CHOICE guide to plastic recycling

Only 15% of plastics we consume are recycled. Here’s what you can do.
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  • Updated:26 Feb 2009

03.Dos and don'ts


If you’ve ever thrown into the rubbish an empty peanut butter jar made of recyclable PET for fear of contaminating the whole load, simply because you didn’t want to use all that hot water to clean it, think again. While food and drink waste put into the recycling, as well as containers with leftover food, will indeed contaminate the plastics recycling stream, as sorting these by hand requires more resources and drives up the prices for recycled plastics, they don’t need much cleaning. The higher the standard of the incoming recyclables, the more cost-effective the recycling.

“Recycled plastic is a lower grade product than virgin plastic anyway, so increasing its price makes it economically unviable, it’ll ruin the market for recycled plastic,” says Planet Ark’s Recycling Programs Manager Brad Gray.

However, there is no need to scrub every plastic food container with detergent and hot water before putting it out for recycling; a quick wipe or rinse is usually sufficient.

The vast majority of plastics the Chullora MRF receives from household recycling schemes is clean enough to end up in the recycling stream. Other items to keep out of your recycling bin include:

  • Hazardous materials (such as medical sharps, clinical waste and household chemicals), which also require special disposal.
  • Drinking glasses, as they melt at a higher temperature than glass bottles and jars.
  • Polystyrene meat trays, because of putrescible contaminants.



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