Most consumers ‘overconfident and confused’ about household waste recycling

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

The vast majority of Australians are confused about what types of food and grocery packaging are suitable for recycling, with 88 per cent putting everyday household items in the wrong bin. 

Research from Nestlé – which wants Australian manufacturers to adopt the less confusing Australasian Recycling Label – shows that 95 per cent of consumers are confident about recycling household waste, with 86 per cent looking for information on packets. Yet the “stark reality” as Nestle puts it is that most don’t really understand what can and cannot be recycled. 

Nestlé Oceania head of corporate affairs & sustainability, Margaret Stuart, says inconsistent on-pack labels are contributing to the confusion over what is put into bins.

“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’?

The CEO of recycler iQ Renew, Danial Gallagher, says his staff see the result of the “overconfidence and confusion” on a daily basis when the contents of bins arrive at the company’s facilities for processing.  

“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

Common misconceptions exposed by Nestlé’s consumer research, include: 

  • 36 per cent believe takeaway coffee cups can go in recycling bins – but most aren’t recyclable (this is due to a thin plastic lining on the inside).
  • 68 per cent aren’t aware that aluminium foil can go into household recycling bins if pieces are scrunched together to the size of a golf ball.
  • 39 per cent don’t flatten cardboard before recycling it.
  • 55 per cent think used pizza boxes can be recycled – bits covered in grease or leftover food can’t be, but the clean parts can.

Nestlé, which is committed to making 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, is rolling out the Australasian Recycling Label on all of its locally manufactured products to help consumers know how to recycle right. Around 600 other companies in the two countries have also adopted this format, but Nestlé wants more to come on board. 

Most consumers 'overconfident and confused' about household waste recycling
The Australasian Recycling Logo.

“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 landfills.”

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill

Robert Stockdill is a content writer with more than 30 years of experience in five countries. His style has built upon award-winning success in news and features in the print media to leadership in digital communication, spanning news websites, social media, magazines, brochures, and contributing to books. Recognising the devastating impact of consumer behaviour on the planet and wanting to help make a difference Robert launched Viable.Earth as a platform to celebrate positive contributions by brands, companies and individuals towards reducing environmental impact and improve sustainability – especially in the fields of fashion, beauty, food, lifestyle, and transportation.


Subscribe – it's free