Residents of Manly, Mosman, Pittwater and Warringah Councils are some of the best recyclers in NSW with a 54% recovery rate compared to a state average of 48%.
However plastic bags that can’t be recycled from the home are sometimes found in the household recycling bins. Australian research by PlanetArk shows that 23% of people put recycling in the recycling bins in a plastic bag mistakenly thinking they are recycling correctly.
Plastic bags full of recycling can be consigned to landfill, wasting valuable resources. Plastic bags contaminate household recycling and can jam machinery. They can’t be recycled from the household recycling bin.
To try and combat the problem and save valuable recyclables, SHOROC and its partner councils have a new campaign asking those residents that don’t recycle right to hang onto the bag and dispose of it responsibly.
If you need to use a plastic bag, then empty the recyclables in the recycling bin and put the bag in your garbage bin. Even better, recycle the plastic bag at your local supermarket. But best of all try to avoid plastic bags totally – after all it is Plastic Free July and you can sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and try to refuse ALL single-use plastic.
The challenge is simple: keep household recycling bins free of plastic bags and make your recycling count – and pass on the message to neighbours, friends or family.
Why can’t you put plastic bags in the recycling bins?
It’s not that used plastic bags can’t be recycled. They just can’t be recycled from household recycling bins as they need a different process. In household recycling they contaminate the recycling stream, reduce its value, and jam machinery. Yet they are still found in recycling bins.
Your recyclables need to be sorted when they reach the recycling factory (called a Material Resource Facility or MRF for short) and the staff and machines that sort through tonnes of recycling each hour can’t do it effectively if your items are in a plastic bag so they should be kept loose.
If your recyclables are in a plastic bag, the MRF has to rip the bag open to get to the good stuff and then try to remove the bag as well as any loose bags. If they remain, they can jam machinery and need to be removed by hand. This slows down the recycling process wasting time and money and can be dangerous.
Australian research by PlanetArk shows that 23% of people put recycling in the recycling bin in a plastic bag. Sometimes a whole bag of recycling can be hand picked off the sorting line and sent to landfill as it’s too dangerous and time consuming to open and sort. That’s because no one knows what’s in the bag. It could be full of the good stuff – glass, plastic bottles or aluminium cans, or it could be full of things like food scraps, dirty items like nappies or dangerous items like syringes and toxic chemicals that could put a worker at risk of danger or disease. That means valuable resources can’t be recycled and are wasted in landfill.
Did you know you can recycle your plastic bags at supermarkets?
Plastic bags can’t go in your home recycling bin, but can be recycled in specially marked recycling bins at the front of most supermarkets. Other flexible plastics such as biscuit packets, dry cleaning bags and plastic bread bags can also be recycled this way. These plastics will have a new life as sturdy backyard decking, fences and playground equipment. See how here Replas scope visits.
So next time you go shopping, why not just return your plastic bags to the supermarket.
We throw away about 7,150 recyclable plastic bags a minute. Most end up in landfill and litter our beaches and bushland. Bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down into smaller pieces that harm wildlife. Nearly every piece of plastic EVER made still exists today.
So why not try to avoid plastic bags totally. It’s a good time to start – after all it is Plastic Free July and you can sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and try to refuse ALL single-use plastic.
Instead of using a plastic bag to take your recycling down to your recycling bin you could use a reusable box or bin, a laundry basket, or a reusable shopping bag. If you are not returning to your home after taking your recycling to the bin, you could use a reusable foldable bag or a string bag and then pop it in your handbag or backpack for use next time.