What can and can’t go in the recycling bin can be confusing and recent reports about the "waste crisis" have reduced the trust Aussies have in council kerbside recycling. At a local level what gets recycled can change and also vary from council to council.
With Planet Ark research showing a downward trend in the understanding of what can be recycled, it’s clear that there are many recycling myths out there.
Here are our Top 7!
The most common recycling myth as nominated by councils is that all recycling goes to landfill.1 In addition, Planet Ark commissioned research shows 36% of the population believe most of our recycling goes to landfill.2 No doubt the waste import policies of China and other countries have made it harder to find a home for our recyclables. The shutdown of recycling facilities, especially in Victoria, has led to a small number of councils having to send some recyclables to landfill until new markets are found. However, the vast majority of recycling collected by Australian councils is still getting recycled.
1Planet Ark Council Survey 2019
2Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019
3National Waste Report 2018
4Blue Environment (2019) Data on exports of Australian wastes
5National Waste Report 2018
True recycling occurs when items that you’ve put in your recycling bin or dropped off at a collection point are turned into new materials. In fact, recycling only works when products made from recycled materials are purchased by consumers, businesses and governments. This creates a circle of supply and demand and supports Australian jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries.
1Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2017
2Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2017
Not all plastics are made equal. The triangle symbols with numbers one to seven (or Plastic Identification Codes) are used to represent the type of plastic the item is made of. While every plastic type is technically recyclable, not all plastics are accepted in council kerbside recycling.
1Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate, Sep 2019
2A small handful of councils do accept soft plastics
Most of us do our best to recycle through council kerbside recycling bins but this only makes up about 20% of the total amount of materials recycled in Australia.1 There are many other trusted2 , and often free, ways to recycle these items through awareness of these product stewardship schemes is not as high as council kerbside recycling – knowledge ranges from 61% for Cartridges 4 Planet Ark to 30% for FluoroCycle.3
1 National Waste Report 2018
2 Trust in product stewardship recycling programs increased in the last 12 months with high trust in MobileMuster increasing from 33% to 42%, Cartridges 4 Planet Ark increasing from 42% to 45% and Nespresso coffee capsule program increasing from 20% to 34% (Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019).
3 Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019
Does recycling at work feel overwhelming? Never fear Planet Ark’s Business Recycling is here. Whilst half of Australian businesses think they don’t do enough from a sustainability point of view1, the Business Recycling website provides tips to overcome the biggest barriers to workplace recycling, whether that be insufficient support from management, lack of staff training and motivation or simply the location of the bins and signage.
1HP Australian Environmental Sustainability Study 2018 in partnership with Planet Ark
2HP Australian Environmental Sustainability Study 2018 in partnership with Planet Ark
3Business Recycling User Survey 2017-2019
4Business Recycling User Survey 2017-2019
What is in your bins when you take them out to the kerb each week? When it comes to food waste, Australians are some of the worst culprits with the latest National Waste Report finding food and garden organics make up about half of all kerbside garbage.1 Food organics were also noted by councils as a top 3 contaminant in the recycling bin.2
It’s all about following the waste hierarchy! An easy way to remember is through the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. While recycling is important, reducing how much and what you consume (we’re looking at you non-recyclable single-use plastics!) is the most effective thing you can do to create less waste, generally followed by reuse and then recycling.
1Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019
2Australian Ethical (2019) The Sharing Economy
Click here to bust more recycling myths.