Find Recycling Confusing? These Five Steps Will Help You Out

Recycling can be a little brain melting at times. You can recycle cans but not coffee pods? Plastic bottles but not plastic bags? And how about pizza boxes? Where do they fit in all of this?

With all of the rules, advice and muddled information you’ve no doubt received over the years, you’d be forgiven for finding it all just a little too hard and confusing. A no-nonsense, five-step guide is what we all need to solve our problems once and for all.

Thankfully, Jenni Downes from the University of Technology Sydney has done just that. She wrote a handy breakdown for The Conversation that will cure any and all of our recycling woes.

#1 “Paper, plastic, cans and tins go in most recycling bins!”

This is a sweet, easy-to-memorise line that works for the basics of recycling. When we get down to the specifics though, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t include stuff like tissues, serviettes, baking paper, plastic pasta packaging and biscuit trays. In other words, anything that is wax lined, absorbable or soft scrunchable plastic.

Also, glass bottles and jars are fine, but lightbulbs, ovenproof glass and glass trays are not. This is because the latter burns at a higher temperature than bottles and jars, so they’ll damage the recycled material.


Photo: Glue Pinella/Flickr

#2 No soft plastics

Plastic bags are sadly a no-no. I know they’re probably clogging up a huge corner of your pantry because you have no idea where to dispose of them, but your at home bin is not the go. The good news is that they can be recycled. Most supermarkets should have a marked bin for this exact purpose, so keep an eye out.

#3 Scrape don’t rinse

Leaving a little bit of food behind is okay (those pizza boxes? Totally fine!), so a hearty scrape is all that your recycled item needs. Simply put, our water and energy is much better used on items we’re keeping rather than throwing away.



#4 Separate into parts

Take the plastic off your drink bottles (that’s scrunchable plastic, remember?) as well as your lids (too small to be recycled) and throw them in the regular bin. The plastic ring that remains is fine to leave on, so is the plastic square on an envelope.

#5 Small things together

Keep small things together, like tiny bits of aluminium scrunched into a ball. Smaller pieces of recyclable materials aren’t good for the processing and can drastically slow down the production, or even tamper with the machine.

Of course, it’s always best to refer to Planet Ark’s recycling motto, “If in doubt, leave it out.” It’s much better to throw a possibly recyclable item into the regular trash than to throw trash into the recycling bin. It’s better to avoid causing any problems for the machine.

Hopefully this five step guide made you view the whole recycling conundrum with a fresh, can-do-it attitude. Because you really can, it’s so easy.

The full graphic from The Conversation is here to make things a little easier for you too:


Josephine is a writer from western Sydney who likes to blatantly lie on her bios. She played the youngest sister in 80s sitcom Family Ties and looks fantastic running with a backpack on.