Are you a successful recycler?

| November 10, 2014

Although almost every Australian agrees that recycling is the right thing to do, a lot of people don’t know what to do with aerosol cans. So for National Recycling Week, Planet Ark’s Head of Campaigns Brad Gray is going back to basics to help Aussies become more successful recyclers.

Whether something can or can’t be recycled is a question that confronts almost every Australian every day – after eating a biscuit, reading the paper, putting on deodorant or making a pasta dinner. A new research report released for Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week, Seven Secrets of Successful Recyclers, lifts the lid on what makes a successful recycler and what the key points of confusion are.

Not surprisingly, packaging causes considerable confusion, with the research suggesting that contamination in recycling bins isn’t always due to a lack of care or concern, but because of genuine misunderstandings about what can be recycled.

More than half of the population identified three common packaging items as recyclable in their kerbside bin when, in fact, they are a form of contamination. The commonly confused items include:

  • Pringles (and similar home brand) tubes which are made up of cardboard, metal, plastic and foil which are too strongly bonded together for the individual materials to be separated,
  • Old or broken drinks glassware, which is made form a different type of glass than bottle and jars and
  • Biscuit packets and trays, which get caught in the recycling machinery.

More than one in two people (54%) wrongly think that aerosol cans are not recyclable, with a further 12% saying they don’t know what to do with them. In reality, almost all Australians live in a council that collects aerosols for recycling. There is a persistent myth that aerosols will explode in the recycling. As long as they are empty, it’s safe to recycle them through the kerbside system.

Another key finding was that 23% of people sometimes or always put their recycling in a plastic bag, then into the bin. But items contained within the plastic bags end up being sent to landfill because it’s too dangerous for the recycling facility workers to open the bags and the bags clog the recycling machines. Recycling needs to be loose in the bin.

And while most of us are star recyclers in the kitchen, only 18% of people have recycling bins in their bathrooms, meaning recyclable items like aerosol cans, toilet rolls and shampoo bottles are ending up in landfill.

Why is it important to get it right? Increasing recycling rates is good for the environment, it saves energy, water and raw materials and it’s good for the economy, especially when compared to landfilling.

For new recycling infrastructure and technology to be developed, there must be a reliable and continuous input of materials to make the system economically viable, so we need to keep recycling as effectively as possible.

Which brings me back to our Seven Secrets of Successful Recyclers: Know the facts; Don’t bag it; Do it in the bathroom; Do it in public; Take it to work; Think outside the bin; and Buy it back.

Visit for more information on the Seven Secrets of Successful Recycling and to follow links to other useful resources.