The Ins and Outs of Recycling: 4 Tips to Help you get Started
Let’s talk recycling!
Before our family started on our zero waste journey we honestly had no idea about recycling. In fact we (or should I say I) used to put plastic bags in the recycling bin…eeeek! Yep that was me. I’d collect the recyclables on the kitchen bench and then pop them all in a plastic bag and put them in the recycle bin (*gulp*). It was just a convenience thing. Much easier than juggling 10 different items out to the recycling bin and dropping half of them on the way. Don’t feel bad if this you too, lots of people do it. But, now's the time to stop.
Fast forward to now and i've actually discovered that many people are just 'winging it' when it comes to recycling. Confusion over what goes where and common questions like 'but what about the plastic in the tissue boxes, and can magazines actually be recycled'.
Realising that this confusion is a common theme amongst many families, I decided to compile some tips to help. I'll cover off some of the recycling questions that have come up over the last few months and try to answer them the best I can.
Oh and my number 1 tip - stop putting plastic bags in your recycle bin! Learn about Redcycle and start recycling through them.
Right, let's get into it!
6 items you can recycle: the easy kids on the block
For the purpose of this article, when I talk about recycling, i'm talking about the items that can go in your curbside recycling bin that is collected by your council.
1 - Glass
Jam jars, condiment jars, glass bottles, and any other glass jars that have been used around the home can go in your recycle bin.
Do they have to be squeaky clean? No. Do they need to be rinsed out? Yes, and same with the lids. Once rinsed you can pop the lid back on and it can go in your recycle bin.
Broken glass however, can not be recycled and has to go in your landfill bin.
Note: Light globes cannot be recycled through your local council recycling. However if you contact your local council they can point you in the right direction of where they can be.
2 - Cardboard/boxes
Cereal boxes, packing boxes, biscuit boxes, long life milk, juice boxes, egg cartons - all of the above (and more) can go in your recycling bin.
Now let’s talk pizza boxes, if they’re clean enough they can go in your recycling bin, but not if they've got leftover pizza stuck to the them. If you've got a green organics bin (if you have access to one through your council), they can go in there.
Now onto the tricky one...Tissue boxes. Yes they CAN go in your recycle bin but you need to remove the plastic for your REDcycle run.
3 - Paper
Mostly all types of paper can go in your recycle bin. Printing paper, documents, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, books etc. A general rule of thumb is as long as it can rip like paper, it can go in your recycle bin. If it can’t rip then it's possible it's coated in plastic which means it can't go in. If you’re unsure you can always ask your local council.
What about envelopes. Yes! Envelopes can go in as they are, including the plastic window.
4 – Cans & tins
All your empty soft drink/alcohol cans can go in the recycle bin (or taken to a cash for can deposit scheme if you have one in your city). Same with your empty cans of food/pet food. Aerosol cans like your cooking oil, deodorant and any other aerosol cans are generally fine for recycling.
Note **Butane aerosol cans or canisters like those used for camping should NOT be put in the kerbside recycling. They are highly flammable if they still have gas inside. It's best practice to keep them out of the kerbside bin and contact your local household chemical drop-off service.
5 – Alfoil
I don’t know about you – but up until this year I’ve been just popping alfoil in the recycle bin without giving it a second thought. Much like the plastic bags (*gulp again*). But here’s the thing, it needs to be wrapped up tightly and collected until you can make a tight golf ball or tennis ball out of it. If small pieces go into you bin, it can cause havoc in the recycling machines! I know what you're thinking - too hard basket. But it's not really. Just collect your alfoil in an empty jar or container and when you have a heap, roll it all up together and pop it in your recycling bin.
6 – Plastic
Here's the thing. Plastic CAN be recycled, BUT not all plastic. A rule of thumb here is if it's rigid (not like plastic bags) it can be recycled. Such as: plastic drink bottles, juice bottles, ice cream/yoghurt/margarine tubs can all be recycled. If you're not sure check on the packaging - it will often have the recycling symbol on it.
But...and there's always a but, many plastics can only be recycled 1-3 times, and then their lifespan is over. So if you're buying plastics, definitely still pop them in the recycle bin but perhaps it's time to really consider your plastic consumption and how to avoid it as much as possible.
6 recycling no nos that might surprise you
1 - Receipt paper
Most receipts are covered in a waxy coating that prevent them from being recycled. Safe to say receipts are a big problem in recycling centres. There's no quick fix here. You can either say no to receipts – or ask for emailed receipts. Most supermarkets print them out anyway so sometimes it’s a no win situation.
If the receipts are shiny and smooth it's most likely they can't be recycled. Same with wrapping paper!
