Being a better recycler takes a little more effort. There tends to be different drop-off points for different things, and just because something is recyclable, doesn’t mean it is collected at our kerbsides.
If we want to be better recyclers (and of course we do!), we definitely shouldn’t limit ourselves to kerbside recycling. So much more can be recycled! The kerbside bin is a tiny part of the whole story.
I thought I’d use the place where I live, Perth, as an example of where different things can be recycled (and where I drop things off). Whilst you might not live in Perth, hopefully you’ll have similar services and options in your own towns.
The Yellow Lidded Kerbside Recycling Bin
For years in Perth, the different councils and different Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs – the place where the recyclables go to be sorted) have had different rules for what can go into the yellow-lidded recycling bin. This makes recycling very confusing, as people move suburbs or visit friends and family and suddenly whole new sets of rules apply.
For the first time ever, in August 2018 the three MRFs in Perth agreed to be consistent with what they accept into the yellow lidded kerbside bin.
The current recyclables accepted are aluminium and steel cans, empty glass jars and bottles, plastic containers and bottles (plastics 1 and 2 are the most valuable), cardboard and paper (including paperboard cartons).
The following are all considered types of contamination (whilst it is hard to believe, one MRF reported receiving 400 soiled nappies in the recycling stream in a single day):
Specific information about specific materials that many people think are recycable – but are not (at least in Perth):
Aerosols: whilst made of recyclable metals these are no longer accepted in the yellow lidded recycling bins. This is because aerosols should be put in the recycling bins empty, but many aren’t. Aerosols have caused 5 small explosions in the compactor of one of the MRF operators over the last year. There is also the concern that people are putting all types of aerosol into the recycling bin, including butane canisters which are potentially extremely hazardous.
(Aerosols can be taken to one of the 13 Household Hazardous Waste facilities throughout WA for recycling.)
Coffee Cups: although a similar material to milk cartons, coffee cups are not recyclable through kerbside because of their shape (they would not be sorted by the sorting screen), and also because these materials would represent a contaminate in the cardboard stream.
UHT Milk and Juice Containers: if sliver lined, these cartons are not recyclable through the kerbside system. These materials are composite packaging. Paperboard milk cartons which do not have a silver lining are acceptable in the kerbside recycling bin.
Meat trays: these are not recyclable because currently it is too confusing to know what the material is therefore if it is or is not recyclable. There may be an issue with raw meat contaminating the plastic material also.
Tops on or off containers? – Containers and bottles must be empty, and the lid can only be placed inside if it is the same type of plastic. The lids are not recyclable, they end up as contamination if they are in the recycling bin as they are too small to be collected.
Shredded paper: this should not go in the recycling bin. The shredded paper is too small to be captured and it contaminates the glass stream.
Recycling Soft Plastic: Redcycle
Soft plastic cannot go in the yellow lidded recycling bin, but it can still be recycled via the many REDcycle collection points at Woolworths and Coles. Soft plastic needs to be clean and dry, and sticky soft plastic (like stickers and sellotape) isn’t accepted as it gums up the machines. You’ll find more details on the REDcycle website: redcycle.net.au
Here’s a comprehensive list of what soft plastic REDcycle does and does not currently accept:
Recycling Hard-to-Recycle Plastic
Not recyclable in the yellow-lidded recycling bin or REDcycle? That doesn’t mean it is not recyclable!
Terracycle run free and paid recycling programs for various types of difficult-to-recycle packaging and other products. Currently in Australia their free programs are for: contact lenses and packaging, beauty products, mail satchels, various coffee pods, and dental care recycling.
The paid programs (which are usually free for consumers to use and are paid for by businesses or workplaces) are for: beard and hair nets, binders/folders, cigarette waste, media storage, office supplies, plastic gloves, safety equipment and snack wrappers.
They are often at schools, many individuals also host collection points, as well as ethical businesses such as local bulk stores. The two most local options to me are Urban Revolution at 284 Albany Highway, Victoria Park, and Perth City Farm at 1 City Farm Place, East Perth.
CLAW Environmental is a plastics processing facility at 5 Forge Street, Welshpool that will accept almost any type of plastic (the only exception is black polystyrene meat trays). In particular, they recycle expanded polystyrene. They are open Monday to Friday and will accept drop-offs from the public.
My absolute favourite recycling hub is the one at Perth City Farm, in East Perth. As well as being a drop-off location for Terracycle, they accept many other hard-to-recycle items, including craft items, corks, CDs and DVDs, lightbulbs, printer cartridges, batteries and eWaste.
Other hubs include some libraries and local council offices (the Town of Victoria Park has a few recycling drop-off bins in their admin building), some Bunnings stores, and Ikea.
Other Useful Places to Recycle
Textiles: I take my non-compostable, completely worn out textiles to the Perth CBD H&M store for recycling. It’s a free service, and I figure taking my old clothing is the least they can do, considering they pump so many textiles (the majority being plastic fibres) into the world.
eWaste: Most local councils offer a free eWaste collection service for computers, televisions and IT equipment a couple of times a year, otherwise Transfer Stations usually accept eWaste. Some businesses such as Officeworks also have collection points. Total Green Recycling is a local Perth-based electronics recycling company with good ethics.
Glass: I’ve talked countless times about how glass put into yellow-lidded recycling bins in Perth is not recycled back into glass. It is crushed into a grey powder and companies are paid to take it away and use it for road base. The reason for this is the nearest glass recycling facility is in Adelaide, in South Australia. If you’d really like your glass recycled back into glass, Tamala Park Landfill actually collect glass and truck it to Adelaide.
Planet Ark run an Australia-wide database for recycling, so if need to find out if something is recyclable, and how to go about actually recycling it, check out their website: recyclingnearyou.com.au
Now I’d love to hear from you! If you live in Perth, do you know any other useful recycling hubs or destinations for other materials? If you’re from outside Perth, what options do you have near you? How does your kerbside recycling differ from ours? Share your thoughts in the comments below!