Although many think they can get away with sneaking things into their recycling bin, carelessly putting in the wrong items will contaminate the whole batch.

It’s important to know the rules of recycling to avoid recyclables ending up in landfill.

If you’ve been throwing your wine bottles in the yellow bin with the lid still on, then you've been doing it wrong.

If you’ve ever thrown out a pizza box with food still in it, then you’ve contaminated the whole batch.

“What I usually do with my pizza boxes is rip off the part with leftover toppings still stuck to it, throw it in the garbage bin and the other half in recycling,” Jayne Paramor, deputy director of national environment group, The Boomerang Alliance, told

“I’d rather not compromise what goes into the recycling bin because if it is contaminated, the entire batch will be sent off to landfill.”

To avoid this happening, Aussies need to learn more about what can and can’t be put in the yellow recycling bin.

“The vast majority of soft plastic can be recycled but we don’t have the capacity in this country to do it — it is restricted based on our recycling infrastructure,” Ms Paramor said.

City of Sydney Council’s waste strategy manager Kath McLaughlin said the most common mistake people were making was putting their recyclables in a plastic bag and then throwing it.

The plastic bag later gets caught in the waste machines.

Others are unfortunately still making obvious mistakes with their yellow bins, such as contaminating their recyclables with nappies and clothes.

“People think by putting their clothes in the recycling bin it will somehow make its way to a charity, but no, it doesn’t work like that,” Ms Paramor said.

Ms Paramor said that spending just a few extra minutes making sure you are recycling correctly will bring us all one step closer to protecting the environment.

“It really is everyone’s responsibility, from governments, to the manufacturers and retail sectors in what they’re putting on the shelves, to consumers and being conscious of what they’re purchasing and doing with their waste.”

Although the rules differ for every council area depending on their waste management facility, here are the best-practise rules you can keep in mind next time you recycle.


Yoghurt tubs: Rinse and remove lids before placing in yellow bin.

Local papers: Plastic and rubber band goes to REDcycle, only paper can be recycled.

Books: They can be recycled but the paper must be separated from the spine and broken down into smaller pieces.

Tissue boxes: The plastic film must be removed first and placed in a REDcycle bin. The cardboard can then be flattened and put in the yellow bin.

Large boxes: Must first flatten the cardboard before placing in the yellow bin.

Magazines/papers containing staples: There is no need to separate the staples from the paper before putting it in the yellow bin.

Greasy takeaway paper bag: If the paper bag only has a little bit of grease on it then it is fine to put in the yellow bin. If it is very contaminated, put in the red bin.

Detergent/shampoo bottle: Empty the bottle, rinse and then recycle.

Bottle of wine: Put the lid in the red bin and then recycle the bottle.

Coffee cups: The lid can be removed, washed and recycle. However, the cup cannot be recycled due to its waterproof plastic lining so put it in the red bin.


Cotton handles from paper bags: Recycling facilities don’t handle textiles so if it is cotton, then compost or try to reuse it.

Used tissue: You can’t recycle tissues.

Clothes: Old clothing will jam the machinery at the recycling facility. 

Nappies: There are specific nappy recycling services in Australia that you can use but if you put it in your yellow bin, it will contaminate the other items.

There are also unique services to recycle mobile phonescomputers and TVsprinter cartridgespaintcoffee capsules and mattresses.  

Have you been recycling correctly? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was written in partnership with Over60.