I remember when council kerb-side recycling bins first came out. I was an over-zealous teenager with “Save the Planet” earrings driving my family mad making sure they adhered to the strict recycling guidelines (mine were possibly even stricter than the council’s!). I particularly remember an argument with my Dad who was not happy about having to pay for the water usage required to rinse out the recyclables. Amusing in hindsight, but I am sure I was fuming at the time.
It is important to know what can and can’t go in your council recycle bin – it may vary from council to council but generally all paper and cardboard (office paper, newspaper, glossy mags, brochures), all glass, and all metals, including aerosol sprays. With plastic items, you can include plastic bottles with the lids removed, fruit punnets, plastic takeaway containers and rigid plastic meat containers (not polystyrene trays).
Soft plastics do not go in your council recycle bin. This includes bread bags, chip packets – anything that can be scrunched up. These can however be taken to a Coles or Woolworths store and put in a RED Cycle bin. The RED Cycle group process the plastics for a company called Replas. Replas uses plastic waste collected in Australia to make a range of outdoor products, taking advantage of all of plastic’s good qualities. The outdoor products are low maintenance, resistant to termites, microorganisms and moisture, and will never split, rot, crack or need painting.
Recycling our household soft plastics has made a huge difference to our waste production. I do of course try to minimise how much comes into the house, but it is hard to avoid. Once you start you notice just how much sneaks in — bubble wrap on that online order, all the pieces in that new Lego set bagged together in their own sections, the blind bag wrapping from supermarket promotions that are equal parts infuriating and addictive — you get the idea!
I am yet to perfect my system of collecting the soft plastics. Currently it all gets placed into a cardboard box in the pantry, until it overflows, and I shove it all into a canvas bag and take it into the supermarket — after it has spent the obligatory week by the door and further 2 weeks in the boot.
The problem with soft plastics is that they are light and airy, springing out everywhere and ending up anywhere but where they should be, which is exactly why they are so terrible loose in the environment. They can be easily washed down stormwater drains or blown into bushland. So, while it might cause some frustration to have this situation happening in my kitchen, it is lovely to (eventually) take those bags of soft plastics into the RED Cycle bin knowing they will not be causing harm.