Eleven common recycling mistakes and how to avoid them

Even as experts in recycling, we have to admit it’s not a straightforward process. There’s not a blanket right or wrong answer to recycling. It all depends on where you live.

That’s why one of our best pieces of advice, is to always visit your local council’s website to understand their specific rules on what can and can’t be recycled in your area. You can move ten minutes down the road to another council, and they may not accept certain items that you could recycle previously.

To help you stay on top of your recycling game, here are 11 items that frequently end up in the wrong bin.

  1. Greasy take out food boxes

Understandably, a lot of people assume that pizza or take out food boxes are recyclable because they’re made of cardboard. The cardboard is recyclable, but when it’s covered in grease it can’t be. This is because when the cardboard is being recycled it goes through a pulping process, and too much grease and oil won’t separate during this process, which can ruin the quality of the end product. 

TerraCycle Tip – you can cut your pizza box in half and throw the greasy side out and recycle the non-greasy side. 

  1. Aerosol cans 

A lot of councils in Australia and New Zealand don’t accept aerosol cans because they can be flammable. This applies to your hair products, deodorant, paint cans etc. It’s best to always check your council’s website to see if they can be recycled in your area.

TerraCycle Tip – If there’s no council solution you can dispose of your aerosol empties responsibly through the FREE TerraCycle and Schwarzkopf recycling program. It accepts any brand of used hair aerosol packaging! Sign up for the program by clicking here for Australia, and here for New Zealand.

  1. Frosted glass

It may seem surprising, but frosted glass is another item that shouldn’t go in your recycling bin. This is because frosted glass is coated, which means it can’t be remelted with other glass. 

TerraCycle Tip – If your household or business amasses a lot of frosted glass bottles or items, you could explore purchasing a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box. For frosted beauty products check out the Beauty Products and Packaging Zero Waste Box and for everything else see our All-in-one Zero Waste Box

  1. Beauty  and cosmetic products

It’s easy to assume that a lot of beauty products are recyclable because they’re made of glass or a certain plastic. However, many beauty products are made from a mix of different materials. The lid may be plastic, with a metal spring-loaded pump and a glass bottle. These different materials CAN’T be processed together so throwing them in the recycling bin is not the answer. 

TerraCycle Tip – TerraCycle has loads of recycling programs for beauty products. If you live in Australia you can recycle all brands at any Priceline store thanks to Maybelline. MECCA and David Jones will also accept beauty empties., If you live in New Zealand you can drop empty products at any MECCA store. Alternatively, you can check out one of our free national recycling programs for brand-specific beauty products. These include L’Occitane, Jurlique, Lush, Edible Beauty, Garnier, Rodan + Fields and Jeuneora.

  1. Blister packs

No matter how healthy you are, medicinal blister packs can really stack up.  Sadly, these aren’t kerbside recyclable. That’s because blister packs are made from a mixture of materials such as foil and soft plastic. 

TerraCycle Tip – You can recycle your blister packs through a range of TerraCycle Zero Waste Boxes 

  1. Bottle tops and lids

Bottle tops and lids can be a confusing one, and it’s always best to check your local council’s recycling guidelines. Generally, the best practice is not to throw loose lids and caps into your recycling bin. This is because they are too small and can slip through the machinery during processing. 

TerraCycle Tip – If your council advises you to do so, you can reaffix the lid back onto the bottle to be recycled. However, if your council does not accept them check out our Bottle Caps Zero Waste Box.

  1. Snack wrappers and chip packets

Many people are surprised to discover that most packaging that’s soft and flexible is not recyclable (HINT: you can tell if the packaging is flexible if you can ball it up). 

Unfortunately, flexible packaging like lolly wrappers or cereal bar wrappers often goes into the rubbish because it is made from many layers of different materials.

TerraCycle Tip – You can avoid landfilling these items by looking for in-store recycling programs such as RedCycle in Australia or Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme in New Zealand. A TerraCycle Soft Plastics Zero Waste Box is another convenient way to recycle soft plastics.

  1. Ceramics

Your ceramic mugs, pots, dishes or ornaments are not recyclable. The presence of ceramics in a batch of typical, recyclable glass will weaken the recycled product, which is why ceramics aren’t accepted.

TerraCycle Tip – If they’re still in good condition you can always take your used ceramics to a thrift store or sell them secondhand on an online marketplace such as Gumtree. Broken items will need to go in your regular rubbish bin.

  1. Broken glass

You should never place broken glass into your recycling bin. This is because the glass shards can contaminate other items in your recycling bin, and cause harm to others in the waste collection or recycling process. It is safe to put glass jars or containers in your recycling.

TerraCycle Tip – Make sure you wrap or bag any broken glass before throwing it away in your rubbish bin

  1. Small scraps of tin foil or paper

Your recycling bin shouldn’t be treated as a paper waste bin. Small scraps of paper or foil will contaminate other materials in your bin. 

TerraCycle Tip – Make sure you bunch up any paper or tin foil into balls no smaller than both of your fists together before tossing it out. Then they can pass safely through the processing machines.

  1. Coffee cups and takeaway cups 

This may seem like an obvious one if you’re an avid recycler, but it’s a really common mistake people make. Coffee cups and takeaway cups often have a plastic lining so that liquid doesn’t seep out and it can withstand hot drinks. Although your drink container may look like it’s made from cardboard this coating makes it non-recyclable. This also applies to cups marked biodegradable and/or compostable.

TerraCycle Tip – Carry a reusable cup with you so you can say no to single-use cups altogether. You can also reduce the impact of your takeaway drink by asking for no lid. For situations where you can’t opt for a reusable, TerraCycle’s Laminated Paper Zero Waste Box accepts the lined cups which are recycled at a specialist facility.

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