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  • Writer's pictureZero Waste Alliance Ireland

Green Bin Rules – are we unpaid recycling workers?

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

green bin rules

Are we working as unpaid staff for the recycling companies?

It might seem like that when you read the revised green bin collection guidelines given by the Co Councils for household waste recycling. We must sort, separate, loosen, wash, clean and dry our materials before they go in the green bin. That’s hard work and we still have to pay them to have it taken away.

It was a surprise to listeners of Cork’s 96FM Radio station this week when we discussed the apparent ‘new green bin rules’ outlined by the Councils through the Regional Waste Management Authorities. These rules were always in place since 2014 but never policed until the rejection of recycled waste shipments by the Chinese in the past few months put waste shippers under pressure to improve their quality controls. This has resulted in a call going back to consumers here to provide ‘cleaner’ recycled materials. Rejected materials cost the waste shippers dearly and will result in higher prices here to consumers ultimately as they have to re-work the materials before re-exporting. (we don’t really do a lot of recycling in Ireland in actual fact. Our apparent ‘good recycling rates’ are just collection  and export for recycling abroad. We really need to do more real recycling and remanufacturing in Ireland and create the green jobs here. But that’s another blog topic.

More  info: PJ Coogan on Cork’s 96FM Opinion line discusses the issues with waste quality rules now being enforced on households.

Why should the items be clean and dry?

If your container contained food or liquid, then some residues will remain. These will contaminate the recycling process so they must be rinsed clean to remove the matter before going into your recycle bin (green bin). Food and liquid can contaminate the materials in the recycling bin especially the paper recycling process. Wet paper cannot be recycled.

Why is there a new list?

It’s not a new list. It will vary from area to area depending on recycling facilities available. Recycled materials such as paper and cardboard, metals and plastic are sold on the global market, by the recyclers but the prices and demand for these materials constantly change. To get the best value for our materials, they need to be cleaned and sorted. China and India are major buyers of recyclable material from Europe and they use these materials for manufacturing instead of extracting raw materials. As stated above, over the past year, China and India have enforced higher standards on received stocks.  Mixed materials such as plastics, paper or cardboard baled together or contaminated items (or those containing unrecyclable elements)  are being rejected.  To sell our bulk recyclable materials we need to be able to separate these materials quickly and easily at the recycler depots and ensure they are contaminant free.  

The cycle starts with the householder. So there are 2 things to do.

  1. Sort and clean the recyclable items from the non-recyclable ones.

  2. Only put into the green bin those items allowed. Put them in dry, clean and loose.

What about paper food containers. What is recyclable? Any paper food container that has been soiled with food or become damp is not recyclable and should be put in the residual bin or composted. For example, pizza boxes and other fast food or takeaway containers.  (The contamination will impact the paper recycling & re-pulping process negatively so we must avoid them).

Tip. Remember you can always just tear away or cut out soiled areas of these boxes and recycle the undamaged parts. This is worth the effort if only a small area has become contaminated. 

  1. Paperboard food containers such as cereal boxes, paper egg cartons, and cake mix boxes that are unsoiled are recyclable. Just remove the plastic lining and shake out extra food crumbs.

  2. Empty frozen food boxes should be placed in the recycling bin  (green bin) along with Milk and juice cartons, once washed.

What About Glass?

The recyclable list.




Junk Mail

Phone Books


Tissue Boxes

Sugar Bags




Computer Paper

Used Beverage And Juice Cartons

Milk Cartons

Egg Boxes

Paper Brochures

School Copy Books

Old School Books (If They Cannot Be Donated Or Reused)

Paper Potato Bags


Food Boxes

Packaging Boxes

Cereal Boxes

Kitchen Towel Tubes

Toilet Roll Tubes

Please remove any plastic inserts from cardboard boxes before placing into bin


Drinks Cans

*Empty Deodorant Cans (Plastic Lid Separate)

*Please check that your individual waste contractor will accept this material


Pet Food Cans

Food Cans

Biscuit Tins

Soup Tins


Mineral Bottles

Water Bottles

Mouth Wash Bottles

Salad Dressing Bottles


 Milk Bottles

Juice Bottles

Cosmetic Bottles

Shampoo Bottles

Household Cleaning Bottles

Laundry Detergent Bottles

Window Cleaning Bottles

Bath Room Bottles

Containers Should Be Empty When Being Placed Into Recycling Bin

Containers should be empty when being placed into recycling bin


Yoghurt Containers

Margarine Tubs

Rigid Food Packaging

Liquid Soap Containers

Fruit Containers (With Netting Removed)

See for a full list.

What’s NOT allowed in the green bin.

Put wrappers in the residual bin – they’re not recyclable

It’s especially important to know what to leave out. These items shouldn’t be in your recycling bin:

  1. Contaminated Packaging (greasy, dirty or with residue). like we said above. (Cut out contaminated areas if you can)

  2. Non recyclable plastic wrappings, like sweet wrappers, Tayto bags, plastic shopping bags. These plastics are not recyclable or can damage the recycling processes used for other  recyclable plastics.

  3. Nappies and Sanitary Products, medicines, medical waste (including baby wipes) – put in the residual waste bin

  4. Food Waste (raw or cooked) – put in your food waste bin (if there is a collection)  or compost the cooked food in your composter.

  5. Grass, Garden Cuttings / Soil – put in your composter.

  6. Polystyrene (EPS) – there may be separate collection or bring to your civic amenity centre.

  7. Liquids/ Oils  – bring to your civic amenity centre.

  8. Textiles – including clothes/shoes and home furnishings – bring to your civic amenity centre.

  9. Dismantled Furniture – bring to your civic amenity centre

  10. Light Bulbs, Batteries &Electrical and Electronic Equipment (remove the plugs and re-use them)

  11. Other General waste that should be in the General waste Bin. e.g. building rubble

So there you have the list and you know what to do. So do you still think you’re working for the recyclers, for free? Let us know your thoughts on our FB page .


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