Pizza boxes can’t be recycled, or can they? (AAP Image / Angelo Velardo)
Pizza boxes can’t be recycled, or can they? (AAP Image / Angelo Velardo)

Why we’re confused about pizza boxes

ONE of Queensland's biggest councils, Ipswich City, has revealed it will stop recycling and dump recyclables in landfill instead.

The announcement came on Wednesday, before Mayor Andrew Antoniolli admitted on Thursday morning the council had been dumping yellow bin contents in landfill for a month before telling ratepayers.

Ipswich says it was recently notified by its recycling contractors that it would have to pay an extra $2 million each year for recycling to continue - which could have led to a rate rise of between 1.5 and 2 per cent.

It follows China's ban on accepting 24 types of recyclables and solid waste in January from foreign countries, including Australia.

So what would it take for recycling to continue in Ipswich?

Many other southeast Queensland councils have been quick to reassure their residents that recycling will continue.
Many other southeast Queensland councils have been quick to reassure their residents that recycling will continue.

According to the council, a number of items regularly thrown into their yellow top bins would have to reduce by half.

This includes waste that many of us consider to be recyclable - like pizza boxes, foam packaging and even broken plates.

Turns out, pizza boxes with cheese and oil are usually sent to landfill.

But Brisbane City Council says pizza boxes can be put into recycling bins, as long as they're clean.

"If you scrape away the food, you can put that cardboard box in and save it to be recycled," he said.

Coat hangers, light bulbs, dirty tissues and serviettes have also been identified as items that were commonly dumped into the council's yellow top recycling bins that simply shouldn't.

It has led to their recyclables reaching an unacceptably high contamination rate of about 50 per cent.

Many other councils have been quick to reassure their residents that recycling will continue, with the Brisbane City Council claiming their contamination rate sits at only about 7 per cent.

Logan City Council has confirmed the contamination rate of their recyclables is about 30 to 25 per cent.

Ipswich has refuted claims that an education appeal could help improve recycling efforts, with Deputy Mayor Wayne Wendt saying the focus on recycling would "now be very much about waste reduction".

Nappies go in the rubbish bin - not recycling. Picture: Patria Jannides
Nappies go in the rubbish bin - not recycling. Picture: Patria Jannides

"Under the current and previous rates of contamination waste experts advise it would be almost unachievable even with the best and well-intentioned community education program to lower the rate of contamination to acceptable levels," he said.

"In a nutshell, this means we were left with no other choice but to send yellow lid bin contents to landfill."

WHAT CONTAMINATES YOUR RECYCLING

Environmental advocate Planet Ark says contamination is one of the biggest challenges for the recycling industry.

According to a 2015 Planet Ark survey of 115 Australian councils, plastic bags being placed in recycling bins was the biggest issue.

Planet Ark's tips for recycling:

- Food waste wrapped in plastic bags go straight to landfill

- Plastic bags are unable to be opened at recycling stations for safety reasons

- Plastic bags and soft plastic are not recyclable

- Food waste attached to recyclable items is considered contaminated

- Pizza boxes with cheese and oil are usually sent to landfill

- Sorting machines cannot differentiate polystyrene and paper

- Pyrex dishes and wine glasses (or any pre-heated glass) are not recyclable

- Nappies are not recyclable

- Shredded paper, waxed boxes, window glass and crockery are not recyclable

- Steel, aluminium and aerosol cans are recyclable

- Consumers are asked to rinse off food, remove nozzles and lids and rinse bottles before placing items in recycling bins.


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