5 recycling tips for soy sauce fish bottles and more

Better changes to live sustainably.

Despite our best intentions, we all get plastic recycling wrong sometimes. A little bit of contamination is okay, but if enough of the wrong plastic is found in the yellow lid recycling bin, the whole lot can end up in landfill. Find out how to recycle different types of plastics properly.

Go in-depth. Register for a 30-minute Plastics decoded webinar and learn more about the plastics we use every day, the NSW Government’s single-use plastics ban, and how to find plastic alternatives to reduce our use.

1. Eliminate common contamination culprits

Plastic bags are often found in the recycling bin and are a major cause of strife at the recycling plant. Plastic bags can become tangled in sorting machinery, potentially causing breakdowns and even fires. They can also hinder the recycling process for other materials.

Let’s face it, plastics confuse the best of us

What to do

Good: Recycle plastic bags in REDcycle bins found at Woolworths and Coles. REDcycle will recycle your plastic bags into products like water and termite-resistant outdoor furniture.

Don’t put your recycling in plastic bags that then go in the yellow lid bin. Instead, use a container and drop your recycling loosely into the yellow lid bin.

Better: Say no to plastic bags altogether. Did you know lightweight plastic bags were recently banned in NSW? Use a box or reusable bag to hold your groceries instead.

2. Don’t be soft on scrunchable plastic

Soft plastics are usually wrappers and packaging (bread bags, pasta packets, chip packets). Hard or rigid plastics are often containers (water bottles, ice cream containers, fruit punnets, shampoo bottles).

The difference? Soft plastics can’t be recycled through your yellow lid bin at home. Use the scrunch test if you’re unsure. If you can easily scrunch it into a ball, it’s probably a soft plastic.

If it's easily scrunchable, keep it out of your yellow lid bin

What to do

Good: Recycle soft plastics with your plastic bags in REDcycle bins.

Better: Avoid buying products packaged in plastic wrapping. Shop at local markets or choose packaging that can be recycled easily.

3. Don’t get caught out by combined or composite items

Combined items, such as newspapers that come wrapped in plastic, can’t be recycled as is. Take the wrapping off and recycle the plastic and paper separately.

Composite items are packaging made from a mix of different materials – say, cardboard and plastic or aluminium. Unfortunately, the materials can’t be easily separated, meaning that composite items are not recyclable. Put them in your red lid bin.

Many ice cream containers are composite items, with a cardboard exterior and plastic lining interior to seal in any liquid

What to do

Good: Separate recyclable materials like cardboard or paper from soft plastics and other contaminants and put them in the right place. For example, paper goes into the yellow lid bin, soft plastic wrapping goes to the supermarket for recycling.

Better: Avoid combined and composite items like plastic-wrapped publications or single-use coffee cups, which have cardboard on the outside and plastic lining on the inside.

Take a reusable cup to coffee shops.

Where possible, choose products packaged in recyclable materials.

4. Take note of the little things

Those cute fish-shaped soy sauce containers have a habit of hanging around. Can they be recycled? Yes, but this comes with a caveat. Even if properly disposed of, small items like sushi fish can be lost at the recycling plant.

This is because the machinery used to sort recycling has size limits. Only items as large as a business card will go through. Anything smaller ends up in the landfill pile.

What to do

Good: Put smaller items like sushi fish containers inside a bigger plastic container, like a milk bottle or tub. Keep them contained within something else of the same material.

This goes for other small things too, such as metal lids. Put them in an old tin can and squeeze the can shut so the lids don’t fall out.

Remember: like goes with like when it comes to combining materials.

Better: Keep a bottle of soy sauce at home and at your desk, so when you get takeaway sushi, you don’t need to resort to the fish containers.

Ask your favourite sushi place to not automatically give away soy fish containers.

5. Be aware of what looks like the recycling triangle

Some plastic items have a triangle symbol of 3 chasing arrows with a number from 1 to 7 inside

The chasing arrow symbol may look like a recycling symbol, but it’s not. The number inside the arrow is an international plastic code and refers to the type of plastic the product is made from, not whether it can be recycled in your yellow lid bin.

The best way to find out if an item is recyclable is to check with your local council. The rules are different depending on where you live. If in doubt, it’s better to place an item in the red lid bin to avoid contamination.

What to do

Good: If you live in the City of Sydney’s area, check our website to learn more about recycling and what you can and can’t put in the yellow lid bin.

Also remember you can test for soft plastics using the scrunch test mentioned in point number 2.

Better: The best way for you to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill is to avoid packaging. No matter how wonderful your recycling efforts are, reducing consumption is the ultimate goal.

Still have questions? Register for a 30-minute Plastics decoded webinar and learn more about the plastics we use every day, the NSW Government’s single-use plastics ban, and how to find plastic alternatives to reduce our use.

Posted . Last updated .

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