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 being sent to China for manufacturing.

In 2017, China implemented their National Sword Policy which has placed much tighter restrictions on unsorted and contaminated (incorrect/dirty) items in recycling. It's very important that our recycling is clean so it can be sent for manufacturing in Australia and overseas. 

The impact of China's policy change has been felt worldwide and driven significant changes in the recycling market, including reducing demand for some materials and lowering commodity prices.

We know that sending recyclables to China was not ideal, but unfortunately, it had been the only option for Councils like ours to maintain a viable recycling service.

While we are now faced with the challenge of adapting to these changes in the market, 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 all need to think about the products we are purchasing, how much household waste we generate and how we could avoid creating waste altogether.


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 have all of the items in our recycling bins recycled effectively, rather than sent to landfill due to contamination by items that should be in the organics or landfill bin.

We also know when it comes to recycling it can get a bit confusing, so we’ve simplified our message so that we can improve our recycling practices.

We all need to do our bit to think about our own waste generation, responsible disposal, purchasing products that have recycled content and are recyclable and of course, waste avoidance.


No. Councils in the Northern Rivers aren’t sending your recycling to landfill. Our kerbside recycling continues to go to Lismore City Council’s  Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it is sorted, baled and transported to various local international markets for recycling.

There are a few reasons:

1. There is 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 machines, which slows or potentially stops the sorting process.


Please 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).


The linings in takeaway coffee cups make them hard to recycle. Our recyclers used to accept them in the paper and cardboard stream, but now that our recyclables need to be very clean, they are considered contamination.

Many businesses in Byron Shire offer takeaway coffee cups and lids made from compostable packaging, which is great, but these aren’t yet accepted in Lismore City Council’s organics stream.  LCC are conducting trials to ensure that the compostable takeaway coffee cups break down to an acceptable standard to maintain their quality compost product. We will let everyone know as soon as this happens.

Unfortunately, at the moment we don’t have a recycling stream for takeaway coffee cups and they will need to be put in the landfill bin for now.

We encourage everyone to use reusable coffee cups or alternatively, enjoy relaxing in your favourite café using their washable cups to enjoy your beverage.


No. Meat and biscuit trays are made from a mixed plastic, which includes more than one type of plastic and cannot be separated for recycling.


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 (https://planetark.org/recyclinglabel/) 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 recycling.