On average, Australians generate around 67 million tonnes of waste per year. Yeah, you read that right. Sixty seven MILLION tonnes- every year! Of that, it is estimated that 130,000 tonnes of Australian plastics find their ways into our waterways and our oceans each and every year, causing catastrophic damage to our ecosystem and marine life.
This is obviously a huge problem, and luckily now this problem is now receiving attention; as awareness of this issue has grown, more and more recycling solutions are popping up around the country. However while we now have more opportunities than ever to recycle, we also have more information to sort through when it comes to recycling- and more rules to follow!
Too many of us are guilty of thinking something can be recycled and popping it into our recycling bins, however if the item is not recyclable this can actually contaminate the whole truckload of waste your bin is collected in, and it all could end up going to landfill.
If you’re interested in watching recycling documentaries, we have a list here
Obviously this is not what we want.
Items frequently found in recycling bin when they shouldn’t be are:
- Soft plastic bags, large and small, such as shopping bags and food packaging;
- Broken glassware or mirrors or glass;
- Clothing and other textile waste;
- Food containers with bits of food or food grease still in them; and
- Paper towels.
Luckily, when it comes to plastics recycling there are easy ways in which you can identify where you plastic needs to go to be properly recycled!
Have you ever noticed a little number on the bottom of your plastic products? Usually near the bottom of the product, you can see a little triangular logo that will have a number inside it. This number tells you what kind of plastic your product is made of, and how you should recycle it. Unsure what these plastic types are though, and how to know what plastic number means what recycling solution? We’ve got you covered- here’s how to recycle all the different plastics!
Plastic Number 1: Polyethylene Terephthalate
These are products like soft drink bottles and your common food packaging. These are easy to recycle, they can be placed into your recycling bin and are recycled into plastic bottles and polyester fibres.
Plastic Number 2: High Density Polyethylene
This plastic type is usually found in bottles and containers for products such as detergents, bleach, shampoo, conditioner, milk containers and our pens! This plastic type can also be placed into your recycling bin for pick up.
Plastic Number 3: Polyvinyl Chloride
This plastic type is most commonly referred to as PVC, and has been described as one of the most hazardous consumer plastics/products ever created. This plastic should never be put in your landfill or your recycling bin, instead you should contact your local council to find out the best way to dispose of it.
Plastic Number 4: Low-density Polyethylene
This plastic type is usually found in things such as ice-cream lids, garbage bags, sandwich bags etc.It is usually a very soft and flexible material that can be recycled into the same thing. Local councils usually do not accept these types of materials, but programs like REDcycle do. We cover REDcycle a little further down in this article!
Plastic Number 5: Polypropylene
This type of plastic is used in products such as clothing, ropes or bottles. These items can be very useful when recycled properly; you can put them into your local council kerbside recycling bin.
Plastic Number 6: Polystyrene
This is a difficult plastic to recycle, due to how bulky and yet lightweight it is- and the fact that it’s manufactured from petroleum. Where possible- avoid buying products with this number! This type of plastic cannot be placed in your kerbside bin- so it is recommended you try to find a way to reuse it, or find someone who can use it- don’t send it to a landfill.
Plastic Number 7: All other plastics
If your plastic product has this number then it should not be placed into your recycling bin. If you place this product into your recycling bin you could ruin an entire truckload of good recycling! Contact your local council for ways to recycle this.
REDCycle is a phenomenal company, and initiative, that takes your recycled plastics and turns them into useful items- such as park benches! REDCycle is a really great way to recycle those usually difficult to recycle soft plastics such as biscuit wrappers, cling wrap, soft plastic food packaging and even plastic document sleeves. They have collection bins dotted around most major cities, usually in your local Coles supermarket!
It’s of the utmost importance that as a consumer you try to reduce your plastic usage, and where you can’t- that you do your due diligence to make sure you are putting your plastics into the correct recycling bin, or council pick up. Check, and check again- as it just takes one wrong product in a recycling bin to send an entire truckload of perfectly good recycling to landfill!