How to be a better recycler

It’s National Recycling Week, which is very timely as I have looking forward to telling you all about my recent trip to the dump. See, my husband, a friend and I eagerly booked onto our local council’s annual tour of our local recycling facilities. It was fab! I learned so much! So… what do you do for fun.

I know, I know, it’s very sad but true that a tour of Moreton Bay Regional Council’s MRF (Materials Recycling Facility, pronounced by those in the know as “merf”) was the highlight of my month, but that’s just the kind of gal I am. And how lucky to have friends and a partner who share my curiosity about waste!

Anyway. The tour was actually a bit lame, but we did learn some interesting stuff that I’d like to share with you here. Some is pretty obvious, but other titbits were news to me and will make me and my family better recyclers.

The first thing to remember is that the mantra of waste management is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Yep, that’s right – recycling is LAST on the list. If you want to really help the planet, try focussing on the first three… more on that later.

Next up, let’s dispel some common myths about recycling:

You can’t recycle pizza boxes. This is an old truth from when recycling was very new. Facilities didn’t accept plastic or cardboard food containers with food on them for various reasons – they would contaminate the machinery, health and safety and so on. Today, you can put any recyclable food container in to be recycled even if it’s covered in cheese and bacon. BUT. Remember that human beings work at MRFs and food attracts rodents and birds, so be nice and give it a quick rinse with your used dishwashing water.

You should only put things in the recycling box that you know your local facility can handle. Surprisingly, this idea was also overturned. The ladies leading the tour – all very passionate about recycling – said “if it’s got a number on it, put it in the recycling bin”. They explained that any materials left over from the standard recycling process are sorted (not just chucked into landfill). Someone actually goes through and finds plastics or metals that can be recycled and will send them to where they need to go – even if their own facility can’t handle them.

You can’t recycle lids on bottles or jars. This is definitely not true. There’s barely a lid in existence that can’t be recycled, but you do need to take them off.

My generation is very good at recycling. Sadly, this is not the case. According to research, the age bracket 18 to 35 is the worst when it comes to not caring about waste and where it goes. Time to step it up people.

To learn more, keep an eye out for my next post, which will look at the most common contaminants in home recycling bins.


  1. Romi says

    Fabulous articles, thank you! Although it makes me really sad that the 18-35 age bracket has so much to learn.

    Keep up the great writing.


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