Commercial dry mixed recycling

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Dry mixed recycling for business

⚠️ Starting April 6, 2024, Welsh waste regulations will require Welsh businesses to adopt multi-stream recycling, making Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) insufficient for compliance.

When it comes to commercial waste collection, dry mixed recycling is the most basic (and established) form of recycling in the UK, where all clean, dry recyclables are mixed and disposed of together in a single container. Its main advantage is simplicity and convenience. Mixing paper, cardboard, cartons, plastics, glass, and metal greatly simplifies the process for businesses.



What is Dried Mixed Recycling (DMR)?

Dry mixed recycling (DMR) is the established system of recycling collection across the UK. It involves separating a range of dry mixed recyclables from general waste and mixing them together in a single container.

This recyclable waste is collected by your designated commercial waste disposal provider and taken to a facility for separation. The materials are eventually recycled and used to manufacture new products.

Unlike multi-stream recycling (i.e., each recyclable is segregated into a different bin), DMR simplifies recycling for businesses by passing the responsibility of segregation on to material recovery facilities (MRFs).

💡 DMR is also known as single-stream, single-sort or co-mingled recycling.

Source: 1Imperial College – Dried Mixed Recycling

What recyclable materials can go in DMR bins?

There is currently no standardised UK guidelines as to what materials can be accepted in Dried Mixed Recycling (DMR) at a national level.

Some local councils may only accept paper and glass but not any metals, while others will accept all types of dry recyclables, including plastics and metals.

However, only non-hazardous dry recyclables like paper derivatives, hard plastics, metals and glass can be accepted. See the recyclable categories below that include typical items that can (✅) and cannot (❌) be considered in DMR bins.

💡 Broken glass is never accepted in mixed recycling due to its hazardous sharpness, while tissues and paper towels often have non-recyclable additives and other materials that cannot be separated.

Source: 1Oxford University – A to Z of recycling, 2Imperial College – Dried Mixed Recycling

<h3>Paper, Cardboard and Carton</h3>

Paper, Cardboard and Carton

✅ Newspapers, magazines (shredded), junk mail, office paper, envelopes, cardboard, cereal boxes and tetra pak cartons (flattened, clean and without lid).

❌ Tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, waxed paper cups, napkins, wood, leaves.

<h3>Hard Plastics (PET, HDPE, PVC, PP)</h3>

Hard Plastics (PET, HDPE, PVC, PP)

✅ Plastic bottles, containers, yoghurt pots, tubs, and trays (rinsed and dry).

❌ Soft plastics (cling film, packaging, tape, wrappers, plastic bags), foam cups, plastic cutlery, cups, Polystyrene (foam cups, foam packing), and plastic bottle lids.

<h3>Mixed Glass</h3>

Mixed Glass

✅ Glass bottles and jars (rinsed and dry).

❌ Ceramics, Pyrex, light bulbs, broken glass, lab glass, window glass.



✅ Cans, tins, empty aerosol cans, aluminium foil, and aluminium curry containers (please rinse first).

❌ Electrical and electronic waste, batteries, syringes.

When does your business need to do Dried Mixed Recycling?

All UK businesses of all sectors have a duty of care to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste (in that order) as much as possible and will face fines if found non-compliant by regulators.

Dried Mixed Recycling (DMR) is widely supported and recommended by local councils across the UK despite being the most basic form of recycling.

If this is the case in your business’s local authority, then your business is complying with its duty of care of recycling materials as best as is available by undertaking DMR.

However, if your local council supports and recommends multi-stream recycling (i.e. each recyclable is segregated into a different bin), then your business must do this instead to comply.

💡 While Dried Mixed Recycling (DMR) will soon become insufficient for all Welsh businesses, those in England are likely to continue doing so for many years, as DMR remains central to English regulations3. Refer to our full article on devolved waste regulations.

Source: 1UK Gov guidelines – Commercial waste disposal, 2sorting & storing waste, 3Press Release (Oct 2023) – Simpler Recycling in England

Dried Mixed Recycling Workflow for businesses

If your business has been recommended Dried Mixed Recycling by your local council, then you may follow the workflow below to make sure you comply:

1. Set up appropriate bins: Obtain designated DMR bins or containers for your workplace. These bins are for collecting recyclable materials like paper, cardboard, plastics, and metals. See our DMR bins section for more details.

2. Employee Training: Provide your staff with basic DMR training as per your local council guidelines. Clear signage and regular communication can help ensure compliance and reduce contamination. See our list of do’s and don’ts for DMR if you’re looking for resources.

3. Regular Collection: Arrange for regular collection of your DMR waste with a licensed waste management company. They will collect and transport your recyclables to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) for sorting and recycling. Fill in your postcode here, and we’ll get you quotes.

4. Monitor and Review: Regularly review your recycling processes to identify any areas for improvement, such as reducing contamination or increasing recycling rates, to ensure your business remains compliant and keeps up-to-date with the rapidly changing local guidelines and regulations. See our article on regulation for more details.

5. Compliance and Documentation: Keep records of your waste management practices, including contracts with waste carriers and any Waste Transfer Notes (you will typically be expected to keep them for at least two years).

