We’re constantly being reminded to reduce, reuse and recycle for good reason, but by chucking the wrong items in the recycling bin, your solid intentions are all but having a negative impact. We appreciate the ‘to toss or recycle’ question isn’t always clear so we’re going do your wrongs a right and breakdown all the things you thought you could recycle but actually can’t.
The most up-to-date stats in a report by the Department of Environment and Energy shows Aussies were responsible for generating 67 million tonnes of waste between 2016 and 2017. That is, a lot.
If you’re looking to make a difference by recycling your household items (among other things), please, please, please, make sure you’re not contaminating a load of good recyclables — having the right information will go a long way in helping the environment.
While obvious for some, you’d be surprised how common these recycling mistakes can be. But before we delve into the list, here’s a thought: before you head to the trash bin, try to find a solution. See if you can repurpose these household items, or check if any local stores or services have any use for them. Alternatively, read up material from official sites such as City of Sydney or City of Melbourne that have tons of information on disposing off stuff that can’t be recycled or will clog up the landfill.
If you thought you could go to the grocery store, snap up a plastic bag to put your shopping in and send it off to the yellow bin to make up for not having a tote, you’re sadly mistaken. In fact, you should also not be recycling other soft plastics like bin liners, zip lock bags, or frozen food packaging. While we suggest using reusables as much as possible, there are specific drop off places for soft-plastic recycling in case you need them.
There’s no escaping the need to rid of tired looking jammies, a too-tight t-shirt or seriously out of fashion pair of pants. But no, these also don’t belong in the recycling bin nor do any other textiles such as curtains, linens and mats. Before chucking it in the trash, see if they’re good enough for the donation box or look for retailers and other services that are accepting old fabrics. Maybe there’s an organisation that can help you dispose of your old clothes correctly such as Planet Ark.
Any kind of wood that’s been treated with a finish of some sort should be kept away from the recycling bin. If you’ve got big quantity of wood to dispose of, contact the relevant organisations who deal with the city’s waste to give you the right guidelines. For instance, NSW EPA has information on what you can do depending on how much wood you need to get rid of.
Most, if not all, of the hangers you own can’t be recycled. Metal hangers, due to their shape, could get caught in the recycling machine. Plastics hangers may be made of mixed materials so you won’t know which recycling stream to put it in. And wood hangers are treated so there’s that issue. You could potentially donate these to dry cleaners or thrift stores or use them for a DIY project if they’re broken.
Batteries and old electronics
Old batteries and electronics account for 700,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. Yikes. While they can’t be recycled in our yellow bins, there’s no reason why you can’t keep them out of the landfill. For instance, the City of Sydney offers a free pick-up service of your e-waste if you making a booking. The days when they come to collect differ depending on where you live. Places like Battery World, Officeworks and ALDI also take your battery waste so there’s really no excuse to not do the right thing.
It’s hard to say goodbye to your childhood favourites but if those toys are going out they need to go to the right place. All the materials generally used to make children’s toys such as ABS plastics, silicone, and rechargeable batteries aren’t recycle friendly. If you’re not keen on repurposing them, it’s worth contacting recycling centres to seek assistance.
You’d assume because paper is recyclable so would all your books. But friends, that’s sadly not the case. Your hardcover books don’t meet the criteria because the sturdy top of the hardcover book we love so much contains non-paper material. If you were to recycle your book, you’d have to get rid of the hardcover first.
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise but it’s important to explain. Before disposing of your cleaning, make sure you check the label first. For instance, water-soluble formulas can be mixed with water and poured down the drain. You can easily throw out stuff like sponges and disposable duster. However, any product with bleach or ammonia could – in small quantities – be flushed down the toilet. Depending on what the label says, it may be best contact your local hazardous waste disposal centre. They may even advise that certain packaging can be recycled if the product within it has been completely cleaned out. Whatever you do, make sure it’s well-researched and you’ve had a chat with an expert.
Juice boxes and other food packaging
Our juice boxes may be packaged for convenience but they’re unfortunately not recycle friendly as the wax fibres on the coating aren’t easy to break down. Similarly, you shouldn’t recycle waxed paper, frozen food boxes, packets of chips and more.
Pizza boxes and takeout containers
One too many of us might be guilty of carelessly throwing our pizza boxes and takeout containers in the yellow bins. But no, pizza boxes are off limits because of the grease that’s soaked in the cardboard and may even contain remnants of a half eaten crust. Takeout containers could potentially be okay to recycle if you clean them properly. That’s a big if since we can be lazy human beings.
This one came as a bit of a surprise but once explained, it all made sense. Shredded documents or small bits of paper aren’t valuable to recyclers. They can fall through the cracks or even mess up the recycling equipment. Luckily for you, shredded paper can be composted but make sure it’s not coloured or glossy.
Sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world where everything can be recycled. Instead, each of us has to take out just a little bit of time to educate ourselves and do better.