The one recycling mistake you or someone in your family is probably making.

Thanks to our brand partner, SSROC

When it comes to recycling, most of us try to make some kind of effort.

In this new age of the post-plastic bag ban at Woolworths and Coles, there’s never been a better time to brush up on our environmentally friendly practices not just at the shops, but at home too.

There happens to be one recycling mistake many, many Australian families are still making with plastic bags. And I must admit, I was one of them until recently.

Yes, it’s that moment when you or someone else uses spare plastic bags to put the other recycling into before popping them into your recycling bin. This can actually cause huge problems once it gets to the recycling station. Who knew?

This is for a number of reasons. For starters, the first phase of recycling is usually done by hand. As workers are sorting through lots of bags per hour, this is an added step that can become incredibly time consuming, and for health reasons they don’t open your plastic bags. At this point, the whole bag full of recycling is actually put into the rubbish stream… which defeats the purpose, really.

The second problem is that plastic bags can also interfere with the automatic recycling sorting machines. This is because conveyor belts feed the recycling into different rotating tunnels that separate some of the most common recycled items, such as plastic, glass and steel cans. The issue is that plastic bags cannot be sorted from the other materials by the machinery. Instead, they get caught up in the conveyor belts and jam that machines.

So it’s easy to see why putting your recycling material into plastic bags before they go in the recycling bin is wreaking such havoc. According to 2015 Ipsos data, 94 percent of Australians say they “know how to recycle well”, yet 32 percent of us still bag our recyclables. The good news is, there are things we can do to avoid this from happening.


A new campaign called Unbag The Recyclin’s, by the Southern Sydney Region of Councils with funding support from the NSW Environment Protection Authority, helps us understand just what we’re meant to be doing – and it’s actually a fun watch that’ll change your habits like I’ve changed mine:

Video via SSROC

Here are some other tips to help you along the way:

Recycle your plastic bags the correct way.

If I can’t bag my recycling, then what do I do with my plastic bags? I know many of you are probably asking this question and the answer is simple. Plastic bags are able to be recycled, just not in your recycling bin at home. Alternatively you can drop them off at specifically marked recycling bins outside most supermarkets. Check with Redcycle to find out if your local has a soft plastics bin.

Explore the world of fun reusable bags.

There is no doubt we need to use less plastic bags to begin with. You can do this by refusing plastic bags when you’re out at the shops and using reusable bags instead. And the best part is they are so readily available, it is easy to make the switch. There are some really cool and fun reusable bags you can now purchase, such as the ‘Ban The Single Use Prime Minister’ bag by Gwen Blake who founded Boxer&Co.


Keep a crate or box for all of your recycled materials.

This doesn't have to be you. Keep a crate or box instead. Image via Getty.

No-one means any harm when they bag their recycling, but what can you do instead without trying to carry all of your recycling to the recycling bin? Some bins aren't as close by or accessible as we'd like them to be, especially if you live in an apartment block. So the easiest thing to do is to keep a crate or box near by, whether it be under the kitchen sink, in the laundry or anywhere that is close to your kitchen, to make it easier fort you when you are transporting them to the recycling bin.

Talk to your friends, family and neighbours!

You now know that plastic bags are bad for the recycling bin. So what can you do to stop it from happening? Spread the word. If you live with someone, whether it be your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mum, dad, child, flatmate or anyone else you might live with, tell them to unbag their recycling. While putting your bins out on the curb, also taking the extra couple of minutes to let your neighbours know too is making a greatly positive impact on the environment.

While you're at it, stop using plastic bags as bin liners.

We now know that plastic bags are not good for the recycling bin. But we also know plastic bags aren't good for the environment full stop. Yet most of us still use them to line our bins in the home. However saying no to plastic bags at the checkout and using compostable bags that break down more easily instead is the best way to go.

So using these handy tips, let's make it our mission to stop plastic bags from finding their way into our recycling bins. We know recycling is important and we all want to do our best for the environment. Reducing our plastic bag usage is one step in the right direction towards doing that.

What are your top recycling tips? Tell us in the comments section below. 


Unbag the Recyclin’s is a behaviour change campaign highlighting the importance of NOT placing your recycling materials into plastic bags before throwing them out.