‘Confused’ Aussies’ biggest recycling mistakes
EXCLUSIVE:: Australians are still keen to recycle household waste, but they have become overconfident and confused as they make mistakes that can be avoided.
A new study obtained by News Corp has found while 96 per cent of the country is eager to recycle, 94 per cent still put one or more non-recyclable items in their recycling bin.
The Don't Waste Your Waste study, which is being released on Global Recycling Day on Monday by Nestlé and Planet Ark, also found that:
*82 per cent incorrectly assume the well-known 'chasing arrows' recycling logo on plastic packaging means it is automatically recyclable
*73 per cent don't flatten egg cartons before recycling them
*60 per cent recycle foil incorrectly by not scrunching it into a golf ball sized ball before recycling it
*58 per cent don't remove leftover food from pizza boxes before recycling
*Almost half of people wrongly think plastic cutlery can be recycled
*38 per cent still think plastic straws can be recycled
*36 per cent incorrectly put plastic bags and soft plastics in the recycling bin
*27 per cent wrongly put recyclables in a bag before putting them in the recycling bin
The study also found that one in four people think anything can go in the recycling bin and will be sorted by someone else, and 45 per cent said unclear labelling and instructions stopped them from recycling better.
Planet Ark Deputy CEO Rebecca Gilling told News Corp Australians need more support to recycle correctly.
"We know there's still a high degree of confusion out there and people are overconfident with their recycling abilities, so those figures were disappointing given the work we're trying to do about recycling better," she said.
But Ms Gilling said the recent introduction of a new, simpler Australasian Recycling Label, which more than 100 companies in Australia have adopted, has made it easier for consumers.
She said that the older recycling labelling was "one of the key areas of confusion".
"When people see a number inside the recycling logo illustrated with arrows like you would on a PET [plastic] bottle, it will tell you which of those numbers your council will accept in the recycling bin," she said.
"It identifies the plastic type, it's confusing with the arrows as people automatically associate it with the recycling bin, but it doesn't mean it's automatically recyclable."
Ms Gilling said many people are still throwing items like plastic bags, fruit and vegetable bags, chip packets, clothing and even dirty nappies in their recycling bins.
"As they go through the machinery, they get caught up in it and workers have to climb and cut away all the contaminates with Stanley knives.
"Recycled items go on a conveyor belt and get hand sorted and if you put recycled items in a plastic bag it'll get thrown out, so your efforts are wasted."
Ms Gilling said bottles must be rinsed, dried and then crushed with the lid put back on before being recycled.
"When it goes through the crusher, liquid can leak out and damage the paper stream," she said.
She said egg cartons must be flattened, or they'll bounce off the conveyor belt and end up in the plastic and aluminium steam instead.
While pizza boxes were flat enough to go through, they must be cleared of leftovers.
"A little bit of grease is not a huge deal … you can tear off the pizza box lid and put that in the recycling bin, and compost the bottom or put it into the waste bin," she said.
Ms Gilling said foil must be scrunched up so it doesn't fall through holes in recycling machinery.
Nestlé Head of Corporate & External Relations Margaret Stuart told News Corp it aims to make 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.
"We have made a commitment to making all our packaging recyclable and we're moving down that road now trying different materials, looking at how we label packaging so consumers understand it," she said.
"We have to look beyond the packaging, we need to make sure at the end of its life that consumers are recycling and we need to be part of that solution."