Re-Gen Waste urges NI to ‘Step Up’ their bathroom recycling during Recycle Week

Did you know...? A toothbrush takes 450 years to degrade and toothpaste tubes take 500 years

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 6:00 am

This week is Recycle Week and the theme for 2021 is ‘Step It Up’.

Whilst the most recent DAERA statistics show that Northern Ireland achieved a 51.9% recycling rate, ahead of its 50% target for 2020, Joseph Doherty, managing director of Re-Gen Waste, Newry, believes we can all do more to increase this rate.

Leading sustainability charity WRAP’s Recycling Tracker Report 2020: Behaviours, attitudes and awareness around recycling, found that just over half (56%) of UK households still dispose of items in the general rubbish that could be collected for recycling from their home.

Joseph Doherty, managing director of Re-Gen Waste

These findings reflect an earlier 2019 survey, carried out by a leading UK bathroom furniture company, that revealed whilst 90% of packaging is recycled in our kitchens, only 50% is being recycled in the bathroom. As a result, our recyclable bathroom waste accounts for 30-40% of total landfill waste in the UK.

Mr Doherty, said: “The bathroom is an area that needs more focus. Currently 40% of UK residents don’t regularly recycle bathroom products and as a result, 30,000 tonnes of recyclable bathroom items end up in landfill every year. Householders will be shocked to learn how long everyday items in the bathroom take to decompose - a toothbrush takes 450 years to degrade, toothpaste tubes take 500 years to breakdown and contact lenses never decompose.

“Labelling should be clearer and consistent across all packaging in bathroom products as householders are confused about what they can and can’t recycle and end up getting it wrong. In fact, one of the most common contaminants of recycling in UK households is toothpaste tubes, the majority of which can’t yet been recycled.”

Campaigners believe householders are less likely to recycle bathroom packaging and products not only because their recycling bin is usually located in their kitchens but also because they perceive their bathroom waste to be unhygienic.

“Psychologically people are put off going through their bathroom bin to take out recyclables because they see waste in the bathroom as being dirty,” added Mr Doherty.

However, helpful advice from Recycle Now suggests getting a segregated or second bin for the bathroom, repurposing a box or basket to collect your recycling or hanging a bag on the back of your bathroom door. If space permits, a cupboard drawer could be used to place the items until you have collected enough to put into your recycling bin. has created a useful ‘Recycling Locator’ to search by postcode or packaging type what can be recycled throughout the home.

As a rule of thumb bathroom recyclables include plastic shampoo, conditioner and shower gel bottles, plastic moisturiser, glass face cream pots and their packaging, toothpaste boxes and toilet roll tubes. Less well known is that perfume and aftershave bottles, bleach and bathroom cleaner bottles, and aerosols for deodorant, air freshener and shaving foam can all be recycled.

“Recycling our bathroom products and packaging can make a really big difference to our environment. It would majorly reduce the amount of waste we are sending to landfill and will automatically reduce the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

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