People holding recyclable materials for the recycle right campaign

Northern Rivers councils have launched a new campaign called Recycle Right (#RecycleRight), which aims to re-educate and inform our communities about some important changes to kerbside recycling.

Find answers to your questions about the changes to recycling below.

Please follow the below so that we can all recycle right.

1. Keep it simple:

Only recycle paper and card¬board, steel and aluminium cans, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and containers and Resource Recovery Collection Satchels. 

2. Keep out soft plastics:

This includes all plastic bags, even if they have a recycling symbol, are degradable or compostable, and other soft plastics including cling wrap chip packets, bread bags etc 

3. Keep out meat and biscuit trays

4. Keep out takeaway coffee cups 

5. Keep out small items – any items smaller than a credit card.

All lids now need to be removed from bottles and those smaller than a credit card put in your landfill bin. 

6. Keep it Safe:

keep out strapping, hose, netting, wires, building materials and other hazardous materials. 

7. Keep it Clean:

Rinse or wipe out containers. 

8. Keep it Loose:

Don’t bag or box recyclables.

In recent years, most of our recycling (paper and cardboard, plastic and metal products) were sent to China for manufacturing.

In 2017, China implemented what's known as the National Sword Policy which placed much tighter restrictions on unsorted and contaminated (incorrect/dirty) items in recycling streams.

The impacts of this policy have been felt worldwide and forced significant changes in the recycling market, including reduced demand and lower commodity prices for some materials.

These changes are largely out of Council's control. And while we now face the challenge of adapting to these changes, there are also many opportunities.

We are hopeful that these challenges will create support for new industry, technology and innovation within Australia, along with better recycling practices.


We understand that some of these changes might be disappointing, they are for us too. Northern Rivers council’s understand this is an important issue for our communities and we are working hard to recycle as much as possible, as we always have, but we need your help.

We would rather keep it simple so that we can ensure the items in your recycling bins are recycled effectively, and not sent to landfill because of contamination.

It's up to all of us to do our bit to think about the waste we generate, how we can avoid and reduce, responsible disposal and purchasing products with recycled content.

So please, keep it simple, keep it clean and keep RECYCLING!


No. Councils in the Northern Rivers aren’t sending your recycling to landfill.We endeavour to always send your recycling to reputable processors who recycle and resell the materials responsibly.

Your kerbside recycling goes to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Chinderah where it is sorted, bailed and transported to local and international markets. 

 1. Cardboard and mixed paper - are processed in Australia

2. Plastics - are processed in Australia

3. Mixed paper - is processed in Australia

3. Glass is crushed and recycled in Australia

4. Steel and aluminium are exported to overseas markets. 


There are a few reasons:

1. There are currently limited markets for soft plastic recycling.

2. They often come loose in the truck and get caught up in the other recycling streams, causing contamination. We need our recycling to be as clean as possible, otherwise, they will be rejected by the recycling markets.

3. They get tangled in the sorting machines, which slows or potentially stops the sorting process.


You can continue to collect and recycle your soft plastics through the Australian RedCycle program.

Their collection bins are located at participating Coles and Woolworths stores (Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and Ocean Shores).

No. Meat and biscuit trays are made from low grade mixed plastics that can't be separated for recycling at the moment.

Meat and biscuit trays now go in your red landfill bin.


Small items such as bottle and jar lids will often fall off during transportation or in the sorting process at the MRF. This can cause problems with jamming machinery.

Keeping recyclables clean is our most important goal. So we need people to rinse out food and drink before placing containers in the recycling bin.

Rinsing containers under a running tap is wasting water but by adding the empty containers to you daily dish washing pile, they can be cleaned with the water you are already using.



Our machinery and staff at the MRF cannot adequately sort recyclable items that are already boxed or bagged. Please keep items loose in your kerbside bin to keep the system working well.


When incorrect items are placed in the recycling bin, they can reduce the capacity of our region to recycle adequately and place a strain on the sustainability of the recycling industry. Items like hosing, netting and strapping can jam machinery. Apart from contaminating the recycling stream, they also place our Materials Recovery Facility Staff at risk as they attempt to unjam machinery.

No. Not every item with a recycling symbol can be recycled in the Northern Rivers. Food, drink or other containers are imported and exported around the world and there isn’t a global recycling symbol. 

Planet Ark has developed an Australian recycling label that you will notice on products but this is still not foolproof as different Council areas can recycle different things. 

The best thing you can do is to follow the #RecycleRight routines and you can't go wrong!


No plastic, degradable, biodegradable or compostable bags can go in kerbside recycling.

Be careful with ‘degradable and ‘biodegradable’ bag labels. Even though they might break down slightly faster than regular plastic bags, they are still PLASTIC and cannot be recycled or composted.

Compostable bags are made from plant based materials. Please only put 100% compostable bags certified to Australian standards in your green organics bins. You will know if they’re compostable because they will have a seedling logo on them and will say certified to Australian Standard A7-7436


No. Soiled (dirty) paper and cardboard items like pizza boxes, paper towel, tissues and wooden cutlery are not clean enough for kerbside recycling. They should be put in your green organics bin for composting.

Clean paper and cardboard items go in kerbside recycling.