21 Day Recycle Challenge

Every year Southland households are putting 5,700 tonnes of materials out for recycling. The majority of these materials we recycle right. However research indicates 15% of the materials we are putting out for recycling is actually rubbish.

WasteNet Southland 21 Day Recycle Challenge

Rubbish in our recycling is called contamination.  Contamination can be non-recyclable materials such as clothing, garden waste and sanitary waste.  It can also be the right material which hasn't been prepared right, such as an unwashed plastic milk bottle or pizza box covered in grease and cheese.

It is important we all recycle properly, by putting the right things, in the right condition, in the right place.  Whether that place is a kerbside bin, drop-off centre, transfer station or return to the shop.

Recycling well is all about creating good habits.  According to Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 habits of highly effective people" it only takes 21 days to form a habit.  The 21-day recycle challenge is a commitment to recycling right every day for 21-days in effort to improve and lock in your recycling habits.

How do you take part?

The 21 Day Recycle Challenge is designed to inspire and enable you to take simple actions to improve your recycling habits.  Each day pick a new challenge and share what you have learned with friends and family.  Post your progress on social media using the hashtag #21dayrecyclechallengeNZ.

1.  3 easy things to recycle: cardboard, aluminium cans, plastic bottles

Recycling has a lot of benefits that can help people and save the environment as well.  Cardboard, aluminum cans and plastic bottles are accepted by most councils for recycling.  

Did you know ... aluminium cans are one of the most recyclable materials, as they are 100% recyclable and can be reprocessed over and over again.  Turning recyclable aluminium cans into new cans uses 95% less energy than making new ones. 

2.  Before you toss, take the lid off

Lids are typically made from a different type of plastic than the bottle they came from.  Lids cannot be recycling through a kerbside recycling bin collection as they fall through the cracks in the recycling machinery and jam up equipment.

Did you know the Lions Club NZ are collecting aluminium lids and beer tabs, to raise money for Kidney Kids.

3.  Yes, wash all plastic, metals and glass before tossing them into your recycling

Left over liquids and food residue can contaminate other recyclables which may mean they aren't recycled.  Metal cans, glass jars, plastic bottles, tubs and trays need to be rinsed before you put them out for recycling.  Use your old washing up water to give your recyclables a wash before discarding them.

4.  Know your plastics.  Plastic bottles can be recycled but sweet wrappers, chip packets and foil pouches cannot

Sweet wrappers, chip packets and foil pouches need to go into your rubbish for disposal to landfill, as they are not recyclable.  Although the inside of the wrappers and packets is shiny and looks like foil, it is actually metallic plastic film, which cannot be recycled.  An easy way to find out if something is foil or metallic plastic film is to do the scrunch test.  Scrunch the item, if it stays 'scrunched' it is foil and can be recycled.  If it springs back, it is probably metallic plastic film and cannot be recycled.

5.  Wishcycling: the practice of tossing questionable items in the recycling, hoping they can be recycled

Whether you realise it or not, there is a good chance you have wishcycled before.  You don't want to generate more rubbish, so you throw your coffee cup or plastic straws into the recycling hoping in some way or some how they end up being recycled. Wishcycling leads to an array of problems in the recycling process, and can contaminate whole loads of valuable materials making them impossible to process and sell. 

Not sure if any item can be recycled? Go to Orange Pages to find the answer.

6.  Nope. Tissues, paper towels and wet wipes cannot be recycled 

Facial tissues, paper towels and wet wipes cannot be recycled.  The fibres are too weak to turn into usable paper, and tissue is often contaminated with fluids that definitely cannot be turned into new paper. 

Tissues and wet wipes also shouldn't be flushed, as unlike toilet paper, it doesn't breakdown as easily in water and can cause blockages.  Place facial tissues, wet wipes and paper towels in the rubbish bin for disposal to landfill. 

Make the switch: When you run out of paper towels, why not switch them out for reusable cloth towels.

7.  Yep.  Pizza boxes can be recycled.  Remove all food before recycling

Cardboard Pizza boxes are easily recyclable - if they are not too greasy.  Greasy and oil bind to the cardboard fibres making it non-recyclable.  When you have a greasy pizza box, simply cut off the bottom of the box and recycle the clean lid.

8.  Small things = big problems

We cannot recycle anything smaller than an envelope.  This includes straws, lids, bottle caps, coffee pods, plastic cutlery and paperclips.  These items are too small to be recycled through a material recycled facility as they fall through the cracks of the recycling machinery and jam up the equipment.

