women carrying recycling

Less head scratching, more recycling

Like most things, recycling gets harder when you’re an adult. Your grownup brain has learned that not all plastics are equal – especially the plastic that looks like cardboard – and that it’s not as simple as putting it in the recycle bin and hoping someone will sort it out for you if it doesn’t belong there.

When you do that, you’re committing the eco-crime known as wishcycling, which can lead to:

  • Machinery getting jammed with the wrong materials,
  • Contamination of the final product, making it worth less (which devalues the whole recycling process), or
  • The whole lot getting chucked in landfill – recyclables and all.

Yep, it’s a jungle out there, so here’s a quick rundown on what all those labels mean, with some tips to save you from future recycle bin sins.

Know your packaging labels
Other labels

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Know your packaging labels.

Australian Recycling Label (ARL)

A label that only goes on products that have been tested for their recyclability, with instructions to make it easier for you to pick the right bin.

  • Black loop – Put it in the recycle bin
  • Clear loop – Follow the instructions to recycle
  • Bin – Put it in the normal bin


Thanks to REDcycle, you can recycle a lot of soft plastics at participating supermarkets (think chip packets and bread bags). Some will have the REDcycle label or ARL ‘Store drop off’ instructions, but it’s not limited to those items – so check their website for the full list.

Plastic resin codes

A number in a recycle symbol indicates what kind of plastic it is. Rule of thumb: put 1 and 2 in your recycling and check what your council says for 3-7.

Mobius loop

Of all the labels, this one’s the trickiest. Because while it means the product is technically recyclable, it doesn’t tell you what it’s made of – so you’ll need to do a bit more research to find out if your council can actually recycle it.

Home compostable

Not all compostable packaging can go in your home compost (some need specialised treatment to break down), so this label is there to help you know which ones can.

Green dot

Means the company donates money towards recycling products – not that the packaging itself is recyclable (so look for other labels to see if that’s the case).


Not a recycling label. Just a responsible guy reminding you not to litter.

No label? No problem.

Put it in the bin

  • Napkins and paper towels (these can go in the compost, too)
  • Long-life milk and juice cartons (Tetra Paks)
  • Polystyrene
  • Greasy pizza boxes (but you can still recycle the clean bits!)
  • Non-plastic ice cream cartons
  • Crockery and ceramics (donate if they’re in good nick)
  • Broken glass (wrap it in paper first)

Check with your council

  • Aerosol cans
  • Bottle tops (plastic and metal)
  • Milk juice cartons (from the fridge section)

Recycle elsewhere

  • Plastic bags: REDcycle them at big supermarkets
  • Blister packs, toothpaste tubes, floss containers and bread tags: Collect and send to Flora and Fauna’s recycle program – or put them in the normal bin
  • Batteries: Check the RecyclingNearYou website for your nearest recycle point

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