Recent news articles highlighted a problem with Australia’s recycling industry. Over 600,000 tonnes of recyclable materials, including plastics, is exported to China. On January 1 this year, China announced import restrictions on much of that material. Instead of being recycled overseas, piles of recyclables are now building up in warehouses all over Australia.
While waiting for Councils and industry to develop a long term response to China’s ban, there are things householders can do to help.
Plastics are often mentioned as one of the recyclables that is trickier than most to handle. Contamination of recyclable plastics with other plastics can be the problem.
Here are three suggestions for improving the chance of plastics being recycled, instead of going to landfill.
1. Recycle soft plastics at supermarket collection bins
REDcycle is working with Coles and Woolworths supermarkets to provide collection points for soft plastics. Visit their website to find out the location of the nearest participating supermarket and check which plastics are accepted.
In general, REDcycle take any plastic that can be scrunched into a ball by hand. This includes bread bags, bags inside cereal boxes and frozen food bags. REDcycle send the plastics to Replas who turn them into bollards, outdoor furniture, signs, etc.
Please don’t put soft plastics into the household recycling bin. Definitely don’t put recyclable materials into plastic bags before putting them into the bin. Soft plastics jam the sorting machines at the recycling centres. Manual sorters try as hard as they can to get these materials off the conveyor belt feeding the machine. The soft plastic, and anything inside a plastic bag, is sent to landfill. Wrapping recyclables in a plastic bag to make them easier to handle at home just means everything ends up in a hole in the ground.
2. Check the Council website for plastics which can go into the recycling bin
The best place to check which plastics can and can’t go into a household recycling bin is your Council website.
Maroondah City Council provides clear guidelines on which plastics are currently being accepted by their recycling contractor. It’s a lengthy list which should answer most questions. Acceptable items include plant pots, meat trays, plastic cutlery, milk bottles, Tupperware and berry punnets. The list describes the types of containers made with plastic rather than specifying the number found under the recycling triangle on plastic goods.
If unsure what can be recycled, Maroondah has a contact number - 1300 88 22 33.
3. Consult the Planet Ark website for plastics which can be dropped off at transfer stations
Sometimes it’s possible that a plastic can’t go into a household bin, but can be accepted at a Council recycling and waste transfer station.
Planet Ark provides a one-stop shop website (Recycling Near You) which provides all sorts of information about recycling. Start by searching for recycling options in a particular suburb. The website then links to that Council’s information about recycling services and continues with a list of Facilities and Services.
Scanning through the options at each facility shows which ones accept a particular type of recyclable material. For example, clicking on the Containers/Packaging option opens up the list of transfer stations available to local residents Plastics are listed by their recycling number so it’s easy to know whether or not they accept it. For Maroondah residents, looking down the list shows that the Whitehorse Recycling and Waste Centre in Vermont South accepts the full range of plastics from number 1 to 7.
Do what you can to recycle plastics
The key message is there are still opportunities to recycle household plastics. However, it’s essential to know which plastic goes where.
Help is available from Councils and Planet Ark if unsure what to do.
Our guest writer Howard Elston, is a local resident and former teacher, who has been working on energy conservation and sustainable living practices for many years. His current project is dedicated to building a 'Green Unit' here in the outer east. The project is aiming to
Design a functional, comfortable, attractive dwelling that will meet our needs for the foreseeable future and including many cutting edge sustainability ideas that will showcase an alternative to the standard urban house design.
You can read more about Howard and his Green Home Build project here at: http://greenhomebuildaustralia.com/.