The Do's and Don'ts of Recycling

Recycling is one element of sustainability that we can all get on board with no matter who you are or where you live. Recycling reduces landfill, creates a domestic source of materials, and limits the environmental impacts of collecting and manufacturing raw materials. What’s not to love! 

Australia is currently promoting the Recycle Right movement which is all about having clean and uncontaminated recycling. Why does that matter? Well, the point of recycling is to create new products out of old materials, if that recycled material is contaminated by food or other materials then no-one will purchase it and instead of being recycled into new products, it will end up in landfill. Not great.

In Australia it’s reported that up to 25% of the rubbish we send to landfill could actually be recycled so with the help of Tweed and Byron Shire Councils, we’ve created this handy list of do’s and don’ts so we can all do our bit. 


  • Don’t recycle receipts; they are usually made of thermal paper and cannot be recycled. Ask for no receipt or an e-receipt instead!


  • Do rinse your dirty recycling; not only will it keep your recycling bin clean it also means it will actually get recycled. Dirty containers can reduce the quality of the recycled materials and are often rejected by recycling facilities


  • Don’t add soft plastics or plastic bags to your household recycling, most local facilities do not accept it. Soft plastics are those that can be scrunched in your hand. Make sure they are clean and dry and then search online for your nearest REDcycle bin. They are usually conveniently located in small shopping centres or outside Woolies and Coles! 


  • Do check what your council can actually recycle. The Recycling symbol on packaging means it could be recycled but it doesn’t mean that your local authority has the infrastructure to recycle it. Search ‘recycling’ on your Local Council website and print a list to stick on your bin as a reminder to you and the family. 


  • Don’t add broken glass or ceramics to your at home recycling bin - try and find a local recycling facility, but most of the time this will need to go to landfill.


  • Do try to avoid plastic wherever and however you can. Even though plastic is recyclable, the latest report in Australia stated that of 2.5 tonnes of plastic generated, 84% was sent straight to landfill.


  • Don’t confuse plastic foil with aluminium foil - try the scrunch test, if it springs back it’s likely plastic or a mixed material, if it remains scrunched it’s metal. To make sure it’s recycled, scrunch into a fist sized ball before adding to your bin to make sure it gets picked up by the machines at the recycling centre


  • Do keep your recycling loose, don't bag it or place it inside cardboard boxes. This can cause the items inside the bag to end up in the incorrect recycling stream. 


  • Don’t try to recycle small objects, they often get stuck in the machines or contaminate other recycling streams - think plastic bottle lids entering the glass recycling stream. Generally anything smaller than a credit card should not be placed in your yellow recycling bin - see if you can find a local Terracycle facility that will take them instead!


  • Do add paper, cardboard and pizza boxes to your recycling if they are clean, dry and grease free. If it’s soiled or wet consider adding to your own compost or your FOGO bin. 


  • Don’t add compostable or biodegradable products to your recycling bin. Check with your local authority but as a general rule you should place certified compostable items (seedling logo or code AS 4736) in your Food Organics & Garden Organics (FOGO) bin and biodegradable products in your landfill bin 


  • Do separate any mixed materials; for example if you buy your berries in plastic, separate the soft plastic lid from the hard plastic base. The base can be added to your recycling and the lid can be added to your soft plastic pile for REDcycle. 


  • Don’t assume that takeaway coffee cups are recyclable, they are usually lined with plastic or a plant based alternative, making them non-recyclable. Even the lids can be made of mixed materials meaning the entire cup will go to landfill. Take your own cup next time and encourage your local coffee shop to discount anyone that does! Reusing is always the best option.


  • Do try to avoid excess packaging where possible and shop at bulk food stores with your own reusable containers. 


  • Don’t throw everything that cannot be recycled in your landfill bin. Check and see if there are any local facilities for things such as scrap metal, e-waste and hazardous materials like paint cans. 


  • Do take your bottles, cans and some cartons to a Return and Earn drop off point near you, why not make a little cash while saving the planet? Or you can choose a local charity to donate to! 


  • Don’t add paper towels or tissues to the recycling bin - it is too low grade to be recycled. You can add it to your compost or FOGO bin. 


  • Do recycle your old clothes; companies like Upparel will take damaged clothes and fabrics that cannot be donated or re-sold like ripped wetsuits and old socks and stockings


We really hope this list can help you recycle more, and recycle right!