Cans and bottles in a pile.

Are you making common recycling mistakes?

02 May 2019

With recycling part of our everyday waste management, it is important to ensure that we are doing it correctly.

Research indicates that people in the ACT are 'overconfident' in their recycling knowledge. Listed below are 7 of the most common recycling mistakes. Take a look to see whether your recycling habits may actually be doing more harm than good.

Common mistake 1- Trying to recycle everything in the yellow bin including phones, batteries and metal items.

Only put containers, packaging or paper/card in your recycling bin. Many other things can be recycled but not through the kerbside system.  Visit the Recyclopaedia to find out where to take things like televisions, car parts, fry pans, and batteries for recycling.

Common mistake 2- Thinking the triangle on the bottom means it is recyclable.

Recycling triangles

This is not a recycling symbol. It is the plastics identification code which identifies the type of resin used in manufacturing the product. Not all types of plastics are accepted for recycling in the ACT system. For more information take a look at the fact sheet.

Common mistake 3- Leaving recycling inside plastic bags.

If you leave your recycling in plastic bags it goes straight to waste in landfill – tip it in loose and put plastic bags in the rubbish bin.

Common mistake 4- Putting shredded paper in the recycling bin.

The dreaded shredded paper does not belong in the recycling bin. It clogs the machinery and contaminates other recycling.  You can reuse it as cat litter, mulch for compost or put it in the rubbish bin.  There are businesses that will shred and recycle your documents for a fee. Please refer to

Common mistake 5- Recycling any hard plastic items like toys and furniture.

Only rigid plastic containers and packaging such as bottles and punnet trays can be recycled in the yellow bin. Other items like toys, coat hangers or plastic buckets are made from different plastic resins and the system is not designed to process these things.

Common mistake 6- Putting soft plastic in the recycling bin.

Soft plastics can’t go in the recycling bin as they tangle machinery- they need be taken to REDcycle collection points at major supermarkets so they can be turned into new products like furniture and decking. This includes things like chip packets, squeezy pouches and bread bags.

Common mistake 7- Putting small items in the recycling bin or putting items inside other items.

The Materials Recovery Facility can’t sort anything smaller than a credit card. Small items like plastic lids fall through gaps and contaminate other recyclables. Nothing smaller than a credit card is a good guide and make sure all containers are empty.

All Canberra

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