Source: 1UK Gov guidelines – Commercial waste disposal, 2sorting & storing waste

What are the advantages of Dried Mixed Recycling?

Being the most basic form of recycling doesn’t mean it can’t find niches where it’s likely superior. Here are a few reasons why England continues to support Dried Mixed Recycling as its principal means of recycling:

Simplicity: The system’s straightforwardness helps reach high recycling rates in places like schools, museums, and large workplaces where recycling education still remains too basic to implement more material segregation successfully.

Transition: It’s often been a stepping stone to more stringent recycling measures. Wales is an example of this, having successfully transitioned from single to multi-stream recycling in residential properties while education campaigns took their effect.

Cost Reduction: Businesses in the UK must pay landfill tax disposal charges proportional to the weight of general waste disposed. Businesses that put serious effort into Dried Mixed Recycling can reduce these costs significantly.

Indirect Benefits: Having high recycling rates at your business is great PR and may help with staff morale, retention, and recruiting, especially for young people.

Compliance: If DMR is recommended by your local council, your business will have the simplest form of recycling available to reach compliance. This is more likely in England and Northern Ireland, which have lower rates of multi-stream recycling availability than Wales and Scotland.

What are the disadvantages of Dried Mixed Recycling?

Low Efficiency: Dried Mixed Recycling is less efficient than multi-stream recycling as it requires an extra laborious stage of sorting before reaching the same output, putting extra strain on local material handling facilities (MRFs).

Confusion: Currently, local councils can accept a slightly different assortment of dry recyclable materials in their DMR commercial waste bins. This lack of standardisation leads to consumer confusion and higher non-compliance rates amongst businesses, which is why England is aiming to standardise this by 2025.

Higher costs: While it can lead to higher recycling rates in some circumstances, Dried Mixed Recycling is inherently more expensive than multi-stream recycling due to its lower efficiency.

Sources: 1UK Gov – Press Release (Oct 2023) – Simpler Recycling in England 2DEFRA – Consultation Outcome – Government Response (Nov 2023) 3Welsh Gov – Towards Zero Waste (June 2010)

Dried Mixed Recycling Bins

If your business chooses DMR as its recycling strategy, all dry, rinsed recyclables collected within your premises should be disposed of and collected separately in specialised DMR bins.

Here’s some notes on sizing and colour:


The size of your Dried Mixed Recycling bin depends on your business’s expected DMR volume and waste collection frequency.

Get a quote from your waste disposal provider that includes separate DMR bins to place within your business and those that are used for final collection.

💡 Typical DMR bin sizes vary for internal and collection bins. Internal bins are typically 60 or 70 litres, while collection bins come in 120, 240, 360, 660 and 1,100 litres. See our commercial bins guide for more information.


The colour of Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR) bins can vary as there isn’t a standardised colour scheme that is uniformly used across all regions or countries within the UK.

From experience, though, lime green bins are the most common colour for DMR bins that are placed in public spaces and offices, while orange bins are most commonly used for collection.

💡 For this reason, labelling and signage of bins are crucial, and businesses should try as best as possible to label “Dried Mixed Recycling” on any DMR bins.


Dry Mixed Recycling – FAQs

Our waste experts answer your commonly answered questions regarding dry mixed recycling below:

What happens to your business’s dry mixed recycling?

Once your waste disposal provider collects your dried mixed recycling is transported to a materials recovery facility (MRF) where it is:

  1. Sorted: Here, the mixed recyclables are sorted into different streams involving a combination of manual sorting and automated processes like conveyor belts, magnets for metal, air blowers for paper, etc.
  2. Decontaminated: Food residue and non-recyclable materials are removed as best as possible.
  3. Baling and Shipping: The separated and cleaned recyclables are compacted, baled and shipped to a recyclable plant in the UK or abroad.
  4. Recycled: At recycling centres, the materials undergo further processing and are recycled into new raw materials: paper sheets, metal sheets, glass bottles and jars, and plastic sheets.
  5. New Products: The recycled raw materials are then used by manufacturers to make new products, ending the circular economy cycle.

Which industries commonly use Dry Mixed Recycling?

Dried Mixed Recycling is more common in all industries and sectors because staff and visitors always generate a mix of recyclables.

This includes office spaces, retail, schools, universities, hotels, entertainment venues, public sector buildings, just to name a few.

On the other hand, industries with a significant proportion of a single recyclable material will likely have a specialised deal with a waste provider and processing facility as it is likely more profitable to do so.

For example, if a large corporate office generates huge amounts of paper waste, but their local authority only supports dried mixed recycling, they are complying with their duty of care by mixing the paper with other recyclables (assuming the use of paper is necessary).

However, it may be more profitable for them to make a specific deal with a paper-only collection service and recycling facility that may be willing to pay for it if the quality and quantity is favourable.

Source: (1) UK Gov guidelines – Commercial waste disposal, (2) sorting & storing waste

Are special bins required for dry mixed recycling?

Yes, separate bins are required for dry mixed recycling to ensure it remains segregated from other waste streams like general waste, WEEE and hazardous waste.

However, there isn’t a standardised colour, shape, label or size. See our DMR bins section for more details.