. When we can’t do without them, find a new use for them or reduce the number of things we use, then the next thing to do is turn to recycling. But even that is easier said than done.

In this article, we give you some practical tips about recycling in and around Wimbledon.


This is probably the least sustainable solution we will explore on this page; for many Zero Wasters, recycling is seen as a ‘distraction’ to our growing waste problem and we should only send our possessions to recycling when absolutely necessary. Zero Waste is achieved by a clever consumption ‘upstream’, cutting down the number of unnecessary items we buy and not getting rid of them ‘downstream’.

The main issue with recycling is the lack of regulation around the activities involved in the process. From manufacturers to consumers and recycling companies, no one seems to agree on the rules to follow, which makes the coordination between those key stakeholders very difficult. This lack of proper regulation can also lead to a lot of misconduct and abuse as shown in this recent Guardian article.

The best example of that is plastic: there are so many types of plastic and they all require different recycling processes – when they are actually recyclable. According to the BBC, in the UK “each council collects their plastic recycling differently […] there are 39 different sets of rules for what can be put in plastic recycling collections”.

The other issue with plastic is that most of the products we send to recycling actually get downcycled as opposed to recycled. ‘Downcycling’ means that materials are broken down into unrecyclable lesser products which will end up in the landfill after their second or third life.

In order to make it a little easier for recycling companies to do their job properly and waste as little material as possible, it is important to know what, as consumers, we should send to recycling. Merton council has issued very clear guidelines about what goes into our bins and if we make an effort to follow these rules it makes a huge difference.

A good trick here is to display the guidelines in your house, near your recycling receptacle for future reference.


Since we started talking about plastic… Another thing to take into consideration is that not all plastics are equal! You might have noticed that plastic products are labelled with a number (usually at the bottom of the item) which identifies the type of plastic used to make the product.

Different plastic types.
These symbols DO NOT mean the products have been recycled.

Only the most common types of plastic are numbered – there are many more plastics than numbers and new types of plastic are being manufactured all the time.

For recycling purposes, it is essential to know which plastic is which. The table below gives a summary of the most common types of plastic and gives indications about which are currently collected with your home recycling in MERTON:

If you live in a different council, you can check what can be recycled in your area on the recyclenow website.


Did you know that some supermarkets collect old batteries and carrier bags? And that Costa collect and recycle used paper cups?

There are many companies and charities in our borough that are taking initiatives to ensure that more items are being recycled rather than dumped in the landfill here are some of them:

1. Plastic bags

If you are trying to make a transition toward Zero Waste, one of the first items you will have acquired is a lifetime shopping bag (cotton totes bags, jute bags etc.) but what about those old carrier bags still sitting in the kitchen cupboard? And the one you were given the other day when you had forgotten to bring your re-usable one (yes, it can happen)?

Do not put them with the rubbish, some supermarkets collect old carrier bags. In Wimbledon for example, Morrisons on the Broadway has a container for this purpose near the back entrance. They accept all carrier bags, bread bags, produce bags and even magazine wraps.

Sainsburys on Merton High Street also collect plastic carrier bags in a big bin near the checkout.

2. Old batteries

Batteries can’t be recycled with the rest of our household recycling but there are many places that will accept them and take care of them for you:

  • almost all supermarkets (Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco, CO-OP) will have an old batteries container near the entrance or exit door,

  • WHSmith and Rymans also collects them,

  • Currys, Screwfix and Wickes have receptacles for batteries in all their branches as well as

  • Debenhams in Center Court and a few more places.

The choice is yours!

3. Takeaway cups

Did you know that as a nation, we consume 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups each year?

2 point 5 BILLION!

As much as we would love to see everyone use their own reusable cup, we are not there yet. In the meantime, we recently spotted this sign outside Costa in South Wimbledon:

The chain has a scheme in place whereby they collect used cups in-store and recycle them.

4. Coat hangers

If you have more coat hangers than your wardrobe can take at the moment, here are a few options to get rid of them in the nicest way:

  • Any charity shop will welcome a bag full of old coat hangers any day, even if they are not matching!

  • Otherwise, Sainsburys on Merton High street also collect them for recycling. You will find a big container for this purpose at the checkout.

5. Items of clothing

A great way to recycle those clothes that we are tired of or do not fancy wearing anymore is to give them to someone else. There are numerous lovely charity shops in Merton that are always grateful for donations. Give your things a second life and make someone happy!

Items that are not suitable to be passed onto someone else can be recycled and made into new items. There are a few recycling banks in Merton, including on the Broadway Car Park, the Co-operative Car Park on Kingston Road and on Wyke Road (Raynes Park Bridge) where you can recycle clothes or textiles such as curtains, duvet covers and blankets or even shoes.

6. Other

We will try to update this page as we explore the borough and find new interesting recycling schemes. Please let us know in the comments if you have spotted something we missed!

Remember that Zero Waste is achieved by cutting down consumption and by making intelligent choices. Recycling should not be our first choice but if we have to do it, let’s do it right.


Merton Recycling Portal

Recycle Now What to do with…

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