Home Household items 10 Common Home Recycling Mistakes to Avoid

10 Common Home Recycling Mistakes to Avoid


Australians have all the good intentions when it comes to recycling, but sometimes they just don’t pay off. In fact, 86% of our packaging is designed to be reused, but only 55% of it makes it to recycling.

In an effort to do our part, we’ve compiled a list of common household recycling mistakes so you can be part of the solution at the curb.

1. Not looking closely enough at the label

Many of us have a habit of throwing our packaging in the trash without a second thought, but it can pay to take a closer look at the product for a recycling label.

New types of labels, such as The Australasian Recycling Labellets you know whether different parts of a package, such as the lid, tray or wrapper, should be recycled or not.

2. Not cleaning food and other debris

Too much food, liquid or grease can contaminate recyclables and prevent them from being transformed into higher quality materials. Planet Ark recommends rinsing items promptly if there are any leftovers.

The Australasian Recycling Label makes it easier to know what you can recycle and what you can’t.

3. Wrongly recycling soft plastics

Soft plastics, such as pasta bags and plastic wrap, can get tangled up in machines and cause havoc if bundled with household recycling.

REDcycle bins found in most major supermarkets can hold many of these items – just check what is accepted first. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to throw them in the general waste.

4. Put recyclables in a plastic bag

Collecting all of your household waste in a plastic bag will cause the same problem as in point 3. According to Planet Ark, any recyclables left inside a plastic bag will likely end up in the landfill.

5. Putting the wrong glass in the wrong bin

Broken glassware can cause major problems in the recycling process because it does not melt at the same temperature as bottles and jars. It’s best to wrap any broken glass or crockery in a rag or several layers of newspaper and put it in your trash, not the recycling.

6. Recycle plastic cutlery

Plastic tableware is often too flat or too light to be recovered as plastic by recycling machines and can therefore end up in the paper section. Some councils can recycle plastic plates, but it’s best to check first.

The thin plastic lining of takeaway coffee cups will also disrupt paper recycling, so make sure they go in general waste or, better yet, a dedicated recycling bin for takeaway cups.

person sweeping up broken glass in a dustpan

Never put broken glass in the recycling bin: it can cause problems in the recycling process.

7. Not being creative with aluminum

You can recycle foil and clean trays in most parts of Australia, but check with your council if in doubt.

Make sure they end up in the correct section of your local recycling center by crumpling them up into a ball or other solid shape – if you leave them flat they could contaminate other recyclers.

8. Recycle biodegradable or compostable plastics

Keep plastic products marketed as biodegradable or compostable out of your recycling bin, as they can disrupt general plastics reuse efforts.

Additionally, these materials may not decompose sufficiently when placed in household organic bins. So unless the label says the product is Home Compostable Certified, it’s often best to put these items in the general waste.

9. Discard reusable products

If your old or unwanted clothes are in good condition, donate them to op stores. If not, use them as rags for cleaning etc.

You can also make a difference by keeping reusable water bottles, coffee mugs and food wraps on hand to protect your wallet and the planet from disposable items.

10. Do not buy reused goods

The recycling industry is like any other – driven by supply and demand. So if you make an effort to look for items made from recycled plastics or other materials, you’ll be supporting recyclers and ensuring that reusable materials are worth more off the ground than in it.