Are you making these common recycling mistakes? Here are 9 things that are often recycled wrongly, adding costs to processing and contaminating systems designed to minimise landfill.
Australian's are excellent recyclers, however we still get a little confused over which bin and which items should be recycled, and with rules varying between states and even suburbs, it's no wonder!
Check out the following list and see if you're getting it right.
1. Paper Plates
Once used, paper plates become contaminated with food, which in turn contaminates the recycling process and should NOT go into your recycling bin. Don't be too quick to throw them into landfill though, as many councils around Australia accept them in green organics bins and compost them commercially. Items like pizza boxes, paper towels and tissues belong in this category too! If you can, avoiding single-use items is even better than recycling and composting, so crack out the best (or worst) dinner sets you own and start using these instead.
2. CDs & DVDs
People are always asking me what to do with CDs and DVDs and, to put it simply, they CANNOT go in your recycle bin. If they are still functional, consider giving them to family or friends, donating to your local op-shop, or even make bird deterrents for the garden.
You CAN however recycle your old movies and music CD's through most e-waste programs that specialise in electronic items of all kinds including old video cassettes, computers, cords and more.
3. Broken Glassware & Crockery
It wasn't until a few years ago that I discovered broken glasses, dishes and mugs could NOT go in the general recycling and in fact should be placed in landfill. This can be disappointing if you're aiming for zero waste so you might need to get creative. See if local artists could use your broken wares, or even try a little mosaic project to let your favourite coffee mug live on eternally. Smashed crockery can actually be useful as false drainage for pot plants, just place at the bottom of the pot and cover with soil before adding your plants.
4. Bubble Wrap
Just a big NO. Soft plastics suck, especially for the sorters at recycling places. This should never ever go into your bin, BUT can be reused, donated or dropped of at your local Redcycle Bin and made into street benches and other useful items. Did you know, shredded paper is effective for protecting delicate items? If possible, opt for recyclable packaging materials and check store policies before ordering online.
5. Coffee Cups
Disposable coffee cups are one of the most common items placed
into recycle bins (Confession: I used to do this!). 99% of them CANNOT be recycled and must head to landfill, although the plastic lids can be.
Try drinking a coffee in store, taking a keep cup, or for the budget conscious take your mug or jam jar to avoid them all together.
6. Straws, Bottle tops and Bread Tags
A small portion of the world hates straws right now, but I know there are lots of people still using them and quite happily recycling them WRONGLY. Any small plastics count as contamination in the recycling process and this includes, straws, bottle tops, bread tags and other tiny things that add up to quite a lot of plastic. These CAN be recycled BUT must be put into larger plastic containers. Try keeping an empty milk jug or takeaway container on your bench to collect these little gremlins and once full, replace the lid and pop into your recycle bin.
7. Baking Paper
This is an interesting one, and many people believe it is recyclable, but they would be WRONG! It is in fact coated with wax and cannot go into recycling or green organics bin. If you must use it, make sure it goes to landfill. I double dare you to try zero waste baking and see if you can do with out it.
8. Foil Lined Packaging
Sigh, some of my favourite products come in foil lined bags and NOPE these cannot be recycled at all, as the packaging is a combination of plastics and foil.
This includes blocks of butter, nuts, snacks, coffee beans and many other items. Opt for better packaging if you can, or head to a bulk store to purchase naked.
9. Disposable Cutlery
They sound great, made from 70% recyclable plastic and the rest natural plant materials. I felt greener just looking at them until I discovered they are totally NOT recyclable. Plant Based cutlery can be composted, plastic cutlery can be recycled in most places, but not this devil in sheep's clothing. Fun fact, did you know that good quality disposable cutlery can actually survive many many rounds in a dishwasher?
I hope this makes it simpler to get it right, and avoid these common recycling pitfalls.
Did you know all of these? No doubt a few of you did!!