Surprising Items That Cannot Be Recycled


Beer bottle caps piled


When it comes to what can be recycled, many people feel as if the process is pretty simple and straightforward - plastics, cardboards, paper and tin go in the recycling and everything else goes in landfill. However, there are many things consumers put in their recycling bins that really shouldn’t end up there.

The problem is that if something is not recycled properly, items that otherwise could have been recycled end up in landfill during the rubbish sorting process at recycling facilities. From greasy food packaging to tissue boxes with plastic film, we clear up some of the grey areas of what you can and can’t recycle below.

Pizza Boxes

A common question people ask is “is Styrofoam recyclable?” This gets confusing because whether you can recycle a pizza box (or any other greasy fast food packaging) depends on how greasy it is. If it’s got cheese stuck to it, severely stained with oil, or has food scraps in it, you won’t be able to recycle it. However, if there is only a tiny bit of grease or none at all, it can still be okay.

Grease and oil are problems because they mess up the heat and water processes used in recycling some goods. Oil and grease can contaminate or ruin the quality of the paper. Like other food storage items such as egg cartons and aluminium and steel cans, you should ensure they are free of any food scraps.

Bottle Caps

It’s difficult to recover small, loose bottle caps from mixed kerbside recycled with the current sorting technology that is used. When a lid is left on during bottle recycling and liquid is left inside, it will weigh more than it should, meaning the automatic sorting machines will be unable to process them. A lid left on a bottle can also leave air trapped inside, which can cause plastic bottles to pop out of shape when they are getting pressed into bales.

Squeeze all the air out of the bottle and then replace the lid to prevent these issues. To recycle steel caps, collect them and put them in a can, squeezing the top so they don’t fall out. Keep in mind that some councils don’t accept bottle caps at all, so ensure you check what your specific council will take.

Wet or Heavily Dyed Paper

Dry paper is fine, but wet paper is less valuable to paper recyclers who may not want to collect and mill them. The same goes for heavily dyed paper, as it can be hard to get rid of the colour during the milling process and even accidentally spread and contaminate other paper getting milled.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags contaminate recycling and jam the machinery at facilities. One big mistake that gets made is when people put a variety of recyclable goods into a plastic bag, tie it up and throw it in the recycling bin. A manual sorter will not go through such a bag at the recycling centre if they can’t see what’s in it, as it might be dangerous (e.g. contain broken glass).

This means the whole lot often ends up getting thrown into landfill. While some councils do plastic bag recycling, most do not. Plastic bags can be recycled along with other soft plastics at supermarkets as part of the REDcycle initiative.

Need More Information? Ask Our Experts

The team at Smart Skip are experts when it comes to responsibly disposing waste. If you have any questions about certain types of recycling like battery recycling or food recycling, or would like to rent a skip to dispose of non-recycling items in Greater Brisbane, get in touch with our team on 13 75 47 or contact us online.