Plastic bags


Please do not place in yellow lid recycling bin  business-recyling-icon_1850084932971878360.png  red-lid-bin_168354622621846847.jpg

Grey plastic supermarket bagKeep plastic bags out of your home recycling - plastic bags can cause big problems when placed in your kerbside recycling bin.

Plastic shopping bags can be recycled, just not in your home yellow lid recycling bin.  Instead, you can drop them off at specially marked recycling bins at the front of most major supermarkets.  Look for the plastic bag recycling collection bin at the front of the store. Torn or damaged reusable 'green bags' that can no longer be reused can also be placed in these collection bins. 

Other types of plastic bags, or soft plastic packaging, are now also collected for recycling at many Coles or Woolworths supermarkets through the REDcycle scheme. These soft plastics include pasta and rice bags,A variety of empty soft plastic packets and bags which cannot be recycled. lolly and biscuit packets, fresh fruit and vegie bags, frozen food bags, magazine and newspaper wrapping, zip-lock bags and clean plastic wrap/film. Find your nearest soft plastic recycling location here.

If you cannot take your plastic bags, or soft plastic packaging to a supermarket for recycling, they should all go in your red lid garbage bin.

What happens if plastic bags go in the yellow lid recycling bin?

Manual sorting

The first level of sorting at recycling stations is done by hand.

Workers at the recycling station are sorting through tonnes of material an hour and don't have time to open bags to find out what's inside. Your plastic bags could be filled with recyclable material like glass or plastic bottles or aluminium cans. Or they could be full of contaminants like food scraps, plastic wrap or unwanted wine glasses. Even worse, they could be full of dirty or dangerous material like dirty nappies or medical equipment.

As it is too dangerous and time consuming to open and sort the bags, they have to be removed from the recycling stream and thrown into the rubbish. That means valuable resources will not be reclaimed. Instead they will be wasted in landfill.

Recycling system efficiency

The next issue with plastic bags is that they interfere with the automatic sorting machines.

Conveyor belts feed the recycling into rotating tunnels, onto spinning wheels and past magnets and eddy currents to separate the plastic, glass, paper, aluminium and steel cans. Plastic bags cannot be sorted from other materials by existing machinery. Instead, they get caught in the conveyor belts and jam spinning wheels and can bring the entire sorting station to a halt. The bags then need to be found and removed by hand - a time consuming and often dangerous process that reduces the overall efficiency of the recycling station or materials recovery facility.

Easy ways you can helpvegetables in a shopping bag

  • when you're next putting out your yellow lid recycling bin, remember the problems that plastic bags can create and make sure you keep them out of the recycling system
  • if you see a family member, friend or neighbour putting plastic bags in their yellow lid recycling bin explain to them why they shouldn't!
  • take your plastic shopping bags to major supermarkets such as Coles or Woolworths for recycling
  • reduce your use of plastic bags by taking your own washable bags when you go shopping
  • re-use any plastic bags you have as many times as you can before you dispose of them.


This Plastic Bags fact sheet provides more information about plastic bags, biodegradable bags and handy hints to reduce plastic bag usage