How Clean Do Our Recyclables Need To Be? | Rinse & Clean Thursday

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With New Zealand’s National Recycling Week in full force, now is the time to renew our motivation and instil healthy habits we can hold on to. But there’s one aspect of recycling that seems to cause more confusion than most: how clean do our recyclables actually need to be?

One thing we don’t want our recyclables to be is contaminated. Contamination can refer to excess food waste still on the recycling, but it can also refer to the wrong materials being put in the wrong receptacles. You’re putting glass into your Plastics & Cans? Consider that bin now contaminated.

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Why does it matter? We spoke to Jeremy from Oji Fibre, whose operation Fullcircle is New Zealand’s only paper recycling service which is able to manufacture paperboard and packaging products for the local packaging industry.

“We don’t accept any products that are contaminated with food,” he said. “Generally when we do the recycling, if it’s plastic or cardboard, once it's sorted there’s different grades - for example 95% or 85%. We tend to operate at 85% at our plant in Wellington.”

The biggest enemy for Oji Fibre’s Full Circle plant is glass. That’s why you’ll notice in Wellington, cardboard is collected separately because when paper and cardboard is recycled back into cardboard, glass can damage the rollers.

If recyclables are overly contaminated, they’ll be removed from the sorting process and sent to landfill, meaning they can’t be recycled.

But, don’t worry. As long as you remember to lightly rinse (no need to use excess water by running through your dishwasher) your recyclables and place them in the right receptacle your recycling can successfully embark on its circular journey.


Are there any other recycling myths you’d like clarification on? Let us know on our social media channels (@MethodRecycling).