The ABC television series War On Waste could not have come at a better moment. Bringing much needed exposure to the issues facing our planet, the program comes at a time when we are making critical decisions that will leave lasting impact on future generations.
Rather than take a pessimistic approach however, it offers practical ideas to help Australians curb their wasteful habits and live more sustainably.
One particular issue that the TV series brought to the forefront is the issue of soft plastics recycling. These are the plastics that you generally can’t place into kerbside recycling bins. Scroll through Facebook commentary about the show and it’s clear that many viewers didn’t even know that soft plastics could be recycled!
REDcycle, the Melbourne-based organisation featured in the show, has a soft recycling program that makes it easy for consumers to keep soft plastics out of landfill. There are over 800 REDcycle drop off points across Australia and about 300 in New Zealand. About 600 of them are located in participating Coles and Woolworths supermarkets.
When customers drop off the plastics in the bins, they are then collected weekly and shipped to a recycling facility (although if you’ve watched the program, you’ll know this doesn’t always happen, but that’s not the focus of this article so we’ll carry on…!)
So what soft plastics can be recycled through REDcycle soft plastic recycling program? The 10 most common forms of soft plastics that can be recycled are:
- bread bags
- cereal box liners
- plastic bags
- pasta packets
- rice packets
- paper goods packaging
- old green bags
- confectionary bags and lolly wrappers
- biscuit wrapping
- paper goods packaging such as toilet paper packaging
The rule of thumb is that if it’s made from soft plastic AND can be scrunched into a ball, it can be recycled. It it’s not made from plastic or it’s too rigid and can’t be scrunched up it can’t be recycled through REDcycle. So rigid plastics such as plastic bottles, plastic containers and plastic biscuit trays are a no-no. If you’re unsure, check out the comprehensive list on the REDcycle website.
For best recycling outcomes, the company also encourages people to ensure that the plastic is as dry and empty as possible.
According to the company, it has collected about 263 million pieces of soft post-consumer packaging across Australia which is enough to circle the country two and a half times.
So where does the plastic go?
In an interview with The Border Mail, REDcycle spokeswoman Elizabeth Kasell explains that the company’s Australian manufacturer Replas creates more than 200 products from the recycled soft plastic, producing items such as signage, outdoor furniture, fitness equipment and decking. “Replas are our sole manufacturer at the moment for REDcycle,” Ms Kasell said.
According to WWF’s 2015 Living Blue Planet Report, “8 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in the ocean each year” equivalent to 15 large garbage bags for every metre of coastline and the number is expected to double by 2025.
If every piece of plastic, ever created, still exists on the planet today, then REDcycle’s soft plastic recycling program is a positive step to reducing plastic’s chokehold on our planet and reminds us that the time to act is NOW.
To work out where your nearest REDcycle drop off point is, visit the ‘Where to REDcyle’ page here.
Can’t get to a REDcycle drop-off point? No worries. You can post the soft plastics to:
RED Group, 38 Chelmsford Street, Williamstown North VIC 3016.
Want to do more to help our planet? You’ll love our guide, 20 Steps to Plastic Free Living.