Top 10 items contaminating your recycling


November 6, 2018


Contamination can cause all your recycling efforts go to waste so learn about the top 10 items that do not belong in your recycling bin.

1. Greasy pizza boxes

That brown, oily McDonald’s takeaway bag and cheese-crusted pizza boxes may seem like great additions to your recycling bins, but not if they are contaminated with food. If there is food or grease on it, it belongs in general waste.

Greasy pizza boxes

2. Nappies

You’d be surprised at how many disposable nappies make their way to the recycling system. Not only are they not recyclable, the fact that they are soiled makes it unsanitary for workers to deal with and contaminate other good quality materials in the bin. Opt for cloth nappies instead or put your disposable nappies in general waste.


3. Soft plastics

While most rigid plastic containers can be recycled, soft plastics do not belong in recycling bins as they can get caught in sorting machinery. A better option is to collect soft plastic separately and take them to a nearby supermarket that recycles soft plastic or better yet, avoid them altogether.

Soft plastics

4. E-waste

Computers, mobile phones, printer cartridges and other electronic devices are considered e-waste and do not belong in your commingled recycling bin. Not only will it contaminate the general recycling stream, but it also contains hazardous materials that is a risk to anyone handling it incorrectly. To recycle unwanted electronics, find your nearest e-waste drop off point here.


5. Used tissues or paper towels

Soiled tissues, paper towels and serviettes are likely to have absorbed water and other unsanitary substances making them unsuitable for recycling.

Used tissues or paper towels

6. Food waste

Food waste such as fruits, vegetables, eggshells and bread are some of the biggest causes of recycling contamination in Australia. If your office or council does not have an organics food collection service, it should be disposed of in the general waste bin.

Food waste

7. Crockery and Pyrex

Broken crockery and tempered cookware glass like Pyrex cannot be sorted through the MRF and should be kept out of the recycling bin. Crockery is also not accepted and should go in general waste instead.

Crockery and Pyrex

8. Textile

All clothing and fabric are considered contamination and are not accepted in the commingled recycling bin. Even worse, textiles can get tangled in sorting machinery and can cause damage.


9. Garden waste

Garden or green waste includes leaves, grass clippings, branches and flowers. They are considered contaminants in the commingled recycling bin. Use the dedicated green waste bin if you have one. This allows your garden waste to be collected and recycled into compost or mulch.

Garden waste

10. Bagged recyclables

Recycling should always be loose in your recycling bin. Because plastic bags cannot be processed at sorting facilities, this means the entire bag of otherwise good quality recycling will go to waste.

Bagged recyclables

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.