3. What to do with Mixed Materials; Plastic/Paper

 What do I do with takeaway coffee cups that are paper outside?
This is a tricky one but the general rule for all takeaway items is the RED Bin due to the waterproof inner coating. The best answer is not to use them at all and have a reusable cup.

They used to be recyclable, but it was a costly process to boil them up to separate the plastic lining and then the cardboard pulp was of a quality no one wanted to buy. Also, people treat them as mini-bins so they attract all sorts of contamination, including sticky marshmallows.

Coffee Cup Lids, like all lids, go in the RED Bin even if they have a recycling icon on them. They are too small for the recycling machine to sort.

Many takeaway cups are now labelled biodegradable or compostable but this is more well-meaning than a solution. They need to go to a commercial composter or a very good home compost, NOT the green Council Bin.

We don’t have any national standards in NZ around the labelling of an items as biodegradable or compostable, and there are many different brands, so we cannot be sure what those that may contain, and therefore break down into micro plastics in the compost (green bin).

If they’re PLA (Plant Lactic Acid) they can technically be composted BUT only if they’re in a home compost or taken back to a café etc. that can compost them. The University of Canterbury has special bins on site for them, and they are taken to a commercial composter to be composted.

If none of these options are available for the ‘compostable’ coffee cup then they also go to Landfill. Living Earth will not accept them outside of an event doing the CFPE programme, so they NEVER go to home or business green bins. Here is Wasteminz’s map of where they can go.

Do I take the plastic off the tissue boxes/tape off the cardboard boxes/plastic windows from the envelopes/sticky tape off gift wrap before it goes into the recycling bin?
Yes please separate and put the paper/cardboard in the YELLOW Bin, then ideally these are free of plastic. The paper is re-pulped to be used again, and the less plastic among it the better.

Usually some does get through, but I can guarantee that everyone on the recycling chain, prefers them off. Mixed materials cost so much more to separate before the recycling processes too (assuming they get that far.)

Can glossy magazines and old books go in the yellow bin?
YES, thin glossy magazines and brochures can go into the YELLOW bin. Books need to have any hard cover removed. Just ensure books are not covered in plastic etc. Removing staples is ideal too.

Thick books and magazines, need to be broken up, so they don’t cause jams in the machinery. Also don’t overload your bins as they can become too heavy for the truck to pick up. Spread them over a few weeks or your bin may not get taken.

Other confusing items with mixed plastic/paper?
Till receipts go in the RED bin and not the recycling or green bin. The standard receipts that have the “slippery” texture, are lined with BPA, for thermal properties. Recyclers don’t want this.

Many stores are now offering emailed receipts. This can be in response to customer demand, so inquiries about this from consumers can lead to this option being provided.

All the other ‘compostable’ products go in the RED bin, they can’t go to the green bins or Living Earth. The simple answer to all these problems is #reusable, or take time to sit down and enjoy your coffee. Many of us grew up in a world where the only takeaway packaging was paper bags or newspapers, unless we went to KFC for a special occasion. Says it all really.

Rubbish Talk


Rubbish Talk