How well do you know your soft plastics? 5 unexpected items you can recycle with REDcycle
Staying at home has presented new challenges to many aspects of our lives, including our sustainability efforts. With a higher reliance on delivery services and take-away, you’re not alone if you’ve found yourself with more packaging and plastic around than usual.
Of course, it’s always best to avoid packaged products in the first place, reduce the amount of waste we create and reuse whatever items we can. Then, the next best thing is to check if it is recyclable. Instead of sending products to landfill, the recycling process helps to extend the use of valuable resources and conserve raw materials.
So if you have found some extra packaging lying around, always check if it can be recycled before putting it in the rubbish. Rules for kerbside recycling slightly vary between local council areas, so always double check your own council’s guidelines. For those pesky soft plastics that are not accepted in your residential recycling bin (they choke up the recycling machinery) check out if you can recycle them through REDcycle.
The REDcycle program collects soft plastics and then works with industry partners to create useful products from the recycled material. The program works with Australian manufacturers including Replas, who make a variety of products such as outdoor tables, park benches, decking and signs from recycled plastic. You simply drop off your soft plastics in collection bins located at most Coles and Woolworths supermarkets and they do the rest.A general rule of thumb for testing if something is soft or hard plastic is the ‘scrunch test’. If a plastic item is rigid and holds its shape, like a biscuit tray or milk bottle, then it is hard plastic and can be placed in your residential recycling. If an item is made of plastic and can be scrunched into a ball, then it is soft plastic and could be eligible to be ‘REDcycled’.
There is a wide range of food items that are accepted such as bread bags, pasta bags, ice cream wrappers, chip packets and confectionery wrappers (those silver-lined packets too!)
REDcycle doesn’t only take plastics from food though. I wanted to see if REDcycle would accept some of the packaging we had from deliveries so checked out their website and I was really surprised by some of the items they accept!
Here are a few things you might not know can also be REDcycled:
1. Australia Post satchels
With more reliance on home delivery, you may have found yourself with some extra postage bags lying around. The plastic satchels can be recycled through the program.
2. Bubble wrap
Ideally, keep your bubble wrap for reuse. However, if you think your bubble wrap has come to the end of its life, don’t throw it out! Put it in with your soft plastics to become something new.
3. Potting mix and compost bags
For those of you who have been working on your green thumb whilst staying home! Be sure to empty the bags as much as possible and cut them up into A3 sized pieces.
4. ‘Cellophane’ from flowers
The shiny wrap some florists use is not actually cellophane (which is derived from plant cellulose) but just soft plastic.
To check whether you have cellophane or plastic, use the ‘tear test’. If the material rips when you try to tear it, it is cellophane; if it stretches, it is plastic and can be REDcycled.
5. Pet food bags
If your pet food comes in plastic bags, shake out as much of the excess crumbs as possible and if it is a big bag, just cut it up into smaller than A3 sized pieces so it fits in the supermarket collection bins.
Note that items do not have to be washed or squeaky clean. REDcycle says a few crumbs or a little bit of dried gravy is okay, but just empty your plastics as much as you can. More importantly, make sure that anything you collect is completely dry to prevent any mould from growing.
Check out the comprehensive list of what can and cannot be REDcycled here.
Finally, remember that recycling of all kinds is important, but it has limitations. It is not a magical solution to our consumption. Society currently generates more plastic than we can actually recycle, so it’s always best to avoid, reduce and reuse whenever you can.
Banner image obtained via Pixabay under [CC0]
Amy has a background in ecology and conservation and is passionate about raising awareness for the importance of protecting healthy, resilient ecosystems. She is fascinated by how people connect, perceive and value nature. Currently completing a Masters of Environment and Sustainability, Amy is an advocate for being a conscious consumer. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and loves to go on walks with her beautiful yellow lab, Mac.