9.  Stop wishcycling.  Soft toys, cushions and pillows are not recyclable. Donate them

Wishcycling or aspirational recycling, complicates the sorting process for material recycling facilities, as recyclable contamination and "rogue" items lead to higher sorting costs, delayed timelines and increases the health and safety risks for sortline workers.  Items like clothing, cushions, pillows, other bedding and soft toys easily clog up sorting machines, eliminating the value that existing for the recyclables in the first place.

See - the Orange Pages - for better uses for soft toys, cushions and bedding fabrics.

10.  Know your plastics.  Plastic bottles can be recycled but lids, pumps and triggers cannot

Recycling plastics can be complicated, and its seems as though the rules are always changing, and actually they are.  The new rule when it comes to plastic bottles, is that the bottle itself can be recycled but the lids, pumps and triggers cannot.   The pumps are typically found on liquid soap bottles, and the triggers are found on cleaning products.  The lids, pumps and triggers are a different plastic than the bottle they came from - place these items in the rubbish.

11.  Have a bin in every room

Any good recycling system begins with having a place to store your recycling inside your home, whether it is a bag, a box or a bin.  This container could be kept beside your rubbish bin to act as a reminder for everyone to recycle, and make it easy to recycle as it is thrown away.  You can also set up other recycling points in your house - why not keep a recycling container for plastic bottles and cardboard in your bathroom, or a plastic bag by the door for your junk mail.

Top tip: keep a recycling bin under your kitchen sink, ready to collect your clean recycling.

12.  Save space by flattening paper and cardboard

If you're ordering more online lately, you may have more cardboard then usual.  Unflattened cardboard boxes are bulky and take up a lot of space, making it difficult to transport.  Save space in your home recycling bin by flattening your cardboard.

13.  If your recycling stinks ... you're doing it wrong

Pass the "Smell Test".

If your recycling container stinks it is probably contaminated.  Put your recycling container to the smell test - if something smells bad, it probably has food or liquid waste in it.  Be sure everything is empty, clean and dry before placing out for recycling.

Top tip: 6 quick steps to washing your wheelie bin.

14.  Stop wishcycling. Timber, kitchen sink and plumbing fixtures are not recyclable.  Donate them

Even though it seems like the right thing to do, wishcycling is one of the biggest challenges facing the recycling industry.  It is one of the largest contributors to recycling contamination.  Some things were never meant to go into the bin - this includes building materials and plumbing fixtures. See - the Orange Pages - for better disposal options.

15.  Make a list of the items you can recycle and pin it to your fridge or calendar

Councils do not all collect the same materials, as each Council has different rules depending on their recycling operators.  Find out what you can recycle . Make a list of the items you can recycle and post it on your fridge, as a reminder to your family and house guests.

16.  Milk bottles = very recyclable

We want your plastic milk bottles, as they are high quality recyclable that is always wanted by recyclers and plastic manufacturers.  When you empty your milk bottle, rinse it out, remove the lid and recycle the rest.

17. Keep your recycling loose

Never put your recycling plastic bags or boxes.  It makes it much harder to sort, and it is more likely to end up in the landfill.  Place your clean recycling loose into the bin.

18.  Fit recycling into your lifestyle

Recycling well is all about creating good habits.  Take your recycling out to your recycling centre on your way to the supermarket, work or school.  This allows you to fit recycling into your lifestyle and children can learn about recycling this way too.

19.  Take the plunge.  Recycle your shampoo bottles

Think you cannot recycle shampoo bottles.  Think again.  Bathroom plastic bottles whether they are shampoo, conditioner or liquid soap are recyclable.  Remove the lids, pumps and triggers and place the bottle in your home recycling bin.

20.  When in doubt, check it out.  And don't be afraid to throw it out

Learning what items can and cannot be recycled can help put an end to wishcycling.  It's always important to check in locally to confirm which items your Council accepts: see - what can go in the yellow recycling bin

The next time you go to throw something in your recycling that you are not sure about, do a quick search or reach out to WasteNet who are happy to help.  WasteNet's goal is to make it recycling easier for everyone.

21.  Buy recycled

Support the recycling industry and circular economy by buying recycled.  Recycling works like any market - you need both supply and demand.  The more people choosing to buy recycled products, the more demand there will be for recyclable materials.  This is a good thing, as we need recycling systems to be sustainable. See - Ministry for the Environment: 5 reasons to buy recycled.

Choose products with packaging that can be recycled, has recycling content in their packaging or are made from recycled materials.


visit #21dayrecyclechallengeNZ for inspiration.