The War On Waste

Craig Reucassel (from The Chasers) urges Australians to reconsider their role in theWar on Waste‘, a documentary recently aired by the ABC. The 3 part series tackles the issue of cosmetic fruit standards, fast fashion and recycling in order to encourage Australians to become aware of the problem and do their bit.

I found the series incredibly thought-provoking (and entertaining), and I recommend it to everyone.

What can I put in my recycling bin?

You might be surprised by what you can actually recycle. But take not that each council will have different rules so check online if you’re unsure. And is it actually recycled or are we wasting our time? As it turns out, in most Australian states (excluding Queensland) there is a tax on sending waste to landfill so it’s more economical for councils to recycle. So, yes the contents of your recycling bin are being recycled!


  • Empty aerosol cans
  • Hard plastics that hold their shape when squished
  • Deodorant sticks (in VIC everywhere except Mildura)
  • Bottles; vitamin, shampoo/conditioner, soap pump bottles, milk, cordial, juice
  • Empty food containers; biscuit trays, cake trays, yoghurt, take away packaging
  • Paper; newspaper, books
  • Cardboard; cereal boxes, egg cartons, paper towel, pizza boxes
  • Cans; pet food, food cans


  • Coffee cups
  • Polystyrene
  • Soft plastics; plastic bags, chip and biscuit wrappings. These can usually be taken to special soft plastic recycling bins at supermarkets where they will be collected and recycled.
  • Crockery and kitchen glasses– They have a different melting point compared to glass jars and bottles as they have been tempered.
  • Batteries
  • Mobile phones- Take to drop off sites. Mobile phones are sent to the Melbourne Zoo to help with gorilla conservation.
  • Light bulbs can contaminate the recycling
  • Plastic bottle and jar lids– it’s usually recommended to remove the lids and place them in the waste. The lids make the bottles more rigid which stops them from being flattened easily.

Takeaway coffee cups are cardboard, so surely they can be recycled?

No. Turns out that’s not the case. The waterproof lining that keeps the drink in the cup is made of plastic and therefore they aren’t biodegradable and can’t be recycled. In fact, if large amounts are put into recycling bins they can actually ‘contaminate’ the load and prevent other items from being recycled.

Then what do I do with them?

The short answer is; don’t buy them. Reduce the amount of takeaway cups that end up in landfill by; reusing your own reusable coffee cups, or sitting down at a cafe and using their crockery. Some cafes have even introduced a discount when you bring your own cup, see Responsible Cafes.

And next there’s the issue of plastic shopping bags!

Plastic bags possess a huge risk to the environment. They end up in waterways, parklands and streets and cause harm to animals that ingest or get caught in them and then die.

Currently, only South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and ACT have banned plastic shopping bags but even within these states there are loopholed. The documentary shows that some shops in these areas still give out plastic bags, just ones made of heavier plastic and unlike major supermarket chains these bags aren’t always charged for or marketed as reusable.

Biodegradable bags sound like a good idea right? Or at least I thought so, but no! Seems that if they break down into smaller pieces they are potentially more harmful to wildlife. The documentary advises steering clear of these altogether.

I am no sustainable warrior and I certainly do get my shopping in plastic bags sometimes, especially when I am out and about picking up last minute items and haven’t come prepared. If my family is going grocery shopping we will bring reusable bags from home but unfortunately not always which means from time to time we do end up with plastic bags.

My question is this, is it okay to use plastic bags as rubbish bags in your bin? Because that’s where most of ours end up. We won’t put them in the bin empty and if we have a surplus of them will use the soft plastics bins at the supermarket, but is it okay to use them as rubbish bags? If someone finds out then please let me know.

Take away message;

At the end of the day, every bit counts. Check what can go in your recycling bin and try to minimise the amount of rubbish you send to landfill. Take your keep cup with you in the morning and your reusable bags when you go shopping. Educate yourselves and spread what you learn to your friends and family. The government and supermarkets listen to consumers and if we make changes then eventually they will too.


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