War on Waste: What plastics can be recycled?

Did you know that every type of plastic is fully recyclable?

And at least 20 per cent of what is in our garbage bins right now should be in our recycle bins, according to Planet Ark’s Brad Gray.

However it is important to know and understand not all items can be recycled in this way.

The most common recycling mistake is throwing in soft plastics such as plastic bags, food packaging or any “scrunchable” plastic in with the rest of your plastic containers.

“[Soft plastics] are the number one form of contamination in the recycling system,” Mr Gray said.

“The systems aren’t designed to pick them out so they literally get caught in the conveyer belt and the whole recycling system has to be stopped so they can get them out, or after every shift people go to the machines to cut them out.”

Mr Gray’s biggest tip was to check with your local council about what they accepted, as each area has different recycling systems and sorting processes after your bins are collected.

What can be put in your kerbside recycle bin?

All plastic containers can be recycled including plastic fruit punnets and takeaway containers.

Plastic trays such as meat trays or soft food trays differ across councils.

Rigid hard plastic trays can be recycled while soft polystyrene trays cannot, which means many councils say no to both.

All plastic drink bottles can go in the recycle bins, although Planet Ark recommends people remove the lids from bottles and put them in the garbage.

Bottle lids are too small to be picked up by the factory sorting machines.

“If you leave the lid on, chances are some liquid will remain inside and because many of the sorting machines use air to sort the items, any liquid left inside can weigh them down,” Mr Gray said.


“Also if you leave them on, sometimes pressure can build up and when the items are compacted into bales, they can explode and the bale can break and have to be rebound.”

What about plastic bags?

All “scrunchable” plastic including shopping bags, plastic food packaging, fruit netting and dry cleaning bags can be recycled although most often not via your home recycle bin.

There are only a handful of councils, mainly in regional towns, which will accept these soft plastics.

The best method is to bundle all your plastic bags into one bag and take it to a REDcycle bin located in most metro and large regional supermarkets.

These plastics are then recycled into plastic school furniture.

What about my party fork?

Plastic forks, spoons and knives cannot go in your recycle bin because the utensils are the wrong shape to be properly separated by the sorting machines.

But some councils will accept plastic plates.

Don’t forget your bathroom products

Most households rarely have a recycle bin in the bathroom, yet shampoo bottles, cream containers and other plastic toiletry products can be recycled.

Even non-electric toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and dental floss containers can be recycled, although the only national scheme accepting these items is TerraCycle.

The recycle program, funded by Colgate, can send out a “zero waste box” to you, or they operate through a number of representatives.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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