Paper Recycling in Australia – 5 Easy Steps to Remember

Who has put shredded paper in the recycling? yep, me too – oops. How about paper contaminated with food? yep, done that also – another oops. What about coffee cups? and tissue paper? this list goes on. It can get very confusing and this is why I have pulled together 5 Easy Steps to Remember when Paper Recycling in Australia.

Rule 1: Size Matters – Must be a Fist Size or Bigger

All items going to recycling, including aluminium foil needs to be the size of your fist or bigger. This is due to smaller items ending up as waste during the recycling processing. See article on shredded paper for more details.

Another size that matters for paper recycling is how light the paper is. If it is light weight like tissue paper then it should not be recycled and instead be used for composting.

Rule 2: C is Composting – Food Contamination is for Composting not Recycling

A very common cause of recycling contamination is food and plastics. All paper and cardboard that is contaminated with food needs to go with your green waste or composting. So a good rule of thumb is that if there is food contamination then separate the contaminated piece for composting and place the rest in the recycling bin.

Note: for plastic contamination, such as the plastic on a tissue box, the plastic needs to be removed for disposal in the RedCycle bin and the paper disposed of in the recycling bin.

Rule 3: R is for Recycling – Paper you Read can be Recycled

Magazines, books, newspapers, even your school report on marsupials should go in the recycling process. It is recommended that staples be removed and the books have the cover separated however this is not mandatory. 

Rule 4: Buy Recycled Paper

In the circular economy that we live, we have an opportunity to drive better outcomes – such as manufacturers wanting more paper recycling because consumers are only buying products which include recycled material.

Rule 5: Paper Cups for Hot Drinks can NOT be Recycled

This may come as a surprise, particularly because milk cartons which appear similar to coffee cups can be recycled however paper cups for hot drinks are not recyclable. The reason is because the recycling facilities in Australia can not (as of early 2019) process coffee and other hot drink cups.

Until these cups can be recycled, people should rely on reusable cups and push their local governments to take action.

See video below for the UK coffee cup recycling solution.

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