People could be breaking the law by putting food in general waste bins instead of brown bins.
Irish Waste Management Association Secretary Conor Walsh was responding to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It found over two-thirds of waste put in black bins should go in recycling and organic waste bins instead.
In commercial general waste bins, 30% of the contents are food waste and for household general waste bins, the figure is 17%.
Mr Walsh told The Pat Kenny Show the brown bin is a critical element.
"Everyone will have a brown bin by next year... the problem is there's about 300,000 people who have a brown bin who are not using the brown bin," he said.
"I think 17% of the general waste bin was food - that's illegal and I think it's really important that people understand that's illegal.
"If you're in a rural area and you don't have a brown bin, it's not illegal.
"If you're in an urban area and you have a brown bin, or are entitled to a brow bin, it is illegal to put your food waste in the general waste bin and has been illegal for 10 years now."
Mr Walsh said labelling, and education, is the solution.
"What we can do is labelling and the labels can be a consistent colour," he said.
"We could put labels on bins that are whatever colour the Government wants.
"To change the bins you would end up having to dispose of a huge amount of plastic.
"People are not confused at all [about] what bin to use in their own household.
"I tell you where the confusion is: we feel the Government should put a lot of money into awareness campaigns.
"People don't realise that all plastic packaging that's clean, dry and lose can go in the recycling bin.
"That's changed a couple of years ago and the public haven't been told enough about that," he added.
With something like a pizza box, Mr Walsh had this advice: "If it's heavily soiled put it in the general waste bin, and if it's clean put it in the recycling bin".