Following the collapse of Redcycle’s soft plastics recycling scheme, many Australians are now wondering what they can do with their used plastic items.
So, with the ability to drop off soft plastics in large supermarkets now gone, what should Australians do with them?
Here’s what you need to know.
Can I still recycle soft plastics in Australia?
Unfortunately, Redcycle is telling Australians to just put soft plastics in regular household bins now that its recycling program has been suspended, meaning these items will end up in landfill.
‘Please dispose of your soft plastics in landfill as there will be no take back from Coles and Woolworths stores at this time,’ it says on its website.
There are much smaller recycling programs you can use instead, although they are not available nationwide.
Can I put them in my household recycling bin?
No. Whatever you do, don’t put soft plastics in your regular recycling bin with other items like glass bottles, cardboard and aluminum cans.
Soft plastics are a bit of a nightmare for machines used by municipalities to sort recycling, often tangling and damaging it.
It’s worth checking with your local council to see if they have a soft plastic recycling scheme, but don’t hold your breath – most local governments in Australia don’t have such a scheme.
When will soft plastic recycling bins be back at Woolworths and Coles?
We’re not sure – no date has been given by Redcycle, Woolworths or Coles for the return of in-store soft plastic recycling.
Redcycle said it hoped to bring its program back “as soon as possible”, while the two supermarket giants said they were exploring options in the region without committing to a timetable.
How much plastic do Australians use?
A lot – more than anyone else in the world, in fact.
Worse, the amount that ends up being reused. Over the past four years, only 16% of plastics in Australia have been recycled.
According to different data, this time from the Australian government’s National Plastics Plan, the nation uses 70 billion pieces of soft plastic each year, or nearly 3,000 pieces per person.
Is the government doing anything about it?
When Redcycle suspended its recycling program, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek was quick to intervene.
“It’s really worrying. Australians want to do their part and recycle where they can,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Big companies like Coles and Woolworths generate a lot of this material, it shouldn’t be difficult for them to find a workable solution. We’re happy to work with them to make it happen.”
The federal government had previously commissioned the Australian Food and Grocery Council to work on developing more sustainable uses for recycled plastics.
More recently, the government joined the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution – an international initiative to end plastic pollution – and pledged to recycle all plastics in the country by 2040.
In October, state and federal ministers also set a number of goals for 2025. These include making packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable, ensuring that 70% of plastic packaging is recycled or composted and put an end to unnecessary single-use plastics.
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