Old clothes, bedding, towels or any other fabrics can not be recycled through your council's recycling bins.
But there are tons of ways to repurpose them. If they’re still wearable you could take them to your closest op shop, or sell on Facebook marketplace. Check online if there are any clothes swaps happening near you – or start your own. If you’re creative and can sew perhaps see what new items you can make out of your clothes. If they’re beyond all of this you can make them into old rags, donate to animal shelters who might need them. H&M and Zara also accept old and used clothes and Totally Workwear accept old work boots.
** Note - H&M are currently not taking clothes during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
If your clothes are made out of natural fibres (no polyester), you can also cut them up into small pieces (like your shredded paper) and pop them in your conmpost.
3 - Sanitary pads/tampons.
Most of your tampons and pads are made from cotton and synthetics, so therefore can't be recycled and unfortunately are a big problem for landfill!
There are eco-friendlier alternatives available. And as part of our next release we will be stocking reusable menstrual cups - so sign up here if you'd like to be first in line for those.
4 - Polystyrene
Small pieces of polystyrene cannot be sorted at a recycling facility and contaminate the other recyclables. It can be recycled through another facility, so simply check out the EPS Recyclers website for recycling locations near you.
5 - Plastic cutlery & straws
These are generally too small for the recycling machines. Luckily, South Australia have led the way in banning the use of single use plastics with other states to follow suit. In fact, the Australian Government are looking at ways to phase out all single use plastics by 2025 so these items may become a thing of the past (albeit a little too late...).
In the meantime, take your own cutlery if you are going to be out and about and need take away. If you’re having a party or family event then use bamboo cutlery instead or just use your own cutlery. Seems so simple right?
6 - Plastic bags and soft plastics
I’m not sure if this is a surprise to some people or not, but I do see loooots of recycle bins filled with plastic bags (filled with recyclable rubbish...which as you now know I was guilty of myself). I don't know if it's ignorance, laziness or just simple confusion about which bin to put them in. For me, I think it was ignorance. I didn't know at the time, and I didn't really bother to find out the answer. If only you could turn back time...
Either way, you CAN recycle your soft plastics, just simply collect them separately and take them to your nearest REDcycle bin. Check out the link for a list of what can and can't go in.
3 small nitty bitty things that can be recycled
One of the main things to consider when it comes to recycling is the size of what you're recycling. The bigger the better. Too small, and it can cause damage to the recycling machines.
So here are 3 things that CAN be recycled but with a teeny bit more effort.
1- Long life milk lids/juice lids
We go through tons of long life soy milk/almond milk in our house. There are 2 ways you can go about recycling these. You CAN leave them on the carton/juice bottle, BUT, you need to squish the carton/juice bottle down and remove all the air before putting the lid back on. This is important so that when the bottles are compressed during the recycling process that the caps don't shoot off and cause damage.
Or, you can collect all the caps in one of the milk containers/bottles and when it's full put a lid back on and send it on it's way!
2 - Bread tags
So when I say these can be recycled, I don't mean through your kurbside collection bin.
But, they can be recycled through Bread Tags for Wheelchairs. These guys make wonderful items out of recycled bread tags. The proceeds they make from selling these items goes towards making wheelchairs for disadvantaged people in South Africa. There are tons of collection points. If you can’t find any just contact us and we can help you out.
3 - Beer bottle aluminium lids
Similar story here to your plastic bottle lids. You can't just put them in loose, you need to collect them in something first such as a used tin or can. As long as they're placed in something made of similar material and the lids can't fall out then they're safe to go.
You could slit a hole in a soft drink can and put them in there, or you could use an old can (tomato/baked beans), collect them and then squish the can tight so they can't escape.
Recycling: the Rest...
If you're really serious about reducing your weekly waste then it's time to get serious about your rubbish.
We've covered off curbside recycling in this blog article but as I mentioned above, it's really just the tip of the iceberg. Diminishing your waste goes way beyond just this!
If you are really serious about reducing your weekly waste, you have to closely examine what is going in your 'landfill waste' bin. Yep I mean up close with your rubbish! If it can't go in your recycle, compost or Redcycle then search online for other options.
Electronics can be recycled at your local Bunnings. And Officeworks take old phones/batteries/stationery/e-waste and printer cartridges.
Beyond that it's time to search online. Or flick us an email. We are here to help you reduce your waste, and having a handy list of recycling facilities is definitely on the cards.
You might be surprised by how much you actually CAN recycle outside of your collection bins.
Trust me though, once you start understanding recycling better and have some sort of system set up (believe me, it doesn't have to be anything fancy)...then you are well on your way to reducing your waste.
Click here to keep up to date with simple and effective ways to diminish your weekly waste.