What’s Australia asking about Recycling?

The 12th – 18th of November is Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week for 2018, and we’d like to share their knowledge about what Australia’s are unsure about (or need to improve on) regarding recycling.

Here are the top 5 things Australians are asking.

1. How clean does my recycling need to be?

Overall, little bits of food won’t compromise the glass and steel recycling process. Scrape out all larger food scraps and then if you’re concerned with any excess simply rinse out your jars or cans – ideally with left over washing up water.

Pizza boxes are council dependent, so check with them first to see if they’re collected. If so, again scrape out any food scraps (even the little bits) and the cardboard mat (if there is one) and place the box in the recycling bin.

If your council doesn’t collect pizza boxes, they can go into compost or make good covers for worm farms.

2. How does Australia compare to the rest of the world?

We can be quite competitive as a nation, and recycling is no exception. Some areas (like newspaper recycling) we’ve been leaders for years, but in other facets we’ve got some catching up to do.


We’re on the podium! Half (51%) of household waste gets recycled in Australia; pretty much on par with recycling rates in Northern European countries. Comparatively, 28 other countries in the EU are only at around 42%. Considering our size, landscape and dispersed population, that’s pretty impressive.


Electronic Waste is increasing three times faster than any other waste in Australia. Programs like ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ and MobileMuster have provided recycling options for years, it wasn’t until 2012 that National legislation changed so that manufacturers and importers of TVs and computers need to provide free recycling services to households and small businesses. Comparatively, the same scheme happened in South Korea in 1992 #betterlatethannever

Things like battery recycling we do need to improve. Battery recycling is mandatory in the EU and there are hundreds of thousands of collection points and initiatives to encourage battery recycling.

Click here for more information on recycling TVs/Computers, and here for more information on Battery Recycling.

3. What should I do with bottle tops?


Again, check with your council, but typically plastic tops should be put into General Waste and the bottle into the Recycling bin. This is because:

  1. When the lid is left on there is more chance of there being liquid inside…which means it will weigh more…which means the sorting machine won’t process the plastic properly, and
  2. Leaving the top on means there’s air trapped inside. When sorting, bottles are baled together and if there’s air trapped in them the likelihood of the bales popping increased; ruining the whole bale. They then need to be re-baled which takes more energy, time and effort.

Or, you can remove the lid, push the air out and then put the lid back on. But, most councils see plastic lids as a contaminant, so it’s best to double-check.


Twist tops are a little trickier, in that they’re too small to be recycled individually. The best way to make sure they’re processed, is to put them in an empty steel can (i.e. from soups, vegetables, etc.) and when the can is half full, pinch the top together and then place in the recycling bin. At the recycling station, magnets will pick up the steel can with the tops inside and drop them in a collection basket ready to be melted down and reused.

4. Why are plastic bags so bad for your recycling bin?

In case you weren’t’ aware, plastic bags cause massive problems in the recycling process for a number of reasons.

  1. Actual people do the first level of separation at the recycling station by hand. So if you have a full plastic bag of ‘waste’, they can’t tell what’s in it. It could be glass and plastic and aluminium, or, it could be full of nappies, food waste or a broken wine glass. Since it’s too dangerous to open these bags and sort through them, they’re removed from the recycling stream and put straight into landfill.
  2. Plastic bags also interfere with the automatic sorting machines. Conveyor belts feed the recycling through tunnels, spinning wheels and past magnets and eddy currents to separate the plastic, glass, paper, aluminum and steel cans; plastic bags don’t get picked up. Instead they get caught in the wheels and can potentially seize the entire machine, and then they have to be removed by hand (which is again time consuming and often dangerous).

Please do your best to not put plastic bags in the recycling bin. Click here on more information on where to recycle them instead.

5. What are the benefits of recycling?

Apart from prolonging the health and survival of our planet, recycling also contributes to the Australian economy.

Reusing the resources we already have means using less raw materials that we take from the earth, and manufacturing new products made from recycled materials uses less energy (compared to virgin materials). Recycling one tonne of plastic saves enough energy to power 31 homes for a month!

Also, recycling creates 9.2 jobs for every 2.8 jobs in landfilling. And, we’re happier recycling! A study across 27 countries found that people who recycle have higher life satisfaction levels and are overall happier people #feelgoodvibes

A big part of the recycling movement is to buy products is to buy recycled too. Click here for a directory of where to buy products made from recycled materials #closedloop

Click here for more information about Planet Ark or National Recycling Week