The surprising things you should never, ever recycle… 30



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How do you decide whether to recycle or simply bin your rubbish? Do you look for instructions on the label? Or do you use simple common sense?

Either way, you may have been misled. When it comes to recycling, both product labels and “common knowledge” can be wrong.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, many of us will try to do the right thing with bottle caps, paper towels and Pringles tins – despite none of them actually being recyclable.

And although seven Australians out of ten look for recycling information on the packet, even this can be outright wrong. Many imported products will have recycling instructions that are only relevant in the UK or Europe.

Some companies will include an environmentally “green dot” simply to show they contribute to the recycling program – not that the product itself is recyclable.

Now Planet Ark hopes to set things right, with a new labelling system that’s not only locally accurate, but evidence-based.

“Currently manufacturers of packaging and products can put any label they like on it, to say it’s recyclable,” said Planet Ark’s Brad Gray.

“But it’s not backed by any evidence, so they could be telling people to recycle stuff that isn’t actually recyclable”.

For those unsure over what to avoid recycling, Fairfax has shared the following list of tips:

Things you should never recycle

  • Biscuit packets – These can be too thin and soft to recycle, and can even damage the recycling equipment.
  • Paper towels and tissues : contrary to popular assumption, these are too light to be processed.
  • Pringles tins – There are simply too many materials combined here for them to be separated and recycled.

Things you can recycle – but only in the right way

  • Beer bottle tops – While these are too small to be recycled, you can collect them and place them inside a sealed tin can.
  • Aerosol cans – Only if your council permits it. (The majority do.)
  • Aluminium foiled – Once again, it depends on quantity. If you have enough collected together to make up the size of a cricket ball, it may be able to be recycled.
  • Plastic bags – Avoid throwing a plastic bag of recycled goods into the bin – make sure they go in loose.
  • Polystyrene – Once again, this depends entirely on your local council regulations.
  • Tea bags – only if they’re marked as recyclable.
  • Plastic water bottles – Only if the plastic seal and lid are removed.
  • Pizza boxes – only if all food scraps are removed and it isn’t too oily.

The new labels will make it clear which parts of an item can be recycled and which cannot: yes to the bottle, no to the cap; yes to the cereal box; no to the plastic inside.

As this new system is voluntary, it may take a while before it becomes widespread. Officeworks and Blackmores, however, have both eagerly stepped up to use them.

“We need to convince companies there are benefits from them,” said Mr. Grey.

“There are also a couple of considerations, like ensuring the label is clear on small packets. It takes a long time for a product line to change its packaging,” he said.

“If companies want to encourage their customers to do the right thing, they will use the label.”

Do you feel like you recycle well? Or is it simply a case of guesswork?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. After over 20 years of recycling I think I have it right.

    1 REPLY
    • No you haven’t 🙂 Sorry but different councils have different requirements/capabilities and also these change over time as new equipment is introduced. So however hard we try we’ll probably never be 100% correct.

  2. Accurate labelling on packages, relevant to local council regulations, would be VERY welcome. My daughter and I try to do the right thing, but find ourselves disagreeing about what should go where.

  3. Well if it’s sold in Australia it should be marked appropriately. Trouble is there’s so much from overseas we don’t know what is safe to recycle. Get with it.

  4. Well… I thought I was doing ok but now I have to have a rethink. It doesn’t matter how hard we try these days we can’t please everyone.. Hi hum, such is life..

  5. Our council issues a booklet each new year to each household telling you what to place in bin so no mistakes here…

  6. Are we supposed to wash soiled tin cans and sauce bottles. Some say no there’s no need others yes as the rubbish bins become dirty and smell and when on water restrictions I worried about wasting water. Life’s tough in the recycling world. Lol

    8 REPLY
    • Our council tells us to clean bottles and cans. Our council are very good with instructions. Rocky was one of the first councils in Queensland to recycle. In the beginning the prisoners from Etna Creek used to collect the recycling. It is a much more sophisticated operation now.

    • In Melbourne we were on tough water restrictions Lee for 6 or 7 years nothing much got washed let alone cans.

    • It’s not about being lazy Owen, I heard some councils say no need to wash because when melting down the recycled objects the impurities are skimmed off, I believed it was an interesting proposition.

  7. Take the lead from your local council. Most soft plastics e.g. plastic shopping bags if you still use them, bread bags etc can be recycled at Coles supermarkets. Unfortunately one of the biggest problems are plastic straws for kerbside recycling. Take a walk along the high tide line on one of our beaches and check out how many you find. Say no to single use plastic and Take 3 for the sea.

  8. I’m wondering what to do with those coloured shopping bags , supermarket, liquor land, etc seem to have ‘oodles’ of them! I already use most of them for shopping but those tiny ones where 4 bottles fit ? Any ideas.

  9. I recycle most things,, the councils want you to recycle what we suppose to do ,,, i wish they would make up there minds on what we should do ,,,,,

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