What You Can And Can’t Recycle 

What You Can And Can’t Recycle 

We recently got new recycling bins at the Lifehacker office, and suddenly realised no one knew all the rules about recycling. Can you recycle plastic bags? Do you have to scrub out your containers? What about paper towels?

Every major kerbside recycling program takes clean paper and cardboard, metal cans, and plastic jugs and bottles. Beyond that, things get complicated. But some general rules apply.

First, check your local requirements. Your local council should have a fairly thorough page on recycling and the bin schedule.

Don’t Recycle:

  • Bubble-padded envelopes
  • Wax paper
  • Dirty napkins, tissues, toilet paper, or paper towels
  • Glass that’s not a bottle or jar
  • Photo paper: Usually not recyclable, but it depends on the brand.
  • Containers with a lot of food or liquid in them: Empty and rinse them, but don’t stress over it; they’re cleaned at the facility.

Do Recycle:

  • Pizza boxes: Unless they’re heavily soaked in oil and solid waste, these are fine. Just throw out the wax liner, and put the tiny plastic table in the plastics bin. When in doubt, rip off the greasy part and throw it out.
  • Paper with clear windows or staples

Recycle Somewhere Else:

  • Plastic bags: They get caught in the recycling machines, and workers have to shut them off and pull out the bags. Most cities only allow “rigid plastics.” Instead, find a recycling center, store, or neighbourhood program that accepts them.
  • Clothing and textiles: Look up drop-off options.
  • Motor oil: Your city might require you to put it on the curb separately from all other trash.
  • Batteries and electronics: Take them to a donation center or a store that accepts them. If you throw out your batteries, at least tape down the terminals to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Appliances: Charity shops will often accept working appliances, if broken then take a trip to the tip to have them disposed of.


  • Charity shops will often accept working appliancesYeah No! They do not accept them because of liability issues.
    As for sending plastic bags to a separate area? Plastic bags are the worst offenders and they want you to “find” someplace else to send them? That patently ridiculous. It’s no wonder this planet is drowning in its own filth, as usual, the powers that be are refusing to actually help!

    • I just bought an electrical appliance at an op shop. Some obviously do take them. It had been tested and tagged and deemed safe.

      Also, Coles take plastic bags for recycling (though the checkout show had traced one shipment and found it didn’t actually end up at the recyclers…)

  • Woolies has a collection point for plastic bags, but there is a middle ground of soft plastic trays used for vegetables and meats that have no recycling option.

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