8 Things S’poreans Throw Into Recycle Bins That Aren’t Supposed To Be There

NEA & MEWR Conducts Household Recycling Surveys

A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of the Environment (MEWR) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) showed that 60% of Singaporeans recycled regularly.

Though that bodes well for Singapore, the survey also reveals some disturbing information.

Not all of the Singaporeans who recycle are certain of what can be recycled.


To clarify once and for all what CANNOT be recycled, we have come up with a list below.

1. Shoes

This may come as a shock to you but only 18% of people identified shoes as non-recyclable.


Sure, certain parts of the shoe could be recycled. Rather than recycling your shoe, you should donate it to someone else i.e. dropping it off the Salvation Army.

2. Bags

Bags are another item that most Singaporeans mistake as recyclable. 82% of the people that took the survey believed that bags can be recycled, when it actually cannot.


You are highly encouraged to bring your own bags when purchasing groceries. The reason – so you can reuse them. Not recycle them.

3. Clothing

Growing up, we often reuse our older siblings and sometimes even parents clothes. You have rarely heard of anyone recycling their clothes.

But it seems like 87% of survey participants believe that Clothes can be recycled.


This is another one that falls into the reuse, rather than recycle, category.

While clothes can be recycled, it would be more beneficial if you just donated it to someone who needs it more.

4. Plastic toys

It’s all fun and games until people start throwing plastic toys into recycling bins.


While some plastics can be recycled, others like toys can’t.

In fact, a study done by the Singapore Environment Council (SEC) found that 7 in 10 Singaporeans are not certain about the types of plastics they can recycle.

To be absolutely safe, you can recycle plastic bags, containers, and bottles. All other kinds of plastic go in the garbage bin.

5. Tissue paper

This information may be shocking to some of you. Tissues – used or unused – are both not recyclable.

Unfortunately, I was also part of the 49% that believed tissue paper can be recycled.


Some of you may be wondering why tissue paper can’t be recycled.

We found out that tissue papers are made from recycled paper. Therefore, the “fibers are shortened to the point where it cannot feasibly go through the recycling process again.”

Newspapers and old magazines, on the other hand, can be recycled.

6. Styrofoam

Styrofoams take as long as plastics to decompose. This means they can’t be recycled.


Styrofoam boxes take “500 years to forever” to decompose and that’s quite a long time.

In fact, the United States has started to ban styrofoam in certain states.

7. Glass/ceramic/porcelain cookware

All three materials on the surface seem to be recyclable. If you thought that they could be as well, you’d be one of the 62% that is wrong.


Cookware needs to be able to withstand high temperatures. As the recycling process requires glass to be melted down, the high melting temperature and chemical compounds make it non-recyclable.

8. Soiled paper and food packaging

A whopping 94% of the people that took the survey believe that soiled paper food packaging can be recycled.


Normal paper, when smeared with grease, cannot be recycled.

This is because grease hinders the recycling process as paper fibers cannot be separated from oils.

Singapore towards zero waste

Instead of immediately throwing away your items into the recycle bin in the future, you might want to check if it is recyclable.

You could consider donating items like clothes or shoes to the less fortunate. Just don’t throw it into the recycling bin.

Tell us which items you didn’t know could not be recycled in the comments.

Featured image from Climateaction.org.

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