Recycle & Reuse

Paper flowers
Recycling workshop

The Highland Council recycling rate has reached 45% putting it 11th place in the rankings of the 32 Scottish Local Authorities (based on Scottish Environmental Protection Agency figures released in 2013). But there is still more that can be done to cut waste – a shockingly 27% of bin content in the Highlands is made up of food.

Think before you bin it!  Next time you have a clear out make sure you pass on your unwanted items to a local charity shop, recycling bank or rag bin at the local school. There are a number of simple steps we can all take to reduce, reuse and recycle much of the waste we produce in our homes.

Top tips


  • Choose less packaged goods, try and buy fruit, vegetables and other items loose
  • Buy concentrated products that use less packaging
  • Cut down on batteries by using wind up electronic equipment or rechargeable batteries
  • Try repairing your household items to extend their life and reduce the amount of waste you have to throw away
  • Try to hire rather than buy items you will only use once or twice (for example, DVDs, tools )
  • Cut down on unwanted mail at Stop the Drop
  • Freeze left overs and only buy what you need.


  • Donate unwanted goods to charity
  • Use rechargeable batteries
  • Avoid disposable nappies, visit the Highland Real Nappy Project for more details
  • Try a cotton bag or “bag for life” for your shopping
  • Freecycle may be a great way to reuse some of the things that you have finished with.


  • Make use of your nearest recycling points and centres
  • Many charities will recycle your old mobile phones
  • Charity shops will accept coins, postcards, stamps and other similar items
  • Composting at home is a great way of helping our environment and your garden

Recycling – In Strathglass and Glen Urquhart we have the two wheelie bin alternate weekly collections, blue for recycling,  and green for general waste.  Local Authorities can choose which door step recycling facilities they provide, so across Highland and wider in Scotland, provision will differ.  This can cause some confusion for people so check your local collection times via The Highland Council website.

So what can we put in our blue recycling bins and what can we do with other unwanted items?

Simple blue bin check list:

Yes No
Bottle shaped plastics including the lids Plastic food or polystyrene trays and packaging
Paper, newspapers and magazines Tin foil
Cardboard: boxes, tubes, egg boxes etc Glass – take to a recycling point
Food and drink tins (both steel & aluminium) Plastic bags, bubble wrap or foam
Unwanted mail Tetropacs or similar food/drink packs

Recycling centres and open times

Recycling in the Highlands

Disposal of large household items

Love Your ClothesUK households have an average of £4000 worth of clothes – but 30% of those haven’t been worn in the last year! We can all save money and help the environment by making simple changes to the way we buy, use and get rid of our clothing

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is glass not collected with other kerbside materials?
Glass kerbside collection is costly. If glass colours are mixed up they can only be used as aggregate which is a less valuable resource than recycled glass. Glass that is segregated into different colours at recycling points can be recycled into new glass.

2. If you have a blue bin, but you’re visiting the recycling banks anyway e.g. for glass, is it still better to take paper etc there?
Use your blue bin to recycle card, paper, plastic bottles and cans if you are not visiting other recycling banks. However separated recycling has less chance of becoming contaminated and will essentially be of more value as there is not a an extra sorting process involved. Highland Council encourage people to make use of their recycling centres/points as much as possible and to take any extra materials to them.
The ‘blue bin’ materials are taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in the central belt where they are sorted into the 4 waste streams i.e paper, cans, cardboard, plastic bottles. The separation process is done by machinery and by handpicking some of the recyclate and this is when paper and cardboard will be separated. The 4 materials are then sent of to different re-processors to be recycled.

3. Do collected ‘recycled’ materials really get dumped in landfill sometimes?
The materials collected in the Highlands for recycling are sent to various re-processors to be turned into new materials. Highland Council have received good feedback from all of their re-processors about the quality of the materials they send to them. Depending on the market at the time, the re-processors will find the best value option for recycling the different materials – this might be in the UK or overseas but it will be recycled. The only time a local authority will send materials collected for recycling to landfill is if the material is contaminated with another material which has made it difficult to recycle.

