Recycling can be a tricky task to wrap your head around. The basic principle is simple, but understanding exactly what can and can’t be included in your recycling bin can seem like a bit of an enigma. The recycling services available within each council area can drastically change what can be included and what ends up in the landfill.

As part of Planet Ark’s National Recycling Week, we’re busting a few common myths about recycling, to help you get it right!

Myth 1- All recyclables can be put in my household recycling bin

Just because something can be recycled, doesn’t mean it’s able to be recycled through your local council waste system.

Soft plastics such as bread bags, zip-lock bags and the bags inside cereal boxes can be recycled, but only at the correct facilities. Placing soft plastics inside your home recycling bin is one of the biggest rubbish disposal mistakes made by Australians. Instead, collect all of your soft plastics inside of one larger plastic bag and drop it off at your local Coles or Woolworths supermarket for recycling at a REDcycle facility.

Other questionable recyclables such as batteries, old phones, and printer cartridges have their own specific recycling facilities with thousands of drop-off points around the country. Your old mobile phone can be recycled with Mobile Muster at many supporting stores and community centres such as libraries and councils. Old batteries of many shapes and sizes can be dropped off at any Aldi store across Australia. When it comes to printer cartridges, Planet Ark have their own recycling scheme in place with heaps of participating stores, including over 1800 Australia Post outlets, Officeworks and JB HiFi among many others.

Myth 2- Food containers must be washed

There’s much debate about whether leaving traces of food on packaging will contaminate the recycling system. According to Wollongong City Council, there is no need to thoroughly wash your cans, tins, and bottles before throwing them in the recycling bin, as long as they have been emptied, scraped clean and are dry.

If you would prefer to wash them, the council recommends using old dishwater instead of fresh water, to reduce energy and water wastage.

Myth 3- The triangle at the bottom of a container means it can be recycled

This is one of the greatest misconceptions about recycling. The three arrowed triangle that we’re used to seeing as the symbol for recycling, is the same symbol used to determine the type of plastic a product is made from- not all of which can be recycled.

Plastic types 1-3 are accepted by most councils, which includes most drink bottles, bathroom bottles and some food packaging containers. Type 6, polystyrene is widely unable to be recycled. This means polystyrene cups, meat trays and foam packaging. The rest either fall into categories of soft plastics, which can be recycled at the correct facilities, or larger household items which can be taken away by your local council.

For full details about which items go into which bin in the Illawarra, please refer to the simple and easy to use ‘Recycling Guide by Wollongong City Council, and start making sure you’re recycling right!