Recycling Etiquette –The Right and Wrong Ways to Recycle

Published On December 16, 2010

Proper recycling goes beyond just throwing your plastic bottles, tin cans and old newspapers into your recycling bin. There is a right and wrong way to recycle and getting it right ensures that your recyclables end up as new products and not landfill. With good recycling etiquette you can help to make the recycling process more efficient and avoid contamination.

It is important to get into the habit and learn to recognise what can be recycled and also to take the time to dispose of these items correctly. Local councils have been providing recycling collection services for quite some time, and along with the provision of separate bins, distribute brochures describing the dos and don’t s of proper recycling. Listing days and areas of recycling within your local council area or shire, they also provide information of what items you can recycle. Importantly they list what can’t be recycled, and this can include plastic shopping bags, nappies, window glass, green waste, waxed cardboard, polystyrene, food waste, timber, car parts or clothing.

So what is good recycling etiquette and what is the right way to recycle?

Identify your Plastic

Not all plastic is recyclable. There are actually seven different types of plastic and these are identified by a code which will be displayed on the container. The information you receive from your council on recycling will list what codes of plastic can be recycled in your area.

Remove Lids

Plastic bottles can be recycled but often the lids can not, as they are not made from the same plastic. Remove lids and place in your normal waste or contact your local council and find out if there is anywhere that does recycle them.


Bottles and jars are fine to put out with the recycling but broken window glass, light globes, vases and ceramics are not. Broken glass should be securely wrapped and disposed of carefully in your normal waste, or check to see if your council has a hazardous waste disposal centre.

Leave it Loose

Work and school papers, telephone books, newspapers and magazines can all be recycled but often your council will recommend that you do not tie them up. Binding them together creates unnecessary work for employees at the recycling centre and there is the risk of it being rejected by the centre altogether.

Keep it Clean

By rinsing containers you are not only being considerate of the employees at the recycling centre, but jars, bottles and cans with food or liquid remaining in them can contaminate paper and other recyclables. Once contaminated they cannot be recycled and end up as landfill. Give them a quick rinse when doing the washing up and by doing so you will also speed up the sorting process at the recycling centre.

Save Space

Cardboard boxes should be crushed and torn to fit into your bin so they don’t jam. This way they won’t take up as much space in your bin or the recycling truck. It isn’t necessary to remove tape. You should also crush bottles and containers once you have removed the lids. Aluminium cans can be crushed and you can also remove both ends of tin cans and flatten them.