Even if you consider yourself a pretty good recycler, there might still be some questions you’ve been meaning to ask. Do you know the difference between soft and rigid plastic and which of the two is recyclable? Or, what to do with rubbish made from ‘composite’ materials, like most coffee cups? It’s important we all get the details right, because a certain level of non-recyclables can contaminate the entire recycling bin. In other words, if enough plastic bags or wrappers are spotted in a yellow bin, the whole lot can end up in landfill. If you live in the City of Sydney council area, follow our simple guide to what should and shouldn’t go in your yellow bin. If you’re from outside the area, best to check with your local council instead.
Eliminate common contamination culprits aka plastic bags
Plastic bags often find themselves in the recycling bin and are a major cause of strife at the recycling plant.
What to do:
- Good – put them in your red bin
- Better – recycle them at the supermarket
- Best – say no to plastic bags altogether: use a box or green bag to hold your groceries and recyclables
Don’t be soft on ‘scrunchable’ plastic
Soft plastics are usually wrappers (bread bags, pasta packets, biscuit trays) and rigid plastics are often containers (water bottles, ice cream containers, fruit punnets, shampoo bottles). The difference? Soft plastics are not recyclable and should never go in the yellow bin. Use the scrunch test if you’re unsure – if you can easily scrunch it, it’s probably not recyclable.
What to do:
- Good – put soft plastics in your red bin, not the yellow bin
- Better – recycle your soft plastics into outdoor furniture through REDCycle bins at the supermarket
- Best – avoid buying products packaged in plastic wrapping. Shop at local markets or choose packaging that can easily be recycled
An unhealthy union
‘Combined’ items, like a local paper or magazine that’s wrapped in plastic, isn’t recyclable. Neither are ‘composite’ items. These include packaging that is mostly cardboard but contains another material – say, plastic or aluminium. Unfortunately composite items cannot be processed at the recycling plant.
What to do:
- Good – put composite items in the red bin at home
- Better – separate recyclable materials like cardboard and paper from contaminants and put them in the right place: for example, paper goes into the yellow bin, plastic wrapping goes to the supermarket for recycling
- Best – avoid combined items like plastic-wrapped publications – choose not to buy or take yourself off distribution lists
Want more info? Have all of your recycling questions answered by the Garbage Guru.