A quick guide to recycling at home | Ecobuy

They’re the quintessential first steps to becoming more ‘green’ – separate, wash, recycle. While Australia has a murky history and relationship with recycling, its residents are still sorting and swapping – but how many of us are doing it well?

Recycling describes the process of reusing resources that would have otherwise contributed to our global waste crisis. While it’s not something we can see the impact of straight away, there’s a myriad of economical and environmental benefits to recycling: from reducing waste in landfills to encouraging minimalist social mindsets to saving public money.

It’s a daunting and frazzling mountain to climb at the beginning – with so many rules and exceptions and tips and tricks to get your head around, it’s no wonder that so many complete their sustainability marathon at recycling. 

The concept of recycling is also multifaceted and sparks dialogue on many fronts, but before diving deep into a nuanced discussion on the benefits, woes and neutrality of recycling, it might be helpful to get updated on recycling 101.

What can I recycle?

For most of us around the country, there are two main categories that we can recycle our home waste into: 

Containers/packaging – items made of plastic, aluminium, steel and glass

Including:

Soft drink cans and water bottles made of plastic

Aerosol cans

Glass bottles and jars

Juice and milk cartons

Plastic food containers

Aluminum and steel cans 

 

Plastic Recycling Codes

Here’s where recycling plastic gets a little more layered – despite looking like a symbol for recyclability, the triangle recycling codes represent the type of plastic that an object is made of. You can then use the symbol to determine whether an object truly is recyclable or not: this changes from region to region, so it’s best to check in with your local Council. 

Paper and cardboard

Including:

Newspapers and magazines

Phone books

Cardboard boxes

Pizza boxes

Envelopes

What can’t I recycle?

While most useables in the home are recyclable or reusable, there’s a bunch of items that shouldn’t grace your kerbside bins. These include:

Plastic bags

Window glass

Light bulbs

Mirrors

Sharps 

Nappies

Waxed cardboard containers 

Cardboard containers with food scraps etc

So what do I do with plastic bags and soft plastics?

All of our major supermarkets now accept plastic shopping bags for recycling. There is usually a plastic bag recycling collection bin at the front of the store or in the carpark. The REDcycle program is a fantastic scheme that now recycles the below soft plastics (including plastic bags!).

source: REDcycle

How to recycle more effectively: consume mindfully

While recycling comes with its benefits, it’s vital to remember that we should be aiming to bring less waste in through our doors rather than simply ‘remedying’ our wasteful social behaviours. Reducing, reusing and recycling is a great way to prevent individual waste, but it’s even better to not consume in the first place.

It’s a difficult and prolonged learning curve but the best way to tackle it is little by little. If you’re dedicated to learning how to recycle efficiently, invest in other small changes that will reduce your waste (recycled or not) even more. These switches can include: using reusable shopping bags, cancelling junk mail and buying second-hand items instead of brand new. It’s alarming how much our consumption adds up over daily or weekly periods, and it’s telling when we actively aim to reduce what we use. 

About the Author:

Imogen is a Far North Queensland based journalist, activist and media literacy educator. Invested in social justice, she writes extensively on social change, sustainability and the media.

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