A Simple Guide to What You Should and Shouldn’t Be Recycling

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

A Simple Guide to What You Should and Shouldn’t Be Recycling

In June 2017, the National Environment Agency (NEA) released this handy guide on how we can all be better recyclers. And judging by the 2017 recycling figures it seems a lot of us have either gotten complacent, or we’ve forgotten, so we think it might be time for it to make a comeback.

According to the NEA’s own data, in 2017, 7.70 million tonnes of solid waste was generated, a decrease of 110,000 tonnes from the 2016 figure.

However, the amount of waste recycled also fell by 50,000 tonnes from 4.77 million tonnes in 2016 to 4.72 million tonnes in 2017, with the government claiming a recycling rate of 61 per cent, equal to that of 2016. If you talk to the people at the World Economic Forum however, that number seems more than a little far-fetched.

The decrease in the amount of waste recycled in 2017 was, according to the NEA, largely due to lower amounts of wood waste, plastic and paper being recycled. There was an increase in the amount of food waste recycled by food manufacturers and wider adoption of food waste digesters.

The NEA’s advice centres around getting started by setting up a recycling corner at home. This can be a recycling bin or even a hook for hanging your recycling bag – whichever works best for you.

Don’t forget to empty unwanted containers and rinse them if necessary before setting them aside for recycling. When the recycling bin or bag is full, simply deposit the contents into the nearest blue recycling bin. All HDB blocks and private landed properties are provided with a recycling bin each. All condominiums/private apartments also have recycling bins within their estate ground.

Not sure about what can be recycled? Check out the list below!


Did You Know? Recycling 13 magazines saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours?

Can Be Recycled: Books, Brochures, Calendars, Cardboard box packaging, Carton boxes, Drink cartons (e.g. milk, juice, drink packet), Egg trays, Envelopes, Flyers, Gift wrapping paper, Greeting cards, Magazines, Name cards, Newspapers, Paper bags, Paper packaging (e.g. printed paper box), Paper receipts, Paper towel tubes and toilet roll tubes, Printed paper, Red packets, Telephone directories, Tissue boxes, Writing paper

Cannot Be Recycled: Used disposable paper cups and plates, Paper towels, Waxed paper for wrapping food, Paper contaminated with food, Tissue paper, Toilet paper


Did You Know? Recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt compact florescent light (CFL) bulb for 9 hours?

Can Be Recycled: Beverage bottles, Bread packaging wrapper, CDs and CD casings, Clothes hangers, Detergent bottles, Magazine wrappers, Plastic bags, Plastic bottles/containers (e.g. shampoo, body-wash, detergent), trays and food containers (non-polystyrene)

Cannot Be Recycled: Blister packs, All disposable cutlery contaminated with food waste, Disposable food containers made of styrofoam or biodegradable plastics, Cassettes and video tapes, Straws and plastic film packaging contaminated with food waste


Did You Know? Recycling an aluminium can saves 95% of the energy used to make a new one?

Can Be Recycled: Aerosol cans, Aluminum trays and foil, Biscuit, milk and food tins, Bottle caps, Drink cans, Food cans, Paint cans


Did You Know? Recycling a glass bottle saves enough energy to power a laptop for 2 hours?

Can Be Recycled: Beverage bottles (e.g. carbonated drink, beer, wine), Cosmetic bottles, Glass cups and plates, Jam and spread bottles, Medicine and supplement bottles, Sauce and condiment bottles

Cannot Be Recycled: Ceramics, Light bulbs (use lamp recycling bins instead), Mirrors, Window glass


Can Recycle: Old clothes (in good and wearable condition; can be deposited in the commingled recycling bin but recommend donating to charities for reuse), Electrical and electronic items (to recycle through the voluntary e-waste recycling programmes)

Cannot Be Recycled: Handbags, Diapers and sanitary pads, Food waste, Furniture (donate them if they are in good condition), Household batteries, Leftover medicine, Pens (drop them in the “Save That Pen” recycling bins instead) and pencils, Plants and horticultural waste (private landed properties are provided with additional collection of garden waste for recycling), Shoes, Soft toys, Spectacles, Wood items including disposable chopsticks

All of us play a part in creating a greener and more sustainable world for future generations to enjoy. Reminding ourselves and the people around us to reduce, reuse, and recycle is a small step that goes a long way.

To find out more about how to live a more environmentally friendly existence, visit the NEA website at www.nea.gov.sg/