The vast majority of people in Australia are educated on the importance of recycling, and the countless reasons as to why it’s important to the environment. A large survey, conducted by Planet Ark, has shown that, as a country, we are going at the right direction when it comes to recycling and being mindful of the wasteful materials we use. However, lots of people are still making some common recycling mistakes. What you put in your bins can make the difference from what goes into landfill and what gets recycled.

Having that in mind, these are a few common recycling mistakes that Australians are still making:

In this article:

Wrong disposal of everyday household items

Plastic Bags

The biggest recycling mistake Australians are making is putting plastic bags in the kerbside recycling bings. To this day, they are an issue for recycling plans.

Plastic bags can’t be recycled, they get caught up in the machinery causing downtime and risk for the workers. In fact, even if recyclable materials are placed inside of plastic bags, they will be transported to landfills, as staff at sorting facilities don’t have the time to go through each one of them. An easy solution is simply placing your recyclables in the recycling bin without any bags.

You can take all of your soft plastics to a REDcycle collection point at your local Coles or Woolworths supermarket. Any plastic that can be scrunched into a ball is considered soft plastic. A few examples include plastic shopping bags, bubble wrap. bread bags, fruit and vegetable bags and netting, cereal bags.

Aluminium foil

Is aluminium foil recyclable? A lot of people may not know that alfoil can actually be recycled, therefore, it doesn’t need to be disposed of into the general waste. Aluminium can be recycled almost infinitely. Although, often times, people tend to leave food particles attached to it. Recycling facilities usually won’t accept such items.

Make sure that it is clean before putting it in the recycling bin.


Bear in mind that it needs to be scrunched in a ball, larger than a golf ball, which allows the foil to be sorted correctly.

Takeaway containers and pizza boxes

Not removing leftover food and grease from pizza boxes is another mistake many people are making. But are pizza boxes recyclable? Most of us have been taught that they are. However, if there’s too much grease and residue cheese on them, it makes the recycling process impossible. The greasy cardboard boxes should be torn off and only the clean parts recycled.

The same goes for takeaway containers. They can be recycled, as long as all the food from them has been removed, the containers have been rinsed and dried out.

Wrong disposal of garden waste

Nearly half of the household garbage consists of food and garden waste. Throwing green waste into the garbage bin will result in it going to landfill. Once it’s buried, it can create greenhouse gases while breaking down. One of those gases is methane, which affects air quality and public health. When gardening, make sure to dispose of your garden waste correctly.

Things you shouldn’t put in your garden waste bin:

  • Plastic bags
    Still, plastic bags find their way into these bins, as many people tend to put their garden waste in them. This costs most waste management companies both time and money. When plastic gets mixed into compost, this has a negative impact on the environment.
  • Bottles (glass or plastic)
    Even though glass and plastic bottles are recyclable, they shouldn’t be mixed with green waste. Just toss them in your recycle bin. Make sure that your glass bottles are not broken.
    Almost all plastic bottles are recyclable, although, their tops are not. The air trapped inside of the bottle can cause problems at the recycling plant. Ensure that the plastic bottle top is removed before throwing the actual bottle in the recycle bin.
  • Nappies
    At this current moment, there is no known brand of compostable or biodegradable nappies that can completely break down in a commercial composting system. There are plastic elements in them such as liners, elastic, and tabs that are not recyclable, and remain as a residue after being processed. The plastic components in them are more than 10 percent, which is above the acceptable contamination. For this reason, all nappies need to be disposed of in the general waste to landfill bin.
  • Tree stumps and branches (check requirements with your local council)
    If they’re bigger than what’s allowed, you can cut them down so that they can fit into the bin.
  • Garden equipment and Plant Pots (ceramic or plastic)
    Garden hoses and irrigation pipes can get caught up in the machinery used to process and create compost. Garden tools can also damage machinery. Avoid throwing items such as hoes, secateurs, spades, and rakes in the green waste bin. When throwing away, place them in the waste to landfill bin.
    You can avoid the need to regularly dispose of your garden tools by purchasing good quality items. Ensure they are cleaned and stored away in a dry place (e.g. garden shed) between each use. Reduce the need to buy your own tools by borrowing them from neighbours, family or friends. If you have a good set of tools, consider loaning them to others.

For more information on how we can help you get rid of your garden waste see our services!

  • Dead animals
    Consider burying them in the ground or contact a vet for other disposal options. If they’re not disposed of properly, dead animals can be a health hazard.

Declutter your garage from old goods and repurpose them

  • Used tyres
    According to a study, each year, around 51 million tyres in Australia reach the end of their life. Only a small percentage of those are domestically recycled. The vast majority of used tyres end up in landfills. Others get illegally dumped or have an unknown fate. When they end up in landfills, they can create health and environmental issues. It’s a resource that can be reused or recycled.
    Many people have old tyres stored in their garages that could be disposed of. This will help with saving space and benefit the environment. There are a couple of things that can be done with them. You can either give them to your mechanic or tyre service centre for recycling (but make sure they do this type of service), or you can be creative and reuse them in your garden.Examples of awesome things that can be made with old tyres are a good old tyre swing, a half tyre hammocks, tyre garden stairs, a tiered container garden, hanging fence planters, a tyre sandbox, tyre playground equipment, a tyre bed for your beloved pet
  • White goods
    When replacing white goods with new ones, people tend to store the old ones somewhere around the house (especially if they’re still working). Oftentimes, they will end up in your garage, and may never be used again.
    There are better things you can do with them. Reuse centres and second-hand dealers may accept your product, depending on the condition of it.
    Often times white goods are disposed of through collection in metal recycling programs. They get torn up into pieces and their metals are recovered. If they are functional or repairable, you can sell them, donate them to charity or give them away.
  • Furniture
    We all replace our furniture at some point in time. But what ends up happening is that we keep our old household property, as well. We usually store it somewhere around the house. Oftentimes, it ends up in the garage (just like the white goods). During a long period, this may result in the garage becoming cluttered.
    When you’re looking to get rid of unwanted furniture that has been staying in your garage, there are a few good possibilities. Reusing, upcycling, donating or selling are great options.
    Your furniture may still be in good condition. If that is the case, selling or giving it away online via Gumtree, eBay or a social media sharing group in your local area, are great choices. You will be surprised how many people are interested in old furniture.
    If it can’t be repaired or reused then you can access your council’s hard waste collection services and arrange for a pick-up. Or arrange a trip to the local tip.

Knowing what can and can’t be recycled is a key component in taking care of the environment. It’s something that we can and should do. At times, it could be a bit tricky and confusing, although, we hope that this article has helped you understand better any mistakes you may be making.

Are you making any of the mistakes stated in the article?
Please share them with us in the comments section below!

Image source: Shutterstock/ITTIGallery

  • Last update: April 16, 2020

Posted in All Articles, Cleaning Guides

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