What you can and can’t recycle

Get the facts before you toss.

When it comes to recycling, most people agree that it’s an important element in our daily lives, and yet nearly half of us don’t know how to do it properly.

According to research from Nestlé, 51 per cent of Aussies are ‘wishcyclers’. Haven’t heard of this term before? A wishcycler is defined as someone who puts waste in a recycling bin, even if they’re not sure.

Furthermore, one in five people in Australia believe that recycling gets sorted once it’s collected (spoiler: it doesn’t). So, throwing trash into the recycling might not seem like a big deal. Except it is.

“Wishcycling can lead to genuinely recyclable materials being so contaminated that they end up sent to landfill, resulting in a lost opportunity for the waste to be turned into a resource,” says Nestlé Corporate Affairs Head Margaret Stuart.

(Credit: Getty)

With so many of us guilty of wishcycling, we put together a list on how to properly recycle some common items.

1. Pizza boxes

These can only be recycled if they are free from grease and food. You may be able to put the clean lid in your recycling, but not the greasy base.

2. Plastic cutlery

Don’t put these in your kerbside recycling bin! The size and shape mean they can’t be recycled so straight to the rubbish bin they go.

3. Aluminium foil

This one is tricky because it can be recycled, but only if you scrunch it to the size of a golf ball.

garbage truck
(Credit: Getty)

4. Plastic straws

Straws are too small to be sorted properly, so they need to go to the rubbish bin instead. Better still, save the trip to the bin by picking up a pack of reusable straws!  

5. Reusable shopping bags

These soft plastic bags can’t be recycled in your kerbside bin but you can drop them at an in-store REDcycle bin. You can find your nearest one by using this search tool. We know it’s tempting to grab a reusable bag at the grocery store, but making an effort to bring your own bag makes all the difference.

6. Lolly or chip packets

These packets cannot go in kerbside recycling but can be dropped at REDcycle bins. Check out the comprehensive list for all the other soft plastics they accept.

plastic bottles vs water bottle
(Credit: Getty)

While there’s still so much more to know, the ARL (Australasian Recycling Label) was created to remove confusion and actually make recycling easy!

Here are four tips that will help you recycle better.

1. Check it before you chuck it

Every recyclable item has the Australasian Recycling Label to let you know which bin to recycle it in. There are three main options. Box, which means you can recycle the item in your kerbside bin. Wrap, which means it is only recyclable if the instructions below the symbol are followed; and Lid, which means you should dispose of it in the trash.  

recycling guide

2. Drop off soft plastics

Soft plastics, like bubble wrap, food and snack wrappers and cereral box liners, should be collected dropped instore at a REDcycle collection point. These are available in most Woolworths and Coles – or find the nearest one with this search tool.

3. If in doubt, chuck it out

If you’re ever unsure if something is recyclable, it is much better to throw in the trash. Even though your intentions are good, wishcycling does more harm than you think!


4. Check locally

Recycling rules for other materials can vary between council areas, so get up-to-date on your area’s rules by simply searching your post-code.

Keep your recycling education going by checking if you’re guilty of making these common recycling mistakes. 

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