Feb. 8, 2016

The A-Z guide to fewer recycling headaches

Recycling is a no brainer, right? Well, kind of. It’s not always straightforward to know which thing goes in what bin (red garbage, or yellow and blue recycling), with trickier waste items causing confusion and making our heads hurt. Think takeaway coffee cups (ouch).

 Throwing stuff in the wrong bin can cause problems at the processing plant, and can mean more rubbish in landfill.  It’s probably part of the reason why, despite our best recycling intentions, we are not as good as other Aussies, recycling only 34% of unwanted items compared to 64% nationally.

Check out this A-Z guide of common curveballs. Even better, stick this page to your fridge or bin lid. Knowing what goes where will become second nature in no time. 

Aluminium foil – Yellow, if scrunched up into a ball the size of a fist (preferably inside a metal container).

Aluminium foil trays – Yellow as long as it is clean.

Cling, bubble and newspaper wrap, biscuit trays, chip packets, straws – Red. These are soft plastics that unfortunately can't be recycled. Rule: If you can scrunch the plastic, throw in the red bin.  

Clothes hangers – Red. These can get caught in the recycling system and cause damage to machinery. If they’re intact, donate them to your local dry cleaner or charity shop.

Flower pots – Red. Many pots are made from a lower grade plastic that isn't recyclable, plus can contain garden chemicals and dirt which contaminate recycling.

Hard plastic yoghurt/margarine/ice cream containers – Yellow.Attach lids to the container unless they are larger than 5cm in diameter, then they can go in separately.

Lids – Yellow.Lids of the same material (e.g. plastic lids on plastic bottles) should be left on, otherwise they can fall through the screens and do not get recycled. 

Light plastic food containers (e.g. strawberry/cherry tomato containers, meat trays) –Yellow.

Metal jar lids, beer bottle caps and wine bottle screw caps - Yellow.

Paper towels – Red. They reduce the quality of recycled paper, and because it is a health issue for people sorting the processing line.

Photographs - Red, due to the chemicals and the high "wet strength" material used.

Pizza boxes – Blue, provided it's not too greasy. Pizza box bases that are too greasy to recycle can be torn up and composted instead (or throw base in red bin).  

Plastic bags – Red. They play havoc with the recycling machinery.Avoid bagging recyclables (e.g. bottles, newspapers) in plastic bags to put in the recycling bin. 

Pringles containers – Red. These contain different materials that are too difficult to separate in the recycling process.

Shampoo, sauce, household cleaning bottles – Yellow.

Take-away coffee cups – If you can rip it, it’s mostly paper and can be recycled. If not, it has to go into the red bin unfortunately. 

 Thank you for keeping our beautiful neighbourhood clean and less rubbish out of landfill.

Written by Nicola Saltman. First published in The Beast Magazine.


  • Are blue bins the same as yellow ones. We don't have blue ones here.

  • Are blue bins the same as yellow ones. We don't have blue ones here.


Comment on this