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waste free me - the good stuff is in here

Stories and experiences of living waste free. Articles to help you get waste free too! 

How To Fix Common Recycling Mistakes.

Waste Free Bee

Recycle Right: Fix common mistakes to keep resources out of landfill

In this post:

  • Common recycling mistakes you might be making that send recoverable resources straight into landfill.
  • Learn the WHAT, HOW and WHERE of recycling well. 
  • Trouble and Treasure - What happened after the Plastic Special last week?
  • A little video on “Your Stuff” that will make you split your sides with the hilarious truth of what you own. 


CubeBot asks "WHY?!"

CubeBot asks "WHY?!"

Millions of tons of recyclable household waste goes into landfill every year from a lack of, or inefficient, recycling systems.

Even more regrettable is when great recycling systems are used poorly, resulting in the loss of good materials into landfill. Often people INTEND to do the right thing but are misinformed about how. Misunderstanding is common as every different place has a different system for recycling.

In order to make the most of the recycling services in your area, you need get proactive. First and most important to do is:

Get to know your local recycling crew and ask how you can help them be awesome at their job.

Well packed trucks make Doug happy and contaminated recycling makes him growl!

Well packed trucks make Doug happy and contaminated recycling makes him growl!

Say "Hi" again to Doug. He and the team of 25 people at the Remondis Materials Recycling Facility work diligently every week to keep our waste from going to land fill. Sadly, sometimes mistakes we make in our recycling habits cause Doug and his team major headaches and result in 'contaminated' recycling that has to be dumped into landfill. This will make the usually cheery Doug growl for sure.

The system in Canberra uses clever mechanics, air, light, spinning magnets, vehicles and good old human power to sort recyclable material. It's completely fascinating if you get to have a look. But, to make this system work well, we need to fix some big no-no's that are happening in our bins. 

Doug and his team want us to know:

"Let me at your recycling!"

"Let me at your recycling!"

1. Always dismantle everything. Let your kids loose on the recycling if you need destructive help. (Safely!) Pull apart any materials that can be pulled apart. Then put the separated bits into your recycle bin. 

Lids or caps on bottles and jars cause any liquids to stay trapped inside. The sorting machine reads that item as being 'full' and sends it straight to landfill. Remember: Break everything down.

2. Never put nappies in the recycle bin for exploding poops sake! Keep those stinky sacks of brown baby jam outta your recycling! When a nappy explodes into the machinery, Doug and the team are forced to have a sad little poop cleaning party, the kind no one wants an invite to. This shuts down the entire system and causes all the recycling, normally recovered, to go straight to landfill. 

"I didn't do it."

"I didn't do it."

For those dedicated to no-waste, you can compare the many brands of modern cloth nappies here. One day soon this initiative by Kimberly-Clark Australia will mean you can recycle your disposable nappies. Watch this space. 

If you are still using disposable nappies, don’t go on a woe-is-me guilt trip. Just get more dedicated to reducing your waste in other areas. Nappies are on the waste dirty dozen target list but we don’t want you tired Mums and Dads avoiding the great things you CAN do, just because you feel guilty about the little poop bombs you get hit with daily. Small steps are still steps. 


3. Never seal your recycling inside any bags or cardboard boxes. Packages all have to be treated as hazardous. The team won't be opening up dodgy, closed packages to discover if it’s full of your clean, loved-up recycling or one of the above-mentioned nappy disasters.  The whole bag or box will just go straight to landfill. Dismantle people, dismantle. 


Ask: WHAT can I recycle in my area? Your local council will know the specifics for your household. For example, in Canberra, ACT we can recycle all hard plastics even if there is no recycling number stamped on the packaging. However in Cairns, QLD only plastic marked with the following numbers can be accepted.   

A great resource for Australian homes is PLANET ARKS's website and, check this out....Recycling Hotline!! So no more "I wonder what to do with this?" 


Just call 1300 733 712 or visit for comprehensive information on your area.

Ask: HOW can I recycle best? Sometimes you will need to clean and or dismantle your recycling so it is acceptable for recycling businesses. For example, soft plastics that go into REDcycle bins can be quickly ruined by leaving excessive food waste spoiling inside bags. This will likely contaminate the entire drop and it will all go to landfill. 

Discover: WHERE you can recycle by using Planet Ark's Recycling Near You website.  Then arrange a share system or car pool with neighbors or family for recycling that needs to be dropped off. For example, we collect soft plastic and batteries from other family members when we are ready to drop ours off. Next time, swap, so they collect yours.   

By learning to ask WHAT, HOW and WHERE you will drastically reduce the misunderstanding that results in recoverable materials going into landfill.   

What happened after the plastic special - Trouble and Treasure.

Your responses to the plastic special were incredible! So many of you are contacting us to let us know what a huge difference this is already making to your landfill waste and to share important extra information.  From you:

Treasure: Plastic microbeads are proving to be an environmental and health disaster with bans starting to be introduced. Get a free app to help you determine what products have nasty plastic beads lurking around waiting to poison our food-chain.

Download the app here and return products to the manufacturer with a pre-written note, sample available here. 

Trouble: One dedicated reader got herself into a little bit of trouble after discovering the waste-free-me blog. She was so delighted to discover she could post her plastic to REDcycle, and became so excited to share the information, she posted this cheeky message on her facebook page:

Unfortunately some of her nearest and dearest were rather miffed not to have real wedding bells ringing and admitted to skipping the rest of the post out of initial excitement, and eventual anger, at her ploy. We love your passion in sharing AND we encourage you all to practice safe sharing methods :) to achieve the aim of getting information out and about.  

Treasure: Not all places have a recycling drop off point for soft plastics. One N.T readers did some detective work and discovered this. A company called NTRS are doing wonderful things in the world of recycling. After a quick call to the facility to explain the no-drop-off issue, NTRS agreed to collect your CLEAN and DRY soft plastics at their reception. 

 There are great initiatives happening all over the world. If you don’t know where to recycle a type of resource, how about doing a little detective work and letting us know what you find.

Remember to ask WHAT, HOW and WHERE and learn your local recycling facilities well!

Waste Weigh in Number 2  

Total household waste recorded this fortnight was  25.6 kgs with 19.4 kg saved from going to landfill. Yay! Happy dance!

  • 9.72 kg food waste
  • 6.2 kg Recycling
  • 346 gm Soft plastic packaging
  • 9.33 kg Kitty litter

The "Too Hard" basket is gathering some tricky items. Please let us know if you have any ideas.  


Finally, a little video about "Your Stuff" that will make you split your sides with laughter. It's scary accurate and delivered so well by comedian George Carlin. Enjoy!

On the 15th of May we will take a look at how to deal with your food waste. Until then, take care of yourselves and your surrounds. 

Nic and Bee

P.S Remember to 'Like' and 'Share' this article below if you found it useful or amusing :) The more people on board = the greater impact we can have on cleaning up our beautiful world.