We know it’s important to recycle paper, cans, glass and plastic right? But did you know there’s a right and a wrong way to do it? Make a mistake and a whole batch of recyclable goods can end up being discarded – here’s what you need to know, because although it may be a little more confusing than you thought, it is still a great green habit – don’t give up! (and if in doubt, check on your local council website – here is the link to my own council website where you can find general info about what you can recycle or not, useful even if you don’t live in Lane Cove, Australia!)
Although plastic bags are made out of recycled materials, it’s not a good idea to add them to your recycling – or to bag up other recycling materials in them. They can cause problems with jamming up machinery in the processing plants later on. A better option is to gather them up then bring them to a program that exclusively recycles plastic bags (often at the grocery store or supermarket). As for polystyrene, it’s not likely that this packing material is recycled with your regular bag full of household trash. If you’ve just bought a refrigerator, washing machine, or TV however, you can usually find a polystyrene processing plant by searching online – or think about breaking it up and saving it for reuse as a filler when you ship your next package.
Forget about the pizza box. While the cardboard itself is recyclable, the grease from the food inside makes it non-recyclable. Same thing for paper plates, napkins, and other cardboard food containers that have the residue of your lunch on them. Sadly, one of the most common things thrown in the rubbish isn’t all that easy to recycle – milk cartons and juice boxes are mostly cardboard, but there is often a very thin layer of printed plastic on the outside of the carton that is impossible to separate. Ditto for the juice boxes that have a foil lining on the inside, unless they have a recycling symbol. Contrary to popular belief, staples and paper clips are ok – the paper processing plants re set up to remove them.
Typically, clear, green and brown glass are accepted in your normal neighborhoods recycling program. But things like mirrors, light bulbs and pyrex can’t be added, and will have to be taken to a specific drop-off site if you want to recycle them.
Ever heard of bioplastics? This range of materials includes both plastic products that are made from bio-material (like CocaCola’s ‘Plant Bottle’), and products that are designed to biodegrade much faster than normal products. That’s the good news. But the slightly confusing news is that bioplastics actually don’t go in the recycling bin, they go with the rubbish or the composte waste. Looking to jump on the bioplastic bandwagon? You can now get compostable ziplock bags online, or you can try making your own at home!
Image credit: NEA recycling bins, Orchard Road CC BY 2.5