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Busting Recycling Myths

Busting Recycling Myths

Amber Crittenden

Outreach Officer

This week in National Recycling Week! A great chance for us to reflect on our recycling habits and do a little bit of digging into how we can be better at recycling. National Recycling Week is an initiative of Planet Ark that seeks to highlight the importance of recycling in the circular economy and brings attention to correct recycling practices in our households, workplaces and public spaces. 

Recycling is an incredibly important part of the lifecycle of a product, and correct recycling can have a multitude of follow-on benefits, such a reduced greenhouse gas production from biodegradable materials in landfill, reduced resource requirements for creating new products, reduced time spent sorting through waste to ensure no contamination of non-recyclables and money saved on the items you repurpose and upcycle.

It can be quite daunting, however, when faced with the many plastics, papers, foils and tins that package our favourite products, to understand exactly what can and what can’t be recycled in curbside recycling. Have a look at MMF’s top four recycling myths, and read about how you can make a difference with every item you recycle rather than send to landfill.

Myth #1: soft plastic cannot be recycled… 

WRONG. Thanks to a programcalled REDcycle, we are now able to recycle our soft ‘scrunchable’ plastics! Even with the successful Ban The Bag movement in 2017, it’s estimated that 4 million plastic bags are used in Australia each year, resulting in a whopping 429,000 plastic bags being thrown away EVERY HOUR. The REDcycle program has recognised this area for opportunity, and has partnered with some of Australia’s biggest brands, such as Australia Post, Woolworths, Coles and Kmart just to name a few, to tackle this issue. REDcycle has installed convenient and accessible collection points throughout the country, such as in supermarkets and shopping centres, where you can deposit your soft plastics (any plastic that you can ‘scrunch’ in your hands – think shopping bags, bread bags and cling wrap). This soft plastic is then repurposed and manufactured into new products and materials, such as park benches. This removes the harmful plastic waste from the environment, and reduces the resources needed to manufacture new products!

Myth #2: all hard plastics can be recycled in curbside recycling…

UNTRUE. Due to the nature of how certain plastics are made, there are a few hard plastics that cannot be recycled in your general curbside recycling. Each type of plastic has its own unique Resin Identific Number or RIN code, and this will tell you a lot about whether it can be put into your recycling bin or if you need to dispose of it in another way. RIN codes are usually printed somewhere on the plastic item or on the Australasian recycling label itself. I like to remember the rhyme: 1, 2, 3: recycle me. In my local area, hard plastic with RIN code one, two or three can be recycled in curbside recycling. Have a look at what types of plastic your local council will collect and make up your own rhyme!

Myth #3: aluminum foil can be recycled…

This is a tricky one. In theory, aluminum foil is made of the same material as aluminum cans, which are almost universally accepted in curbside recycling. The problem with foil, is that it is often covered with food waste, that contaminates the recycling process, or can clog the plant machinery, and is therefore not accepted by most recycling facilities. For recycling clean foil, loosely scrunch it into a ball at least the size of a golf ball, then it can be placed in the recycle bin. Recycle sorting machines can not pick up smaller pieces of foil.  Foilis definitely a better alternative to plastic wrap, but it may be better to seek another reusable option, such as beeswax wraps or silicone bake sheets. 

Myth #4: takeaway coffee cups can be recycled…

INCORRECT (usually). With the health risks associated with using reusable coffee mugs to hold our take-away coffees during the coronavirus pandemic here in Australia, a lot of people have made the disappointing discovery that take away coffee cups are usually coated with a wax or thin plastic lining that stops the hot coffee from turning the cup into a sodden mess. This means they are not able to be recycled and unfortunately must be disposed of in the general waste bin. Some lids are made of the correct plastic to recycle (see Myth #2) and we are seeing some new cups hitting the market that can be recycled, though these are often more expensive and difficult to find. 

Recycling is so incredibly important to ensuring we are minimising unnecessary waste in our households, workplaces, and daily lives. It is important to recognise and understand how our waste can be recycled, either in curbside recycling or through other recycling programs. To take action on recycling practices and to make sure you are recycling effectively in your local area head to Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You for more information on how recycling waste is collected and processed near you.

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