Can I recycle that? A guide to do’s and don’ts when it comes to sorting your household waste

18 August 2020

This week the Northern Beaches Council published a guide on the do’s and don’ts of recycling and sorting our household waste. Some of these items may come as surprise, but we found it very useful to clear up some myths around what items can be recycled in what bins.


  1. Takeaway coffee cups: you can pop your plastic lid into the yellow recycling bin but the cup cannot be recycled. The inside is lined with plastic which can’t be separated, so it needs to go into the red landfill bin. Sad about that? Well, opt for a reusable cup instead! Here is how some of our local café owners are pouring contactless coffees during COVID-19 to keep their staff and customers safe.
  2. Pizza boxes: the clean parts of your pizza box can be popped into the blue recycling bin. Dirty parts, well they are headed for the red landfill bin.
  3. Soft plastics: instead of throwing these into your red landfill bin, take them to be recycled in the REDcycle bins at your local Coles and Woolworths. The recycled plastic is made into bollards, ramps, and outdoor school furniture. Even bubble wrap is accepted if you cut it into A3 size pieces. Not sure? Check the full list.
  4. Shredded paper: this can be recycled in your blue recycling bin as long it is contained inside a cardboard box such as a shoebox.
  5. Aerosol cans: can be recycled in your yellow bin as long as they are empty. No need to remove the plastic dispenser. Remember small disposable gas canisters can’t be recycled in the yellow bin due to the danger of explosion. These need to be disposed of at a Chemical CleanOut.
  6. Window envelopes: you don’t have to remove the plastic window from an envelope. Place the whole envelope in your blue paper recycling bin.
  7. Staples: leave the staples in your paper and cardboard boxes. Magnets will remove them during the recycling process.
  8. Polystyrene: avoid this wherever you can as this can’t be recycled in your yellow bin and needs to go into your red landfill bin. Do your best to refuse fruit and veggies packaged on styrofoam trays and wrapped in cling wrap.
  9. Aluminium foil: can be recycled in your yellow bin if you roll it into about the size of a tennis ball. That includes Easter egg wrappers!
  10. Bean bags beads: these are one of the nastiest waste items. They can’t be added to your bulky goods collection or recycled. The beads need to be double bagged in strong plastic bags with the air expelled, sealed and placed in your red landfill bin. This prevents the bag from bursting and creating environmental havoc and a danger of inhaling by waste collectors. The empty bean bag can be added to the red bin or added to your bulky goods clean up.
  11. A plastic container with no recycling symbol: don’t worry – no recycling symbol is needed on a plastic container for it to be recyclable. Pop it into your yellow recycling bin.
  12. Photos: unfortunately these can’t be recycled as they are plastic laminated. If you can’t find a use for them, like popping them in a scrapbook or using them in other arts and craft, put them in your red landfill bin.

If your yellow recycling bin is looking a little full, a good tip is to squash your plastic milk and drink bottles and replace the lids preventing re-inflation so there’s more room. Placing the lids back on containers also helps to ensure the lids are also recycled.

Have an item you would like to dispose of responsibly but don’t know how? Check out the Council’s A-Z Guide to Recycling, Reuse and Disposal.

Note: This article has been adapted from the original posted on the Northern Beaches Council website, found here.