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We’re rubbish at recycling, research shows

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Coffee cups and used pizza boxes – can these items go in your household recycling bin?

If you answered yes, you’re wrong, and you’re not alone in the Hunter.

New research conducted by multinational food and drink processing corporation Nestle, reveals although most Australians (95%) are confident they know which bin their rubbish goes in, 88% are actually doing it wrong.

Takeaway coffee cups are a common stumbling block when it comes to recycling, with 36% believing they can be recycled, when in fact most can’t.

A staggering 68% aren’t aware that aluminum foil can go into household recycling bins if pieces are scrunched together to the size of a golf ball.

Research revealed 39% don’t flatten cardboard before recycling it.

Used pizza boxes appeared to confuse Australian households, with 55% believing they can be recycled when in fact, if covered in grease or leftover food they can’t. Only the parts untouched by food can. 

Labelling also appeared to slow the recycling process with 37% of Australians thinking the Mobius loop (chasing arrows) means something is recyclable.

New research from Nestlé shows that while many people (86%) are taking the time to look on pack
for recycling instructions, inconsistent on-pack labels are contributing to confusion in our bins.

Nestlé Oceania head of corporate affairs and sustainability Margaret Stuart believes many of us are feeling confused.

“We know Aussies care about the environment and want to do the right thing – but when they’re standing at the bin they simply want to know ‘Can this be recycled’ and ‘What bin do I put this in’?,” she said.

“There are lots of recycling labels on the market – such as ‘Recycle me’, ‘Remember to recycle’ and even the Mobius loop – but these don’t necessarily mean the packaging is recyclable or tell people how to recycle it.

“There is only one labelling scheme that makes it clear – and that’s the Australasian Recycling Label.”

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) provides clear on pack guidance on which bin to recycle in. It also provides any additional instructions such as scrunching, rinsing or flattening, to ensure the material is recycled properly.

Recycler iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said they see the results of Australians’ over-confidence and the confusion that inconsistent labels can cause when the contents of recycling bins arrive at their sorting facility.

“We see so many things come through that simply shouldn’t be there,” he said.

“Recycling right is so important for the environment, and keeping our recycling streams clean helps us make the most of that opportunity.”

Ms Stuart said more than 600 companies had adopted the ARL but more needed to commit. 

“We must help people by providing clear, concise and consistent labelling to make sure that the right things get to our recycling centres and don’t end up in landfill,” she said.

Nestlé has committed to making 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and is rolling out the ARL on all of its locally manufactured products to help consumers know how to recycle correctly.

Top tips for recycling:

1) Check it, before you chuck it: always look for the ARL to know which bin to recycle in

2) Drop off soft plastics: collect soft plastics and drop them instore at a REDcycle collection point

3) If in doubt, chuck it out: while it may seem counterintuitive if you’re unsure if something is

recyclable, put it in the rubbish bin.

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