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By Mark Verbaken, Wodonga City Council

What can go into the kerbside recycling bin? Did you know the answer varies between councils, states and around the country?

The regional waste contractor, Cleanaway, empties and processes the contents of 50,000 local household recycling bins every fortnight across Wodonga, Indigo, Towong, Albury, Greater Hume and Corowa council areas.

So what happens to our recyclables?

Fortunately, the contents of our yellow-lidded bins are processed in Wodonga at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).  Group tours are regularly held to highlight the extent and types of products that can be processed.  Most of us are aware that nearly all drink containers, metal containers (but not wire), glass bottles and jars (but not window glass) and most plastic containers (other than plastic film and polystyrene) are recyclable.

But enclosing recyclables in plastic bags or tying papers together with string doesn’t help.  In fact, it could lead to those recyclables ending up in landfill, as the MRF sorting line cannot handle plastic bags nor tied-together papers. Why? Because often plastic bags contain things like nappies, organic waste (kitchen scraps or garden prunings) and other items that can harm or be extremely unpleasant for those doing the sorting. When in doubt, they have to throw it out, rather than risk other consequences.  The tumbler that pre-sorts materials requires them to be loose, not tied in bundles.

All recycle bin contents are sorted and extracted by magnets, blowers and manual sorting. That’s right, the glass is separated into colors; the plastics are sorted by type and the paper/cardboard is also separated – and it’s people who make it happen. Human hands are the number one tool for successful recycling in our area!

The various recyclable materials, once sorted, are compacted into bales and sold to various markets both nationally and internationally.  The price of these resources is dependent on the number of consumers who purchase products made from recycled materials, so everyone is urged to buy such products.  Look out for recycled options for copy paper, toilet paper, milk cartons and soft drink bottles, not to mention certain polar-fleece jackets and garden furniture.

Recycling isn’t hard and knowing the rules for your local collection will ensure your recyclables are a resource, not a waste.  In the next few months, each household in the region will receive a new recycling sticker and booklet advising what materials can be recycled.  Please take the time to read them.