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Food scraps on benchtop.
Recycle everything you can – and nothing you shouldn't. Here are the key things you need to know to minimise your landfill contribution.

What goes around

Gone are the days when you'd put something in the bin and promptly forget about it. “People are becoming more aware now that reuse should be their first choice,” says Kirsten Junor, creative director of Reverse Garbage in Sydney. If you can't reuse something, recycling is the next best thing, but the ins and outs of what can be recycled can be confusing.

Food for the garden

Did you know that Australians throw out about 20% of the food we buy each year? And according to the Centre for Organic Research and Education (CORE), about 50% of the rubbish we put in our mixed-waste bins could be turned into compost or mulch and used in gardens. “Compost is vital in providing essential nutrients and carbon for plant growth; it fertilises the soil and creates a healthy environment for plants and crops,” says Eric Love, chairman of CORE. “But this organic material also plays a crucial role towards building a greener, cleaner and sustainable environment for future generations.”

Composting options range from a convenient bokashi system that can be kept under your sink to an outdoor bin to which you can also add garden and lawn clippings. If you'd rather not become a composter yourself, consider donating your scraps to a local community garden, or use a service like ShareWaste to connect with composting neighbours.

Food waste being poured into compost bin outside.

Know your plastics

Plastics can be tricky. There are so many different kinds, from drink bottles, to meat trays, to soft plastic bags. While all plastic is potentially recyclable (good news!), councils and waste transfer stations differ in what they will and won't accept. A general rule of thumb is to look at the triangle symbol. Items marked with 1, 2 and 5 (milk bottles, drink bottles, ice cream containers) are recycled by everyone. Call your local council to find out whether it can recycle items marked 3, 4, 6 and 7 (which includes juice bottles, yoghurt pots, plastic cutlery and garbage bags).

Scrunchable plastic bags (fruit bags and netting, and dry-cleaning bags) can be recycled but usually not through a council-run waste program; instead, bundle them all up and take them to a Redcycle bin, which can found at most supermarkets.

Person holding plastic bottle.

Sort the paper

There always seems to be an excess of unneeded paper and cardboard lying around the house, and most of it can be recycled – with some exceptions.

Pizza boxes, for example, need to have their oily lining removed before the rest of the box can go in the recycling.

Shredded paper can't be recycled; use it in your compost instead.

Envelopes with plastic windows commonly cause confusion, but these can go into the recycling, as post-consumer paper mills are able to remove small contaminants.

Unfortunately, sticky tape is not recyclable, so make sure it's removed from boxes and packaging and binned before those items are recycled.

Each tonne of paper recycled can save up to 17 mature trees on average, so making the effort is definitely worthwhile.

Take paint away

Getting rid of unwanted paint can be tricky – don't just put it in the bin. Paintback allows you to drop off most domestic paint products at permanent collection spots across Australia or at selected one-day Bunnings collection events (check your local store on the Bunnings website). The paint and tins are then recycled, significantly reducing landfill.

Making e-waste ethical

Electronic waste is an increasing issue, as we regularly trade in obsolete tech for new models, but much of it can be recycled. Mobile Muster is a free service that takes old phones and accessories off your hands and recycles them in a safe and ethical way; visit mobilemuster.com.au to find a drop-off point.

Don't leave your old TV on the kerb. Take it, along with old computers, printers and computer parts, to a waste transfer station with an e-waste drop-off point. As per the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, these products will then be recycled by a government-approved service.

Top five tips to reduce your household waste

1. Go paperless

Receive regular bills and bank statements via email and put a ‘no junk mail' sticker on your letterbox.

2. Buy a reusable water bottle

Australia has great tap water – make the most of it by filling up a reusable flask to stay hydrated.

3. Rethink paper towels in the kitchen

Try washable, reusable cloths instead, or make your own by cutting up an old towel.

4. Buy beauty bars

Shampoo and conditioner – plus moisturisers, deodorants and more – can be bought in solid bars (like a cake of soap) rather than liquids, meaning no containers to dispose of.

5. Bin the bag

Keep reusable shopping bags with you at all times and look to alternatives such as bioplastic bags or even newspaper to line your rubbish bin at home.

Still confused? There's an app for that! Download the RecycleSmart app for information on what can be recycled in your area.

Photo credit: Getty Images, Brigid Arnott


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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.