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Recycling: Frequently Asked Questions

There are 79 councils in Victoria and they can all vary in what they allow in your recycling bin. For example, most councils including Mitchell Shire Council, accept glass in the same bin as paper and co-mingled recycling, but some have a separate collection for glass and paper.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions we get asked about our kerbside recycling system.

Which colour bin do I use?

Here in Mitchell Shire our bin lid colours are;

  • red = garbage bin
  • yellow = recycling bin

These colours align with the Australian standard for bin lid colours. The Victorian Government is working to align all Council bin lids to this standard.

We don’t currently have a bin for green waste. Instead, we welcome residents can take their garden waste to any of Council’s Resource Recovery Centres. Learn more about what services are available for green waste.

Can I recycle this specific item?

If you are unsure if you can recycle a specific item:

  1. Check our kerbside recycling bin flyer.
  2. Look for the Australasian Recycling Label on the packaging.
  3. If you are still unsure, place it in your garbage bin or get in contact with our customer service team.
Why can't I put the same things in the recycling bin wherever I am?

Councils send their collected recyclable materials to different Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) around Australia. There are around 100 MRFs operating in Australia and many have different sorting equipment that sort things in different ways. Recycling is collected in the Mitchell Shire in a way that makes it easiest for our contracted MRF to process.

What happens if I put the wrong thing in the recycling bin, will the whole truckload go to landfill?

If you put non-recyclables (contamination) into your recycling bin and the collection driver sees it, they will sticker your bin and not empty it. You will also receive a letter in the post from Council’s Waste and Resource Recovery department outlining why the item is considered contamination along with a copy of Council’s Know Your Recycling flyer.

If non-recyclables end up in the truck and the contamination becomes widespread, the whole truckload may end up going to landfill.

If only a small number of wrong items are placed in the recycling bin, this will not cause the whole truck load to be sent to landfill. Small amounts of contamination can usually be separated out at the MRF.

Why is contamination an issue?

Contamination causes several problems:

  • The sorting equipment at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) is not designed to sort all types of materials. Some items can get caught in the sorting equipment and damage it. This slows down the sorting lines and can even stop or break the equipment.
  • Contamination reduces the value of recycling. We need higher value recycling for a reliable recycling system.
  • Some contamination can be dangerous such a batteries and e-waste, which can start fires.

This is why it’s very important that we place the correct items in our kerbside bin to reduce contamination.

What are the top five contaminants in the recycling bin?

The most common types of contaminates placed in recycling bins include:

  1. recycling in plastic bags.
  2. soft plastics
  3. polystyrene
  4. clothing, shoes and other textiles
  5. food and garden waste.
Do I need to wash containers before recycling them?

No. Recycling doesn’t need to be sparkly clean, it just has to have the food scraped out.

Can I put my recycling in a plastic bag?

No. When items are placed in a plastic bag they can’t be sorted by the machines or staff at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). It’s also not clear what’s inside the bag, presenting a health and safety risk for operators. There’s no need for a plastic bag, simply put your items loose into your recycling bin.

What about a biodegradable bag?

No. These act the same way as a plastic bag at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). There’s no need for a bag, simply put your items loose into your recycling bin.

Which bin do soft plastics go in?

Soft plastics can’t go in the kerbside recycling bin.

Some supermarkets have drop-off points for soft-plastic recycling. Visit the REDcycle website to find a list of participating stores. If you can’t do that, then put them in the garbage bin.

Which bin do tissues, shredded paper and paper towel go in?

These items mustn’t go into the recycling bin, they are considered contamination as they can disrupt the sorting process at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). These items should be placed in the garbage bin or home compost if suitable.

Which bin do disposable coffee cups and lids go in?

Disposable coffee cups and coffee cup lids can't go into the recycling bin at home or even when you’re out and about.

You can recycle both the disposable cup and lid at one of the 238 participating 7-Eleven stores across Victoria. You can also recycle Slurpee paper cups, plastic lids and straws there as well.

If you can’t do that, you must put them in the garbage bin.

Why do I have to scrunch foil into a ball to recycle it?

Foil is only recyclable if it’s scrunched up. If it’s left flat it ends up being sorted as paper. If you scrunch the foil into a ball (any 3D shape really) it behaves like an aluminum can and can be sorted correctly.

Which bin do the lids off plastic bottles go in?

The small plastic lids off plastic bottles can’t go in the recycling bin loose, so you need to screw them onto the bottle or put them in your garbage bin instead.

Small lids fall through the sorting lines at Material Recovery Facilities (MRF), as a rule of thumb anything smaller than the palm of your hand is too small to be effectively sorted at a MRF.

Can’t everything with a recycling symbol go into my recycling bin?

No. What you may think of as a recycling symbol, the number inside a triangle, isn’t actually a recycling symbol, it's a plastic ID code. All plastics items should have a plastic ID code on them, but this doesn’t indicate if you can recycle it.

Polystyrene for example is often marked with a 6 but you can’t recycle it via your kerbside recycling bin. In fact, polystyrene is considered a contaminant in your kerbside recycling bin and can cause problems at the Material Recovery Facility (MRF). Currently, the MRF that processes our home recycling isn’t equipped to sort all types of plastics and materials – many items with the plastic ID code require special processing elsewhere or can’t be recycled in Australia at all.

For more information about the Australasian recycling symbol, which provides evidence based information to consumers about how to recycle food packaging in Australia and New Zealand, visit Planet Ark's recycling near you.

Is my recycling really recycled?

We’re glad you asked. In short, Yes!

Here is the longer answer.

The recycling system includes several phases: collection, sorting, processing and then making new recycled products to be purchased by the community and businesses.

Once collected from your kerbside, recycling is taken to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where it is sorted into the different types of materials i.e. paper, aluminum, steel, glass and plastic.

You can learn more about the MRF we use and how they sort kerbside recycling by visiting Visy's recycling information page.

From the MRF, recyclables are sent to be processed to make new materials. The waste import/export policies of different countries have made it harder to find a home for our recyclables. The shutdown of recycling facilities, especially in Victoria, led to a small number of councils having to send some recyclables to landfill in 2019. However, Mitchell Shire Council was lucky to not be affected by these shutdowns and our kerbside recyclables continued to be recycled.

Data shows 84 - 96% of kerbside recycling in Australia is recycled, and the remaining 4 - 16% that goes to landfill is primarily a result of the wrong thing going in the wrong bin (contamination).

Visit Sustainability Victoria to learn more about where your recycling goes.

Finally, a new product is made using the recycled material. You can (and should) support recycling by purchasing items made from recycled content. There are probably more items made from recycled materials than you realise. Planet Ark research shows that most people are unaware that products like road surfaces (40%), carpet (50%) and steel cans (32%) are often made from recycled content.

Learn more at Planet Ark's recycled product directory.

This page was last updated on 17 November 2021.