Sustainable living

7 recycling myths

We bust common recycling misconceptions

7 recycling myths bins

Every council does things a little differently. It’s important to know what applies in the City of Sydney's local area. We aim to see zero waste in landfill and we need your help.

Reducing your waste is the number 1 priority. Second to this is helping to build a circular economy by recycling. Here we debunk common recycling misconceptions.

Myth 1: I need to rinse containers before putting them in the recycling bin

There’s no need to rinse them as long as all food and liquid are removed. If containers are empty and dry, it’s fine to pop them in the yellow lid recycling bin. You might like to rinse anyway, as it keeps your recycling bin extra clean and odour-free.

Myth 2: Tissues, napkins and paper towels go in the yellow lid bin

Nope. These items don’t go in your recycling bin. These items are generally made from recycled materials and the fibres get shorter with each use. Paper fibres can generally only be recycled 5 to 7 times before they’re too short. Also, if the paper has come in contact with oils or fluids these can contaminate the recycling process. Place tissues, napkins and paper towels in the red lid bin.

Myth 3: Styrofoam packaging for electronics or furniture is plastic and belongs in the recycling bin

Even though it has a recycling symbol on it, polystyrene (styrofoam) can’t be recycled through the yellow lid bin system. If you’ve just bought a large appliance and have a lot of styrofoam, you can drop it off at Recycle It Saturday, our Ultimo recycling pop-up or book a doorstep recycling collection.

Myth 4. Plastic bags can go in the yellow lid bin

Plastic bags and other soft plastics that can be scrunched into a ball can’t be recycled in your yellow lid bin. Plastic bags and soft plastics can jam the sorting machines at the recycling plant.

The yellow lid bin is just for hard plastics such as water bottles, ice cream containers, fruit punnets and shampoo bottles.

Avoid plastic bags altogether and take your own reusable shopping bags.

Plastic bags and soft plastics that you can’t avoid need to be placed in your red lid rubbish bin.

Myth 5: Oily pizza boxes can't go in the recycling bin

Pizza boxes can be recycled in yellow lid bins, even if they have oil or grease stains. Just make sure to finish eating all the pizza. While a little bit of melted cheese is fine, old crusts or leftover slices should go in the red lid bin.

Pizza boxes can go in the recycling bin as long as you remove any leftovers.
Pizza boxes can go in the recycling bin as long as you remove any leftovers.

Myth 6: Small items such as bottle tops and foil can go straight in the recycling bin

Small, loose items can clog up the machinery at the recycling facility. Leave lids on bottles whenever you can.

If you have tops that can’t be reattached, such as beer or can tops, put a few inside a tin and squeeze the lid shut. Only put a small amount inside the tin so it doesn’t change the weight too much. You can then place the tin in the recycling bin.

Aluminium foil can be recycled if wrapped into a tennis ball-sized shape.

Myth 7: If there’s room in the recycling bin, boxes can go straight in

You should break down your boxes because this makes room for other recyclable items in your bin. This is especially important if you live in an apartment and use shared bins.

Published 4 July 2018, updated 28 February 2023