Your commingled recycling questions, answered


November 5, 2018


Recycling isn’t as complicated as it seems. While some councils and businesses may have slightly different inclusions, the basics are always the same. If in doubt, throw it in general waste. For the most specific information about what’s allowed in your commingled recycling bin, check with your local council or your Cleanaway account manager.

1. Recyclables must be loose, not bagged in the recycling bin.

Do not ever bag your commingled recycling before putting it in the yellow-lid bin. The facilities that receive the recyclables are rarely able to separate the recycling from the bags, and the soft plastic can cause damage to machinery.

It is also quite dangerous to open the bags manually, as the operator opening them risks a needle stick or broken glass injury.

2. Empty recyclables of all food and liquid.

Leftover food and liquids in containers can contaminate other recyclables when placed in the commingled bin. To prevent contamination and preserve the quality of the material for recycling, ensure that they are rinsed out before recycling – a quick scrape and rinse will do.

3. Plastic lids off.

Plastic lids are made from a different type of plastic than the bottles they came with, which is why they should be separated and sent to general waste. This also helps to ensures the bottle or container is empty – leftover liquid in containers can contaminate a whole load of recyclables.

4. Clothing and textiles do not go in the commingled recycling bin.

Clothing, shoes and bags do not belong in the commingled bin. At sorting facilities, they jam machinery and contaminate other recycling. Unwanted wearables should be repurposed or donated directly to charities.

5. Check the label on meat trays.

Carbon black meat trays cannot be detected by optical sorters in recycling facilities due to their non-reflective surface, so it’s best to leave them in the general waste bin. For meat trays of other colours, it’s best to check the label, as some may be made of non-recyclable material. If in doubt, it’s best to leave it out of the commingled bin.

6. Aerosol cans must be empty and are not always accepted.

If aerosols are even partially full, they pose a health hazard for sorters at recycling facilities – when put under pressure, the flammable gas within might cause an explosion. Aerosols can be recycled in your commingled bin but make sure they are totally empty beforehand.

Some councils, including Perth Metro, do not accept aerosol cans.

7. Toothpaste tubes must be clean to be recycled.

Toothpaste tubes are made from either plastic, aluminium or a combination of both, so they can be recycled if they are reasonably clean. Cut open the tube and rinse it out to remove residual toothpaste. After removing the plastic cap or lid, it can be recycled in the commingled bin.

8. Aluminium caps can go in the commingled bin.

Yes, but they are too small to be sorted by the machinery at recycling facilities. Save them in an empty aluminium can until half full, then crush it so that the tops stay inside.

9. Aluminium foil is recyclable if clean enough.

Foil from yogurt tubs, pre-baked foods and chocolate Easter eggs are recyclable but only if you scrunch them up into a ping pong sized ball so that it can be easily picked up and sorted at recycling facilities. Foil covered in food or oil should not be recycled.

10. All colours of plastic bottles can be recycled.

Although the value of recyclable plastic bottles is higher when pre-separated into their specific colours, all colours are recyclable as the facility identifies them by shape.

11. Liquid paperboard milk cartons are recyclable.

While liquid paperboard is difficult to recycle because it involves separating the paper from the plastic liner, it is recyclable.

12. Do not collect plastic bottle lids together in a plastic ziplock bag.

The problem with collecting plastic lids together in a plastic bag is that it’s all different types of plastic which cannot easily be sorted by the facilities.

13. You do not need to remove the staples from magazines and paper.

The tiny staples are not likely to contaminate the paper.

14. You do not need to remove labels from bottles and jars.

Labels are ok to be left on as they get removed during processing.

15. How can I help my community or workplace recycle better, especially if I share a bin in an apartment block?

Speak to your local council or Cleanaway account manager about educational material that you can use to help educate others about how to recycle right.

Learn everything you need to know about contamination in recycling here.

Where’s the confusion around contamination in recycling? Find out the results of our contamination quiz here.