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Labelling confusion gets Aussies’ bins in a mess

Recycling truck

Most Aussies (95%) claim they are confident about how to recycle their household waste but a new study reveals the stark reality with 88% actually putting common household items in the wrong bin.

New research from Nestlé shows that while many people (86%) are taking the time to look on pack for recycling instructions, inconsistent on-pack labels are contributing to confusion in our bins.

Nestlé Oceania Head of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Margaret Stuart said, “We know Aussies care about the environment and want to do the right thing – but when they’re standing at the bin they simply want to know ‘Can this be recycled’ and ‘What bin do I put this in’?

“There are lots of recycling labels on the market – such as ‘Recycle me’, ‘Remember to recycle’ and even the Mobius loop – but these don’t necessarily mean the packaging is recyclable or tell people how to recycle it.

“There is only one labelling scheme that makes it clear – and that’s the Australasian Recycling Label.”

The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) provides clear on pack guidance on which bin to recycle in. It also provides any additional instructions such as scrunching, rinsing or flattening, to ensure the material is recycled properly.

Recycler iQ Renew CEO Danial Gallagher said they see the results of Australians’ over-confidence and the confusion that inconsistent labels can cause when the contents of recycling bins arrive at their sorting facility.

“We see so many things come through that simply shouldn’t be there. Recycling right is so important for the environment, and keeping our recycling streams clean helps us make the most of that opportunity.”

Household recycling mistakes highlighted by the study include:

  • 36% believe takeaway coffee cups can go in recycling bins – but most aren’t recyclable
  • 68% aren’t aware that aluminum foil can go into household recycling bins if pieces are scrunched together to the size of a golf ball
  • 39% don’t flatten cardboard before recycling it
  • 55% think used pizza boxes can be recycled – bits covered in grease or leftover food can’t be but the clean parts can
  • 37% think the Mobius loop (chasing arrows) means something is recyclable


Ms Stuart continued, “There’s lots of factors that determine if packaging is recyclable. The material, shape, size, even colour all play a part. Getting recycling right can be, which is why people need a clear label to cut through the confusion.

“More than 600 companies have adopted the ARL but we’re calling on more companies to do so. We must help people by providing clear, concise and consistent labelling to make sure that the right things get to our recycling centres and don’t end up in landfill.”

Nestlé is committed to making 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025 and is rolling out the ARL on all of its locally manufactured products to help consumers know how to recycle right.

Top tips for recycling right

1) Check it, before you chuck it: always look for the ARL to know which bin to recycle in
2) Drop off soft plastics: collect soft plastics and drop them instore at a REDcycle collection point 
3) If in doubt, chuck it out: while it may seem counterintuitive if you’re unsure if something is recyclable, put it in the rubbish bin. 


About the research:

Research was conducted by Antenna from 13th to 17th October. 1,021 Australians nationally representative on age, gender, and location were surveyed.