5 most common recycling mistakes
Author: Rachael Ridley
This year for National Recycling Week, the team at Planet Ark are busting Australia’s biggest recycling myths! Because let’s face it, recycling can sometimes be confusing. Whilst 71% of Australians are confident they know how to recycle right at home, research shows that 94% are incorrectly recycling at least one item.2
We quizzed Australians to see what the biggest blunders are that Aussies make when it comes to recycling. Are you making any of these mistakes?
1. Putting your recycling inside a plastic bag
32% of us incorrectly believe plastic bags can be recycled at home and some of us (36%) are using them to bundle up our recyclables1. Firstly, plastic bags and soft plastics (the kind that can be scrunched into a ball) cannot be recycled through kerbside recycling3. You can recycle plastic bags and soft plastics at REDcycle drop-off points at all Woolworths and Coles stores. Secondly, if recyclables are inside a bag (even if it’s paper), all items will be sent to landfill. Remember: put it in loose so it can be of use.
2. Throwing away beverage cartons
20% of Aussies don’t know if their long-life beverage cartons are accepted in their council recycling bin1. The reality is 97% of Australians live in areas where non-foiled lined beverage cartons are accepted in their kerbside recycling and 76% live in areas where foil-lined long-life cartons are accepted4. Find out if your council accepts beverage cartons.
3. Putting old/broken drinking glasses in the recycling bin
Aussies are great recyclers when it comes to glass bottles and jars, and maybe that’s why more than half us believe other types of glass can be recycled1. Unfortunately, drinking glasses, plate glass (window panes) and oven-proof glass cannot be recycled because the glass has been toughened and requires a higher temperature to melt than normal glass bottles and jars5.
4. Putting single-use cutlery in the recycling bin
Almost 50% of Australians incorrectly think they can recycle their single-use cutlery, including plastic, wood and bamboo cutlery and chopsticks1. It actually doesn’t matter which material the cutlery is made from; no type of single-use cutlery can be recycled via kerbside recycling. Unfortunately, you have to put them in the bin, or better yet, avoid them completely! Next time you order take away, ask your server to leave the cutlery out. You could also keep a spare set at work or BYO in your bag.
5. Thinking ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ plastic items can be put in the recycling bin
63% of Aussies incorrectly think biodegradable and compostable plastic items can be put in the recycling bin. A further 12% are unsure, meaning only 25% of us are getting it right1. Biodegradable and compostable plastics are not suitable for recycling in council recycling systems as they contaminate the plastics recycling process.
Find out about other recycling mythbusters this National Recycling Week.
1 Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019
2 2019 Don’t Waste Your Waste report.
3 A small number of councils have special recycling systems for soft plastics.
4 Planet Ark’s RecyclingNearYou data 2019.
5 Some exceptions apply, check locally if in WA
Rachael joined Planet Ark in 2019 after eight years working in media and publishing as a producer, editor and writer. Rachael is excited to use her skills in content creation and communication to instigate positive environmental behaviour change.
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