Frequently Asked Questions about the #Recycle Right campaign

What is #RecycleRight?

#Recycle Right is a new region-wide campaign asking people to make some simple changes to our recycling routines.

This has been developed with our neighbouring councils as a region-wide campaign across the Northern Rivers.

The main message of this new campaign is to keep it simple and ensure you are only placing clean and correct recycling materials in your yellow bin. It is essential that we have clean recyclables that we can send off for remanufacturing in Australia and overseas.

If we all do this, we can keep our resources coming ‘round and get the most life out of every product.

The #RecycleRight campaign replaces the Dirty Dozen – 12 Recycling Rules for your Yellow Bin.


Why have the recycling rules changed?

Changes to China’s recycling rules in January 2018 have affected the recycling industry across the world.

For a long time, China was the largest importer of the world’s recycling, accepting over 30 million tonnes every year and ultimately having the capability to drive recycling prices and practices worldwide.

Until a few years ago, China accepted recyclables with a relaxed contamination level of around 5% (contamination being incorrect items mixed in with the material to be recycled). This meant China accepted a large proportion of the world’s waste, which was then their problem to deal with.

The ‘National Sword Policy’ introduced in January 2018 enforces a strict contamination limit of 0.5%, which sent the global recycling industry into shock – much of the world’s recycling could not meet this new export standard.

On the up side, the National Sword Policy is a catalyst for change, forcing us to recycle better, develop new technologies to better sort our recycling and develop new industry within Australia that supports the processing and manufacture of goods using recycled content.

More materials are now being recycled in Australia, as well as overseas – but we need a very clean recycling stream to ensure they can be processed and remanufactured into new products.

The #RecycleRight campaign is all about ensuring we have clean and uncontaminated recycling.


How do I know what to recycle?

The #RecycleRight campaign asks people to follow six easy recycling routines. A quick guide is below.

To further help people understand what goes where, we also have a magnet for your fridge that you can pick up free at your local Council office or library.

Here is a quick guide to the #RecycleRight routines:

#1: Keep it Simple

Only recycle household items made of plastic, glass, steel, aluminium, paper and cardboard.

Tip: To know what goes where get a magnet for your fridge! Pick one up free at your local Council office or library.

#2: Keep out Soft Plastics

We need to keep out all soft plastics including plastic bags, soft plastic packaging, cling wrap, pasta packets, bread bags, biscuit trays etc. We can no longer accept bags of soft plastics or soft plastics of any kind in the recycling bin.

Tip: Take your soft plastics to major supermarket ‘Redcycle’ collection points – this way you can still avoid placing them in the red landfill bin. Even better, avoid plastic altogether by using your own reusable bottles, containers and bags.

#3: Keep out Small Items

Do not place anything smaller than a credit card into your recycling bin including bottle lids, bread tags and straws. We can no longer accept these, even if collected together in an old milk bottle. If it’s smaller than a credit card, keep it out.

Tip: Put small pieces of paper or cardboard in your green organics bin, and other small items in your red landfill bin. Larger lids such as the lids off yoghurt tubs can go in your recycling bin on or off the container.

#4: Keep it Safe

Keep it safe for our Materials Recovery Facility workers and our machines. Keep out anything hazardous that can harm our workers or anything that can stop or damage the machines, particularly things that can get wrapped around the machinery such as strapping, cords, clothing, hose, netting, wire, building materials, chemicals and other hazardous materials.

Tip: We accept small problem waste through our Resource Recovery Collection Satchels including household batteries, corks, CDs and DVDs, electrical cords, mobile phones, prescription glasses, printer cartridges, smoke detectors, x-rays and small e-waste such as calculators and handheld games. Resource Recovery Collection Satchels are free to pick up at your local Council office or library. You can also drop-off household problem waste such as car batteries, fire extinguishers, gas bottles, oil, paint and large e-waste such as computers, laptops and TVs free of charge at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre. There is a 20kg/20-litre limit after which fees apply.

#5: Keep it Clean

Keep it clean by rinsing or wiping out your containers of any food or drink. You can also Keep it Clean by keeping out items that will contaminate your recycling bin. This means NO food scraps, NO nappies, NO dirty paper or cardboard, NO meat or biscuit trays, NO coffee cups or lids, NO clothing or fabric, NO soft plastics and NO polystyrene.

Tip: To know what goes where get a magnet for your fridge! Pick one up free at your local Council office or library.

#6: Keep it Loose

Don’t bag or box your recyclables – just place them loose into your recycling bin. Things move quickly along the conveyor belts at the Materials Recovery Facility and there is no time for staff to sort out bags or boxes.

Tip: Clean recycling means you don’t need to line your kitchen recycling bin and can just put them in loose!


Why can’t we recycle soft plastics anymore?

Unfortunately, there are no processors in Australia that will accept our soft plastics for recycling.

