10 Things You Didn’t Know About Recycling

Recycling is one of the best ways for us Aussies to clean up our country, reduce our carbon footprint and help the environment. Here are 10 tips to make sure you’re recycling the right way.

The rules for recycling vary depending on your state and local municipal council. But we unearthed 10 tips that are relevant no matter where you live in Australia. Here’s our advice on how to recycle right every single time.

1 - Take off bottle tops

Bottles and jars are recyclable, but what about the tops? Unless your local council says otherwise, remove and discard all plastic bottle tops as they can cause issues with the recycling process. Steel (twist) top lids from beer and wine bottles are recyclable but they’re too small to go into the recycling bin by themselves. You’ll need to remove them and place them inside an empty steel can, building up a collection until the can is half full. Before placing the can in the bin, pinch it closed so the bottle tops can’t fall out.

Recycling plastic bottle tops

2 - Save your electronics

Mobile phones, laptop computers, TVs, ink cartridges – our technology footprint really is getting bigger everyday. Don’t throw electronics in your regular recycling bin as there are special rules for disposing of this type of electronic waste. Ask your local council for more information or get in touch with a free e-waste service or charity that will use the parts to build resources for developing communities. You can even recycle things like mobile phones and printer cartridges through Australia Post. Find a complete list of services close by at Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website.

Recycling electronic mobile devices

3 - Don’t dump batteries

Batteries contain hazardous chemicals. We need to dispose of them responsibly so they don’t end up in landfill where harmful substances can leak into the earth. Participate in a dedicated battery collection program so that the toxic parts can be safely disposed of and the reusable elements can be recycled. Visit the Australian Battery Recycling Initiative to find out more.

Recycling batteries

4- Collect plastic bags

Plastic bags and other flexible plastic packaging are number one offenders when it comes to pollution in our oceans and causing harm to beautiful sea life. They’re not usually included in your council’s curbside recycling program, but you can recycle these by using a free additional service, like REDcycle. This Australia-wide supermarket-based recycling program will help you dispose of your flexible plastic, like squeeze pouches, wrappers, sachets, bubble wrap and more, responsibly.

Recycling plastic bags

5 - Clean your containers

If a recyclable material is contaminated with food it can ruin your good recycling efforts. It doesn’t need to be spotless, though, so just give everything a good rinse before putting it into the recycling bin. And your old pizza boxes? They’re so hard to clean properly that many council programs don’t accept pizza boxes at all. Check before placing them in the bin, and make sure you clean out any food scraps. Here’s a handy guide from Planet Ark.

Recycling containers

6 - How about chemicals and aerosol cans?

If your aerosol can is empty, it’s recyclable so pop it into your council bin, but if it’s full it’s regarded as a household chemical, and there are special rules for these! Most states and territories have drop-off centres and individual disposal days for household chemicals such as paint, bleach, unfinished aerosols and more. Here’s a list of free services, or call your local council to see what’s on offer for you.

Recycling aerosol cans

7 - Scrunch aluminium foil

In Australia, we’re great at recycling our aluminium cans – over two billion are recycled every year, but did you know you can also recycle your aluminium foil and wrapping paper? First, it’s important to make sure it’s clean of food residue so it doesn’t contaminate the rest of your recycling. Then just scrunch it up into a fist-sized ball so the magnetic sorting mechanisms at the recycling plant can detect it easily and throw it in the right bin.

Recycling aluminium

8 -  Contribute to your council’s compost

Composting, mulching and worm farming are the best ways for households to dispose of organic waste, but if you can’t do this yourself you can still dispose of your organic waste responsibly. If you have a green-lidded bin service, ask you local council if you can add fruit and vegetable scraps to this, otherwise there are other green waste services available. These are all area specific, so contact your local council to find out more or visit Love Food Hate Waste.

Compost for community gardens

9 - Keep coffee pods

Australians use around 3 million single-serve coffee pods a day and most of them end up in landfill. But did you know these items are recyclable? Like bottle tops, they’re too small for regular recycling plants to process, but there are recycling programs for brands like Nespresso and NESCAFÉ that are dedicated to ensuring these items don’t hurt the environment. You can even recycle coffee pods through Australia Post!

Recycling coffee capsules

10 - Recycle beauty products

You can recycle almost anything, and this includes toiletries, oral care products like toothbrushes and toothpaste, and even beauty products and make-up. Again, these items shouldn’t be included in your regular kerbside recycling bin, but organisations like TerraCycle provide access to a great range of free programs for these products all over Australia.

Recycling beauty products

If you’re not sure about whether or not you should be recycling a certain item, call your local council and ask or check out their website. Still not sure? You can recycle everything from corks to mattresses to clothes if you find the right place. Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You is the go-to database for Aussies looking to recycle responsibly. Check it out or download the app.