Person carrying a cardboard box full of recycling materials.

Recycling rules can be very confusing

Credit: ©

How many times have you thrown something in the bin and hoped that it was the right thing to do? We all want to do the right thing and want to put the right things into the bin. But can they really be recycled?

Tallulah from the Double Helix Sustainability Squad is a pro at the recycling game. She brought her school community to recycle unusual items like bread tags and shoes by working with special companies. In this article, you can find out ways you can join Tallulah in recycling unusual household items and learn ways to improve recycling at home.

Callico bag decorated with bottle lids and recycled items.

Tallulah’s special BEAT bag, which helped her school collect bread tags, blister caps, bottle lids and pens for recycling

Is that “wish-cycling”?

Many Australians put all their plastic rubbish into the recycling bin, hoping that it will get recycled. This is called “wish-cycling”, and it can cause real problems. It takes lots of work to sort out what can be recycled. Even worse, soft plastics like plastic bags and food packaging can jam recycling machines. Best to put them in the garbage bin for now.

What about paper towels, batteries, plastic bottle caps, toothpaste tubes, pizza boxes and clothes? None of these can be put into your recycling bin, unless you know that your city council is okay with them.

To help our recycling system, sometimes recycling less means we can recycle faster! In the future, you can help your local city council by putting the right things in the correct bin. Get a few buddies together and you can investigate what your local council allows in the recycling bin. Tell us things that you found surprising in the comments!

Think outside the bin!

Our waste doesn’t always have to go into our normal bins — there are now many options around Australia to help people recycle special products.

FOGO bins

The Federal Government has a plan to roll out “FOGO” bins around Australia by 2030. Many city councils around Australia have already done this. “FOGO” stands for Food Organics Garden Organics, which usually include any fruit and veggie scraps, meat and seafood, baked goods, grains and cereals, loose tea leaves (many tea bags contain plastic!) and coffee grounds as well as the usual garden clippings and prunings.

The collected FOGO waste will be composted at composting facilities and turn waste into earthy goodness to help people grow more fresh produce around Australia. Different councils may accept slightly different things, so for those who already have FOGO bins, double check your council’s restrictions (for example, some city councils may not accept cooked food, while others are okay with that). By doing FOGO right, you can help prevent more food waste going to landfill.

For those who don’t have FOGO bins yet, keep an eye out!

Pens and markers

Officeworks recycling depot

A typical Officeworks electronics recycling box

Credit: Officeworks Ltd.

Pens and writing materials allow us to create stories, draw, and add colour to our lives. But after they are finished, what should you do with them?

You can now recycle pens, markers, printer, pen cartridges, highlighters, liquid paper and correction tape at many Officeworks stores. Double check with the store before you go, because it’s not available everywhere yet.


Cables, chargers, batteries, CDs and DVDs that you have lying around the house can now be recycled at Officeworks around Australia. Batteries can be recycled at all stores, but you should check ahead if you want to recycle a whole computer!

Toys for Joy

Kids recycling their toys at BigW .

A “Toys for Joy” recycling collection box

at Big W

Credit: Terracycle

Perhaps you have a broken sandcastle kit lying in the corner, or an old tattered plushie you no longer need— you no longer need to throw these into the bin! All BigW stores can now take your old toys and recycle them to make new fun things. For electronic toys, you will need to remove the batteries separately.
There are plenty of amazing stories from other Sustainability Squad members in the upcoming issue of Double Helix magazine, where we tackle the problem of ending plastic waste. Subscribe by 28 February to get this issue delivered to your mailbox! You can read Tallulah’s Sustainability Squad story about special recycling programs in the 15 April issue of Double Helix magazine.

One response

  1. Jegatha Benny Avatar
    Jegatha Benny

    I was surprised to know that most tetra pacs do not go into recycling bins anymore. Learnt from a school kid by chance. I try to do the right thing but wasn’t aware of it when the change was made.
    Councils need to reach out to general public and bring awareness so all can help

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