Recycle Less to Recycle More!
Sometimes perfect is the enemy of good.
Likewise trying to get recycling perfect can get so confusing you might just want to give up.
To make it easier, we have put together this simple UNOFFICIAL guide.
Why a guide?
By following this guide you will ensure
- the blue bin is not contaminated
- what you put in the blue bin has a high chance of being recycled
- what you put in the trash is stuff that was unlikely to get recycled
- you are not wasting time, soap, and water on cleaning stuff unlikely to get recycled
The fact is, LOTS of plastics that are welcome in the blue bin are not likely to get recycled - things like plastic wraps, takeaway food containers, and plastic bags are unlikely to get recycled even if clean.
Our Blue Bin Mantra: Recycle less to Recycle more!
This means that by putting less stuff in blue bins unlikely to get recycled, recycling rates will improve:
- there will be less food contamination (which improves recycling rates - particularly for paper), and
- less sorting will be required making recycling more efficient and profitable
- Does this map perfectly to NEA guidelines? No!
- Does it make recycling easier? Yes!
- Does it make it easier to explain to others in your household how to recycle? Absolutely!
- So are you saying recycling is a wayang? No!
Our School of Thought
Our aim is to make recycling easy for everyone and to get the best results with the least effort.
The official instructions are a bit different: official instructions encourage you to put everything in the blue bin that could possibly get recycled. Then market forces (demand for recyclables) will determine whether or not something actually gets recycled. What doesn't will get sent to incinerators.
Sometimes perfectly clean material will still get incinerated because there is no demand for this post-consumer waste. Food contamination is not the only reason materials are not recycled.
NEA guidelines have remained more or less the same since the blue bin system was established roughly a decade ago. And when they were first formulated, casting a wide net made a lot of sense because demand for plastic waste was much greater.
But over the years, markets for many plastics have disappeared and are unlikely to come back. For instance, before 2018, China was taking almost all the world's plastic waste. But those days are long gone and they have shut the doors to our plastic!
So here we are
Recognising that many of the plastics that used to get recycled no longer do, we think it's worth simplifying instructions.
Simpler instructions makes recycling less stressful which encourages more people to take part.
Let's make this clear: we are not saying one method is better than the other. They are different.
If you are already a recycling guru, you don't need our cheat sheet!
We offer this approach for those who want some easy rules of thumb to help them recycle.
Footnotes: Consumer Waste vs Industrial Waste
Our guidelines are for “post-consumer waste” meaning waste generated by individuals and households, not industry.
- Because businesses and industry are often able to generate large volumes of high purity waste, these instructions don't apply to industrial settings.
- Part of the challenge of post-consumer plastic waste is that it is hard to sort and so it is hard to achieve high purity levels.
- For example, a company that has a skip full of pure LLDPE plastic stretch film may be able to get it recycled. This is very different than a small piece of LDPE shrink wrap that an individual puts into a blue bin.
- Purity and volume affect economies of scale. Recycling is a business. Material will only get recycled if it is profitable to do so.
A3 Large Poster
If you would like to print out a poster size version of this guide, download the A3 version here. This version includes a QR code with more info which is NOT readable on A4.