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UNPACKING THE CONFUSION AROUND SOFT PLASTICS RECYCLING

By Nicola Saltman and Leslie Mallinson, Sustainable Waverley on August 18, 2017 in News

Or you could just make a football jersey.

Walk down any supermarket aisle or peer into the pantry and it’s pretty clear a plastic-free world is a distant dream, especially with the plethora of hard-to-avoid soft plastics and packaging. So is there a planet-friendly solution?

Following on from ABC’s War on Waste and Plastic Free July, we’ve sought expert advice from Liz Kasell, founder and director of REDcycle, who set up a dedicated recycling business five years ago to help address this very question.

What exactly do we mean by soft plastics?

Soft or flexible plastics are the kind that can be scrunched into a ball. Think bread bags, plastic bags, plus packets for crackers, chips, pasta, nuts, lollies, biscuits, etc.

Why can’t I just throw them in the yellow recycling bin?

They get caught in the recycling machinery and screw up the whole process to recover hard recyclable plastics like bottles and containers.

But can they be recycled anyway?
A big YES! At your local supermarket. Since 2012, the REDcycle Program (redcycle.net.au) has created a revolution in soft plastics recycling, allowing householders to recycle them at drop-off points at over 800 supermarkets across Australia. Over the last 5 years REDcycle has collected over 300 million pieces of soft plastics for recycling. And that’s from Coles alone. It’s super easy, and way better than simply putting it in the red garbage bin, destined for landfill.

So what can I recycle?
• Plastic shopping bags
• Cling wrap (generally clean)
• Bread, rice, pasta, lolly and cereal bags/liners
• Biscuit packs (but not the trays)
• Chocolate bar wrappers
• Frozen food bags
• Newspaper and bubble wrap
• Dry cleaning bags
• Fruit and veg bags and netting
• Toilet paper and paper towel packaging
• Old reusable bags

You can also visit www.redcycle.net.au/what-to-redcycle to see what can and cannot be REDcycled.
A good way to remember to recycle these plastics is to put them straight into your reusable shopping bag, or a bag in the pantry/kitchen, for dropping off on your next shopping trip.

How do I know if my local recycling drop-off point is legit?
Look for REDcycle signage, and for the words “soft plastic bags and soft plastic packaging”. If your supermarket is listed on www.redcycle.net.au/where-to-redcycle then you know they are doing the right thing.

What happens to these plastics after I drop off at a REDcycle collection bin?
They are sent to an Australian manufacturer and program partner in Melbourne, Replas, which converts them into recycled plastic products such as outdoor furniture, decking, and signage, for schools, councils and communities.

Where can I find a collection bin locally?
Easy! You can find them at Woolworths in Bondi Junction, Eastgardens, Maroubra, Rose Bay North, Randwick, and Hillsdale, and at Coles in Bondi Junction, Maroubra, Pagewood, Randwick, Rose Bay North, and Hillsdale.

Let’s together make recycling soft plastics second nature. For more information, email secondnature@waverley.nsw.gov.au or visit www.redcycle.net.au

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