Also, we found contamination at our Materials Recovery Facility was a big problem. Soft plastics such as plastic bags, cling wrap, pasta and biscuit packets, bread bags etc would often come through the facility loose, and pose huge problems at the Materials Recovery Facility as they would either get tangled up in the machinery or cross-contaminate other recycling due to their lightweight nature. In order to get the cleanest, purest recycling we need to remove soft plastics altogether. Additionally, when loose plastic bags and soft plastics get tangled in our recycling machines, they stop the sorting process and require staff to remove the problem waste with ropes and harnesses.

But there is still a solution!

Australian manufacturer Replas does recycle soft plastics and they are supplied through the Redcycle collection points at most major supermarkets. You can continue to take your soft plastics to these collection points for recycling. Find your closest drop off at

Please note: We did ask Replas if they would take our soft plastics but they didn’t want any more supply until there is more demand from shoppers for goods made from recycled plastic.


Why can’t we recycle meat and biscuit trays anymore?

Black foam meat trays have never been recyclable and now all meat trays must go in the red landfill bin.

This is because some have built-in absorption pads and they all have a thin inside lining of soft plastic, which is very hard to see. Items made of more than one type of plastic cannot be recycled.

Biscuit trays are made of a very poor quality plastic and currently the recycling factories that we send recycling to are unable to recycle it.


Why can’t we recycle polystyrene in our yellow bin anymore?

At the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre our staff manually feed polystyrene into a machine that chips and melts the poly, enabling it to be made into small bales. Pallets of these bales are transported to factories in Korea and Malaysia and made into new items like picture frames.

Unfortunately, polystyrene breaks up easily and contaminates the rest of our recycling when collected through your yellow bin. We are now asking everyone to drop-off polystyrene (for free!) at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre or the Brewster Street Drop-off Centres.


Why can’t we recycle takeaway coffee cups and lids anymore?

The linings in hot beverage cups make these items difficult to recycle. China was accepting takeaway coffee cups and lids in the paper and cardboard bales we were sending them. Their factories were able to manage the contamination in the recycling process. As they will not accept this level of contamination anymore, and there is no-one in Australia who can manage the contamination, these items must go into red landfill bins.

New cups and lids made of plant material are being developed and in the future there is a possibility that these may be accepted in the organics bin to be composted. For this to happen the following needs to occur:  the manufacturers of these companies must demonstrate that their products are certified compostable, trials are conducted to ensure we can maintain high value compost production and the community is informed and well educated on the difference between a compostable cup and a regular one.

However, there is a simple solution to this type of waste – avoidance! Get yourself a reusable coffee cup take to the café each morning and wash it out to reuse again the next day.


Why can’t we recycle lids and other small things anymore?

Anything small is unable to be sorted at the Materials Recovery Facility – it falls through gaps in the recycling machinery and can contaminate our recyclables and glass sand.

To solve this issue in the past, small items like plastic tags and ties could be put into a container. However, these items are all made of different types of plastic. These could previously be processed together but with changes to the recycling industry there is no longer a market for mixed plastics, and all different types need to be sorted and separated for recycling. These small items are simply too hard to be sorted and separated effectively.

As part of the new #RecycleRight routines we are asking you to remove lids and place anything smaller than a credit card into your red landfill bin.


Why do I have to wash containers? Won’t rinsing waste water?

Keeping recyclables clean is our most important goal. So we need people to rinse out food and drink before placing containers in the recycling bin.

Rinsing containers under a running tap is wasting water but by adding the empty containers to you daily dish washing pile, they can be cleaned with the water you are already using.


Can I still put Resource Recovery Collection Satchels in the recycling bin?

Yes! These satchels are for problem household waste including household batteries, prescription glasses, printer cartridges, mobile phones, smoke detectors, corks, CDs and DVDs, electrical cords, x-rays, and small e-waste like calculators and handheld games.

Simply fill up your satchel and put it in your recycling bin. Resource Recovery Collection Satchels can be picked up free from Council offices or your local library.


Why can’t I place recyclable items in a bag or box?

When your recyclables reach the Materials Recovery Facility, they are loaded onto a conveyor where they are manually sorted by staff. The staff don’t have time to grab bags or boxes and empty them out from the moving conveyor belt.

By putting items loose into your recycling bin you help keep the system working well and ensure we can recycle as much as possible.


Which bin do I put cardboard in?

Put clean cardboard into your recycling bin. Put dirty cardboard like pizza, noodle or cake boxes into your organics bin.


When an item has a recycling symbol, can it go in the recycling bin?

No! Not every item with a recycling symbol can be recycled here. Food, drink or other containers are imported and exported around the world and there is not one global recycling symbol.

Planet Ark has developed an Australian recycling label that you will notice on products ( but this is still not foolproof as different Council areas can recycle different things.


The best thing is to follow the #RecycleRight recycling routines and you can’t go wrong!