Simplifying Recycling Rules


Australian’s are increasingly likely to use kerb side recycling services, with ABS statistics suggesting that in 2009 91% of households recycled, up from 87% in 2006. Nonetheless, despite our best intentions and growing awareness regarding the importance of recycling, which allows us to reduce pollution and waste sent to landfill as well as conserve resources and energy, confusion also still persists regarding what items can be recycled. This is often influenced by the fact that recycling rules can vary, not just at a workplace and household level, but also between contracted commercial operators and local councils. While it is best to check with your local council regarding what can be recycled in your area (with flyers and information often posted or distributed in the post and online), there are generally a number of rules that you can follow.

CAN be Recycled:

In most kerbside collections, paper, cardboard, glass jars and bottles, aerosols, cartons and rigid plastics are usually accepted by most councils. The recycling of these items should go into the recycling bin as loose items, never in a plastic bag as these can jam up the machines. They should also be reasonably clean by emptying or scraping any contents and removing lids and tags, which can contaminate the recycling process and are often to small to be picked up by the machines.

Expanding on the point of plastics, as a rule of thumb, those items that are rigid and hard (aka cannot be scrupled up in your hand), can usually be recycled. For example, punnet's, takeaway containers and plastic milk, juice, soft drink and water bottles.

CANNOT be Recycled:

Soft plastics such as cling wrap, plastic food packaging and plastic bags generally cannot be recycled by kerb side recycling services. Instead, these are usually sent to landfill, highlighting why minimal use of these items should be encouraged. Alternatively, if you want to be a conscious consumer, you can collect your soft plastics and recycle them through the REDcycle program. REDcycle have collection bins at major supermarkets and you can find you nearest drop off point here. Once collected and initially processed, the soft plastics are then transferred to Australian manufacturer Replas where they are moulded into products including exercise equipment, benches and chairs, drinking fountains, fences and decking supplies for the construction of footpaths and bridges.

Other common items that often cannot be recycled include takeaway coffee cups, polystyrene (for example meat trays), clothes, nappies, medical waste such as syringes, electronic items like phones, crockery and drinking glasses (which are often made up of a different, tougher form of glass that require higher temperatures to be melted down), batteries and light bulbs. Again, it is best to check with your council or follow the message promoted by Planet Ark, which is, ‘if in doubt leave it out’. Planet Ark also has developed a useful function to search recycling services both according to local area or product, found here.