Bendigo Sustainability Group president Graham Allardice said recycling labels need to be clearer, following an Australian Council of Recycling report.
ACOR conducted an independent national audit of recycling information on consumer products and packaging.
The audit found only 40 per cent of products that could be recycled kerbside or via a supermarket-based return program had a recycling claim on them.
"It explains why you look at a lot of packaging and think, can I or can't I recycle it?" Mr Allardice said.
"Meat trays are a classic example.
"There are also a lot of soft plastics that are made of different materials and it is unclear which are recyclable and which are not."
ACOR chief executive Pete Shmigel said the audit shows a "dog's breakfast of consumer information about what products and packaging components are or aren't recyclable."
"It's little wonder the community regularly says that, while it strongly supports recycling, there's confusion because of inconsistent, unclear and even misleading logos and claims on products," Mr Shmigel said.
The report recommends that labels need to be specific about the management methods of all components and include instructions to avoid contamination.
There are also calls for a clear, concise and evidence-based label on every product and packaging type sold into the Australian market.
Mr Allardice said recycling labels are a national issue.
"The recommendations have to be dealt with at a national level because companies are not going to change their packaging for one local government area," he said.
The changes mean items such as plastic meat trays, berry punnets, biscuit trays and plastic takeaway containers must be put in landfill, rather than recycling.
The change come after China's ban on foreign waste and the collapse of recycling giant SKM.
Mr Allardice said people can become more aware of what they can and can't recycle by looking at product packaging before they buy.
"It's important soft plastics go back to supermarkets and not just thrown into recycle bins or general waste bins," he said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.