Drink bottle recycling

Five billion plastic, glass and aluminium drink containers end up in landfill or as litter. Is a national Container Deposit Scheme the answer?
Learn more

05.How to rule at recycling

A formal solution to the drinks container conundrum is still some time away yet. In the meantime, make sure your recycling efforts don't go to waste by following these top tips.

  • ONLINE_Triangles_RecyclingJust because an item has the recycle symbol on it doesn’t mean your local council will accept it for recycling. The ‘mobius loop’, as it’s known, means that the item is either recyclable or made from a percentage of recycled materials. In theory most things are recyclable, but if your local council does not accept a particular type of waste it will end up in landfill.

  • Find out exactly what your council can, and can’t, recycle at Planet Ark’s site RecyclingNearYou.com.au
    or the National Recycling Hotline: 1300 733 712.

  • ONLINE_NumberTriangles_RecyclingPeople often mistake the teeny tiny numbers in the triangles found on the bottom of containers on plastic containers as recycling symbols (pictured right). They are actually the Plastics Identification Code used to identify different types of plastic. However, you can use these numbers to check whether your council accepts that type of plastic. 

  • Plastic bags are the enemy of recycling facilities. Not only do they get tangled in the cogs of the machines causing malfunctions, the bags behave differently to normal rubbish and the laser sensors can accidentally sort them with the paper, which contaminates paper, reducing its value.

  • Soft plastics such as cling wrap, food packaging, bubble wrap are not generally accepted for domestic recycling. Only solid plastics such as drink containers, bottles, ice-cream containers and hard yoghurt packs are accepted. If an item has an identification number on it but makes a crackling noise when crushed, it should go in the rubbish.

  • Plastic bottle tops should be removed, according to Planet Ark. If lids remain on and there is any liquid left in bottle makes it heavier and optic lasers sort bottle to the wrong place.

  • Steel bottle tops: anything smaller than a 50 cent piece falls through the sieve in the sorting process. Just like plastic tops, metal tops are too small. If you are super keen, collect metal bottle tops in a clean can - when the can is half full squeeze the top of the tin top closed and put the whole thing in the recycling bin.

  • As a general rule paper coffee cups are not recycled, unless specified by the council. If the plastic lid has the identification number accepted by the council it can be recycled. Avoid the problem entirely by getting a reusable cup.

  • Lightweight polystyrene, as used in hot drink cups, packaging, and meat trays, is not accepted in domestic recycling bins.

  • Some councils accept pizza boxes, but if there are any foods scraps stuck to them, or they are very greasy, don’t include them.

  • Putting the wrong things in your recycling bin reduces the value of recyclables because of the extra time it takes to sort materials and the risk of ‘contamination’ of recyclables. For example, a newspaper still wrapped in soft plastic will be discarded at the recycling facility. If in doubt, leave it out.

  • Tyre disposal is a huge environmental and humanitarian problem but the Voluntary Tyre Stewardship Scheme, funded by the industry, is expected to start in late 2013.

  • Coles has introduced soft-plastic recycling bins in more than 470 of their 750 stores collecting shopping bags, reusable 'green’ bags, bags for fruit and vegies, packaging from bread, biscuits , confectionery, rice, pasta, and frozen foods.

  • Hazardous waste like TVs, lead acid batteries, fluoro tubes, car batteries, toner cartridges, and mobile phones can contain toxic materials which leach into the natural environment, but also valuable retrievable resources like copper, palladium and gold.

  • RecyclingNearYou.com.au and BusinessRecycling.com.au gives drop-off locations for a huge number of items including e-waste, lead acid batteries, fluoro and compact light globes, organic waste, printer cartridges, mattresses, and chemicals.

  • Only 10% of the current 106,000 tonnes of e-waste is recycled each year. The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme commenced in 2012 and expects to achieve a recycling rate of 80% for TVs and computers by 2020.

  • There is no single, definitive, national information source on resource recovery and waste management in Australia, as the Australian waste industry is regulated mainly by states and territories rather than by one central body. However the National Waste Report in 2010 found that:

    • The recycling and waste sector is valued at between $7 and $11.5 billion.
    • 42% of waste was from construction and demolition; 36% was from commercial and 22% was from municipal solid waste.
    • 48% of Australian waste was landfilled in 2006-07.
    • Organic waste (food, vegetation) accounts for 62% waste disposed to landfill.
    • Every additional tonne of materials reprocessed in Australia creates $530 in new economic activity.
  • For more information on the current state of recycling take a look at Planet Ark's Second Nature: Recycling in Australia.

Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments