Australians mistakenly throwing soft plastics into recycling bins, survey finds

Councils say residents also erroneously putting recyclable waste into plastic bags before disposing of them

Throwing soft plastics into the recycling bin is still the most common recycling mistake made by Australians, according to new research by Planet Ark.

A survey of 180 councils commissioned by the environment organisation for Recycling Week asked councils to identify what were the most common recycling mistakes made by their residents.

Forty-six per cent of councils said the number one issue was that too many people were still putting soft plastics, which are not recyclable, into their recycling bins.

This was followed closely by residents making the mistake of putting their recyclable waste into plastic bags before disposing of them, with 41% of councils saying this was a problem.

Soft plastics, such as wrappers, cling wrap and bags, clog up sorting machines. Most can be dropped off at Coles and Woolworths stores and put into their RedCycle bins instead.

Recyclable materials that have been put in plastic bags will be transferred to landfill. Any recycling waste should be kept loose in the recycling bin.

Ryan Collins, the recycling program manager for Planet Ark, said Australians continued to make the same mistakes because of a lack of clear education around what can and can’t be recycled.

Most Australians want to recycle, he said, but were turning to councils and NGOs to provide them with more information.

He said there were tools available to help, such as the Australasian recycling label which is gradually being added to more household and consumer products.

“It’s an evidence-based label that tells you exactly what to do with different parts of packaging,” he said.

Information on what can and can’t be recycled and where people can find their closest drop-off facilities can also be found at Planet Ark’s “recycling near you” website.

Other common mistakes identified by councils included throwing food waste, which contaminates paper and cardboard recycling streams, into the recycling.

Nappies, clothing and other nonrecyclable plastics, such as meat trays and bottle tops, were also a problem.

Planet Ark’s report also found that despite 71% of people being confident they knew what could be recycled, 61% would still like more information.

Ninety per cent of Australians agreed that recycling was the right thing to do.


Lisa Cox

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Most Australians believe household recycling sent to landfill, survey finds
80% say they would pay up to $10 per week for better services

Calla Wahlquist

04, Oct, 2018 @6:00 PM

Article image
All Victorians to get four wheelie bins to enable recycling of soft plastics and pizza boxes
State environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio and federal counterpart Tanya Plibersek announce change as part of $515m recycling reform

Benita Kolovos

29, Sep, 2022 @5:41 AM

Article image
Four bins good: is Victoria’s waste strategy the future for recycling?
The four-bin approach is common in the world’s top recycling countries, but experts say a lot more is needed to create a genuinely circular economy

Tory Shepherd

08, Oct, 2022 @7:00 PM

Article image
Environmental watchdog charges REDcycle operators over secret soft plastics stockpiles
Environment Protection Authority Victoria charges RG Programs and Services, which faces a possible fine in excess of $165,000

Caitlin Cassidy

23, Dec, 2022 @8:12 AM

Article image
Tanya Plibersek urged to intervene to stop stockpiled soft plastics from being dumped
Environmentalist alliance says plastic waste from failed supermarket-backed recycling scheme can be safely warehoused until it can be recycled

Adam Morton Climate and environment editor

13, Feb, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
More stockpiles of soft plastics from failed REDcycle recycling scheme uncovered
Dozens of storage sites found across Australia but estimated amount of plastic reportedly falls from 12,350 tonnes to 11,000

Australian Associated Press and Graham Readfearn

10, Apr, 2023 @3:05 AM

Article image
Supermarkets are pausing soft plastic recycling. What should I do with my plastic bags now?
Peak industry bodies say the halt has exposed deeper problems within the packaging industry

Natasha May

09, Nov, 2022 @2:00 PM

Can recycling bins be evil?

When is recycling a bad idea? When it's another example of the British "bin police" interfering in people's lives, according to the Daily Mail

Kate Connolly

30, May, 2008 @12:33 PM

Article image
Recycling crisis: federal government to push states for solution
Josh Frydenberg will seek agreement at meeting of environment ministers for a national stocktake of recycling

Katharine Murphy and Calla Wahlquist

26, Apr, 2018 @10:00 PM

Article image
Victorians could get six bins to help solve recycling crisis
Infrastructure Victoria suggests households be given bins for general waste, organics, plastics, glass, metals, paper and card

Josh Taylor

21, Oct, 2019 @1:10 AM