Recycling Confessions

While talking to a friend recently, the topic of recycling came up and how household recycling can become ‘contaminated’ due to people incorrectly sorting their recycling.

For most of the conversation I nodded my head sagely, sighing heavily at ‘those people’ and the mistakes they innocently make. What my friend didn’t know (and what I was only beginning to realise as we talked) was that I was, in fact, one of ‘those people’.

I felt as though I should be someone ‘in the know’ on the ins and outs of recycling but I was too embarrassed to fess up that I was unaware of some of the basics.

Fear not, for there is this thing called the internet that helped me with a bit of research on recycling and, in turn, my aspiration to become someone ‘in the know’ about recycling.

Everyone’s got a dream……

I was relieved to find that although my poor recycling habits haven’t led to tonnes of waste going into landfill, there are a few things I can do to make the whole process more efficient for the workers processing the stuff down the line.

Plastic Bottle Tops

  • Plastic lids from milk or drink bottles can cause all sorts of problems. If the lids are thrown in loosely amongst the recycling, they fall through the sorting cylinders and make recycling difficult, but if they are screwed back onto the bottle, it traps the air inside and causes the plastic drink containers to pop when processed, affecting the recycling machinery
  • Some councils, due to limited facilities, do not recycle plastic bottle tops at all. If you are unsure check with your local Council or put them in the waste bin
  • Or better yet check out Be A Fun Mum where there is loads of ideas to have some fun with your milk bottle lids


  • All hard plastic containers, juice bottles, milk bottles, yoghurt containers and even plant pots with the dirt removed can be recycled (I did not know about the plant pots!)


  • All glass bottles and jars are suitable for recycling but their steel lids must be removed and put in the recycling bin separately
  • Broken drinking glasses however, cannot be recycled as the combination of ingredients used to make glassware is different from what is used to make container glass like bottles and jars. If these two types of glass are mixed, the resultant recycled glass will no longer be suitable to be made into more bottles and jars

Steel/Aluminium and Bottle Tops

  • Aluminium can be recycled easily, and many times over so it’s important to recycle as much Aluminium as possible
  • Bottle tops should not be thrown loose into recycling. Instead collect the bottle top lids in a tin can and then bend the can to hold them in. If you don’t want to do this, put the bottle top lids in the waste bin as they cause problems in the recycling process
  • Or better yet check out So Crafty on Squidoo for bottle top fun

Keep your components clean and separate

  • Putting tins inside a cereal box for example, makes it really hard to be sorted into separate components. If a tin can is missed and is recycled with the cardboard cereal box, this is when recycling efforts are wasted
  • Another little known example of keeping components separate is when you finish a beer, don’t bend your bottle top and slip it inside your glass bottle (Guilty as charged!)
  • Rinse your cans and bottles before throwing them in the recycling. This is mostly for health reasons. You don’t want any recycling sitting around waiting to be processed to be attracting all kinds of vermin, flies, maggots and rot. Also double check your pizza boxes are clean of rogue pizza crusts or sauce and cheese. Food is one of the worst contaminants in the paper recycling process as any food remnants will biodegrade the paper. While this is fine for your compost, it’s not ideal in the recycling market

Each state varies on what you can and can’t recycle and this is generally down to the technology and facilities available at each processing plant.

To check what your state or council does Recycling Near You is full of excellent information.

If you too aspire to be someone ‘in the know’ about recycling check out some of these handy links below for more information.

Planet Ark – Kerbside Tips
Recycling Australia – Learn More

What are some other recycling do’s and don’ts you have come across in the past?


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