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Plastic Free July - The Truth about Recycling

"It is clear that there is a severe shortage of facilities to properly
process and actually ‘recycle’ Australian waste."
Have you ever wondered what happens to your kerbside recycling? Well... that depends on where you live, what council you live in, what you put in your bin, what legislation is currently in place... and so on and so... you see it isn't very simple. What should be as simple as products going to a facility to be recycled isn't the case anymore.

Australian recycling has become backlogged due to the enormous volume and pressure of waste compared to the local facilities we have available to correctly process this waste. 

Ineffective recycling is also the result of uneducated households. Incorrectly placing items in recycling can mean the difference between reusable materials and landfill.

*Did you know... that if you place your recycling in a plastic bag it won't be touched and the whole bag will be put in landfill? It is a health and safety standard that those working in recycling facilities cannot open these bags for fear of contamination.

Here are some quick facts to bring you up to speed:

  1. In 2018 Australia spent $2.8 billion exporting nearly 4.5 million tonnes of waste with the majority going to Vietnam, Indonesia and China.
  1. The below chart is from the 2017-18 Australian Plastics Recycling Survey and shows that the amount of plastics exported overseas for processing was 54% in 2017-18.


  1. In August 2017 China announced that it would stop importing 24 kinds of solid waste from foreign countries. Significantly reducing the amount Australia could send for processing and placing pressure on other smaller South-East Asian countries and on the Australian recycling system.
  1. In August 2019 the Australia Government announced the phase out of waste overseas export and committed $20 million for projects designed to grow Australia’s recycling industry.
  1. In August 2019 there was just under 200 material recovery facilities in Australia with the majority being hand sorted.
It is clear that there is a severe shortage of facilities to properly process and actually ‘recycle’ Australian waste. There is no central governing body, with different states and councils trying to find solutions on their own. We will hopefully see an increase in facilities throughout Australia, however, it will take time. This being said there are still items and materials that these facilities can’t process because they are too difficult…. so….

With this in mind there ARE ways that we can correctly recycle our ‘hard to recycle waste’, we just need to know what to do and where to take it. 

Your Local Council

The first place to check out would be your local council. Find out what recycling options they have available to you. Many councils offer incentives and rebates for sustainable living, so they are a great place to start to find out what resources are available in your area.

Terracycle

Terracycle is a global organisation providing multiple programs and recycling solutions for individuals and companies.

Terracycle have great free recycling programs in which they collect items such as eye contact cases, toothpaste tubs and toothbrushes, dish and air care product waste, coffee capsules and so much more! Public spaces and businesses can register to be collection points, for example Warragul Dental Care accept oral care products which then go to Terracycle to be properly processed and recycled. You can go to this map at Terracycle to find a collection point near you: http://www.terracyclemap.com

Redcycle

Redcycle is a Melbourne based organisation who specialise in recycling post-consumer soft plastics. They have collection points are most major Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. You can go to this map at Redcycle to find a collection point near you: https://www.redcycle.net.au/where-to-redcycle/

Planet Ark

Planet Ark is an Australian non-for-profit organisation who provide services to individuals, businesses and governments as well as provide multiple programs and campaigns to help promote environmental care. The below image is just a few of their campaigns.



You might be familiar with the Australasian Recycling Label, these below label you see on your packaging??
Check out the below link to find out more about just exactly what all these labels mean: https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/arl/ 

Other Businesses and Collection Points

There are so many individual organisations and shops that provide options for recycling, here is a quick list of a few of our favourites:

Officeworks - batteries, e-waste, pens and markers, ink cartridges (through the Planet Ark program)
IKEA - batteries, globes and mattresses
ALDI - batteries

How Do I Recycle?

Now you know where you can take your recycling, how should you sort and store the items until you are ready to take them?? Here are some quick recycling tips!
    1. Have an easily accessible list (see below) that shows you what items can and cannot be recycled. Keep it somewhere near the bin. If you don’t like the ‘look’ of having a list out, keep it just until you learn the difference. You will quickly learn what can and cannot be recycled.


    2. For items that can be recycled but not by council kerbside collection, research what areas near you have collection points.

    3. For these hard to recycle items, have a single box, bag or area for these items. Do not let them float around in different areas of the house otherwise they will most likely end up going in the bin and to landfill.

      For example you could have three separate boxes in your pantry or garage one for soft plastic, one for oral hygiene products and the other for ink cartridges and e-waste. When they start to get full, place them in your car until a convenient time to drop them off to a collection point.

      (P.S. The toothpaste box will smell nice and minty fresh!!)

    4. Keep up to date with relevant information regarding waste management and recycling. Subscription to your local council newsletter or waste management organisations can help keep you informed and knowledgeable on the topic. (Research for this blog was an eye opener for me, Grace, and it didn't take me too long to discover some really useful information!!)

    Living an eco, sustainable, low waste, low tox, zero waste, green, etc, etc, etc, life can seen daunting, tiring, time consuming and frankly.... boring. Once again we say "progress over perfection"!! During lockdown and Winter it can be difficult to even think about any of this... just surviving the day is perfectly normal and fine!! However, it is great to learn about these topics for the day when you do feel like taking action because you will already have the knowledge. Remember that you don't have to suddenly change your whole life... maybe just start collecting toothpaste in a tub in the bathroom cupboard and after a few months see if there is somewhere local you can drop it off.

    If you take little steps or big leaps, it doesn't matter, there is no destination.... just a journey.

    ~~

    Image 1: 2017-18 Australian Plastic Recycling Survey National Report: https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/3f275bb3-218f-4a3d-ae1d-424ff4cc52cd/files/australian-plastics-recycling-survey-report-2017-18.pdf

    Image 2: Planet Ark, Environmental Campaigns:
    https://planetark.org/campaigns/

    Image 3: Planet Ark, Australasian Recycling Label:
    https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/arl/

    Image 4: Baw Baw Shire Council Website:
    https://www.bawbawshire.vic.gov.au/Resident-Information/Environment-Recycling-and-Waste/Recycling

     

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