The 'what' and 'why' of each kerbside recycling stream

The 'WHY' behind recycling rules

With the current recycling market situation, we need your help to get recycling right and make sure that there is no contamination in the recycling collection.

The below recommendations have been advised by many commercial recycling companies in New Zealand, and are based on the availability of markets for materials and the quality of materials required by re-processors.

Unsure about an item? Reach out to our team on 0800 SELWYN or

Recycling information


Green tick imageAccepted items:Image of plastic containers

Only rigid plastic containers with plastic recycling symbols 1, 2 and 5 may go in the recycling bin.

Plastic containers must be empty, rinsed clean and the lids placed in the rubbish.

Some examples include:

  • Condiment and spread jars (mayonnaise, peanut butter)
  • Juice, soda and water bottles
  • Meat and biscuit trays
  • Fruit and vegetable punnetsImage of plastic recycling triangle 1 2 5
  • Milk bottles
  • Personal care bottles (shampoo, shower gel)
  • Ready to use plant food bottles
  • Tubs (margarine, ice cream, large yogurt containers)
  • Some types of takeaway containers
Red X imageNot accepted:
  • Plastic types 3, 4, 6, 7
  • All soft plastic, plastic film or plastic wrap (frozen and fresh vegetable bags, courier bags, chip packets, bread bags, pet food bags, cracker and sushi trays)
  • Laminated pouches (cat food, sauce, coffee pouches)
  • Hazardous chemical containers (antifreeze, pesticides) - these empty containers must go in your rubbish bin
  • Plastic items that aren't containers (buckets, washing baskets, toys)
  • Plastic strapping
  • Hose, tubing, PVC pipe
  • Polystyrene
  • Toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes

Soft plastic like bags and wrappers make their way into the paper and cardboard bales as contamination.

Plastic bags, strapping and hose gets wrapped around the recycling sorting machinery causing damage and breakdowns.

Toys and laminated pouches contain multiple different materials including metals and different plastics combined into one product.

Chemicals from hazardous chemical containers leach into the plastic and can be unsafe to recycle.

MetalImage of steel and aluminium cans

Green tick imageAccepted items:

Items must be empty and rinsed clean.

  • Drink cans
  • Food tins (soup, fruit, sauces)
  • Kitchen and bathroom aerosols (deodorant, air freshener)
Red X imageNot accepted:
  • Loose tabs and lids
  • Foil
  • Pots and pans
  • Metal lids (such as those on glass jars)
  • Aluminium tubes (toothpaste, tomato paste)
  • Biscuit tins
  • LPG cylinders

The recycling sorting machinery is set up to sort household metal containers. It cannot sort ports, foil and other metal objects.

Foil and loose lids can slip through the sorting machinery and end up contaminating the paper or glass streams.

GlassImage of glass jars and bottles

Green tick imageAccepted items:

Glass food and beverage packaging. Items need to be empty, rinsed and clean and the lids placed in the rubbish.

  • Bottles (wine, spirits, beer, olive oil)
  • Jars (sauces, baby food, jam)
Red X imageNot accepted:
  • Non-food or beverage bottles (perfume, face cream)
  • Drinking glasses and crockery
  • Ceramics
  • Window glass and mirrors

These grades of glass have different properties and melting points. If they get through with the "bottle glass", they cause imperfections and wastage.

Paper and cardboard (fibre)Image of cardboard

Green tick imageAccepted items:

Items need to be empty and clean. Cardboard should be flattened.

Image of paper
  • Newspapers, magazines, brochures, leaflets, flyers
  • Printer paper, letters, envelopes (including ones with windows)
  • Wrapping paper (non-foil)
  • Cardboard boxes and egg cartons
  • Clean, empty pizza boxes. Grease and a little cheese residue is ok - but no food
Red X imageNot accepted
  • Juice or milk cartons
  • Disposable coffee cups
  • Paper towel, tissues
  • Hygiene sanitary items (nappies, wet wipes, sanitary towels)
  • Shredded paper
  • Non-paper gift wrap (foil based wrapping paper) or gift bags
  • Fish and chip/butcher paper that has been contaminated with food

Tetra pak-type milk and juice cartons contain multiple types of materials such as plastic, paper and foil. This renders them non-recyclable.

Paper towels and tissues are usually contaminated and have a "wet strength" so that they don't fall apart when you use them. This stops them from being able to break-down quickly for recycling into new paper. This is also the reason that these items should not be flushed down the toilet. But you can compost them - along with your fish and chip paper.

Shredded paper is too small to be sorted by the machinery. As it is loose and the pieces are small, it can also cause wind blown litter issues. Instead, you can put shredded paper in your fire or compost.

Common non-recyclable items

These items cannot be accepted in your recycling bin. Please place these items in the rubbish.

Red X imageLidsImage of various types of lids

This includes any type of lid from small plastic caps off milk bottles, to large flat lids from ice cream containers, to metal lids from glass jars.

Some issues with lids include:

  • They get stuck in the recycling sorting machinery
  • They are often made from a different type of material (or different grade of plastic) to the container they are on
  • They fall off bales and blow away in the wind - ending up in waterways
  • They are too small and/or flat and slip through the sorting machinery and contaminate the glass or paper streams

Red X imageTriggers and pumpsImage of bottle triggers

This includes triggers on household cleaner spray bottles and pumps on liquid soap or shampoo bottles.

Issues with triggers and pumps include:

  • They are often made of a number of different types of materials
  • They can contain a metal spring

Red X imageContainers squashed flat (partly squeezed is ok)Image of squashed containers

Whilst slightly squeezed is still acceptable, please do not squash plastic bottles or tin/aluminium cans completely flat.

The optical sorters need 3D shapes or it will perceive the squashed object as paper and contaminate the paper stream.

Red X imageSmall itemsImage of straws and bread bag tags

No items less than 55mm in diameter. This includes items such as bread bag tags, straws and small yogurt containers.

Some issues with small items include:

  • They get stuck in the recycling sorting machinery
  • They slip through the sorting machinery and contaminate the glass stream
  • They fall off bales and blow away in the wind - ending up in waterways
  • They have no commercial value and are difficult to bale