4. What about the inks in glossy paper – is it safe to compost?
Glossy paper will take longer to break down and might release chemicals into your compost. It is probably better to pass magazines on to be reused by doctors surgeries, dentists etc or to family and friends before sending them for recycling.

5. Does it matter what contents have been in the plastic bottles that are being recycled?
Plastic bottles must be clean. This can include shampoo bottles, detergent bottles, drinks bottles etc.

6. Can metal jar lids be recycled?
Metal jar lids can be placed in the blue bin or in  can recycling banks (which may be found at recycling points or centres).

Love Food Hate Waste – In the Highlands 27% of bin content is made up of food,  most of which could have been eaten!  Scottish households throw away 630,000 tonnes of food waste every year. A large amount of this could have been avoided if we effectively planned, stored and managed our food. Avoidable food waste costs Scotland over £1 billion, that’s the equivalent of £470 per household!

Producing, distributing, storing and cooking food uses energy, fuel and water. Each of these emits greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. In fact, in the UK we throw away the equivalent of more than three million slices of cheese a day! Think of what goes into making a pack of cheese. The resources that go into raising the cows, processing the milk, transporting the cheese, refrigeration, the fuel we use to drive to the shop to buy it – all this to put it in the bin at the end of the week. ! For information on storage tips, recipes, great tips and apps on saving food visit love Food Hate Waste.

Making your own compost – Why compost?

• You get FREE compost that can be used as mulch, soil conditioner, lawn conditioner or as part of a seed and potting mix.
• Scotland produces enough organic waste every year to fill Hampden stadium more than 18 times. By composting at home, you can reduce this type of waste going to landfill.
• Reduces the production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is produced when kitchen and garden waste break down in landfill and contributes to global warming.
• Saves the Earth’s natural resources by reducing the need for peat taken from endangered habitats.
• Reduces the amount of waste collected, transported and processed, which is an important carbon saving.

How to compost? It’s EasyAlthough the Scottish Government subsidised compost bin scheme has now come to an end, you can still buy compost bins online, at garden centres or of course, you can make your own. Plastic compost bin prices range from about £25 to £35 from your local garden centres.

Quick Tips:
• Site your compost bin on ground (not slabs) so the worms and other organisms that break down the materials can get into it.
• Have a kitchen caddy/tub to collect fruit and vegetable scraps/peelings, tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds & egg shells that you can then put into your compost bin.
• You can add scrunched up cardboard & paper, the contents of your vacuum cleaner and of course any garden waste such as annual weeds, and grass cuttings (in moderation).
• The compost works best if you have a good balance of soft, moist materials e.g. vegetable peelings mixed with dry harder material such as cardboard.
• Your compost should be ready to use after about 6 months but this time varies depending on the time of year and the contents.

Need composting advice? Your local Zero Waste Volunteer can visit you at home to help sort out problem bins, work out where best to place a new bin or just make sure you are on the right track.

Click here for a selection of You-tube video clips on how to build your own pallet bin, wormery or even tumbler!

Want to compost cooked food? If you are interested in reducing your bin waste by composting cooked food have a look at the green cones site or the information about wormeries on the link above.

Is it better to recycle paper or to compost it?
A compost bin will benefit from introducing paper to the mix – a lot of people will add shredded paper, food contaminated paper etc. to their compost bins. For people with no access to paper recycling facilities or who live a long way from a paper bank then composting will be an ideal way to avoid putting the paper to landfill. It does however depend on the volume of paper, if you have large amounts of paper then it would be more practical to take it to a recycling bank or put it in with the kerbside collection. The quality of the paper collected in the Highlands is high and goes on to be turned into mainly newsprint and other paper products. As the recycled paper is turned back into newsprint then in essence it reduces the reliance on restarting the paper making process from scratch. So the answer depends on personal circumstance and the volume and type of paper. However it is good to compost paper which can’t go into the recycling banks such as damp paper and paper towels.