5 recycling tips for soy sauce fish bottles and more

Better ideas to live sustainably

Despite your best intentions, your recycling could contaminate. If enough of the ‘wrong’ plastic is found in the yellow-lid recycling bin, the whole lot can end up in landfill. Find out how to recycle different types of plastics properly.

1. Eliminate common contamination culprits

Plastic bags are often found in the recycling bin and are a major cause of strife at the recycling plant. Plastic bags can become tangled in sorting machinery, potentially causing breakdowns and even fires. They can also hinder the recycling process for other materials.

What to do:

  • Good – recycle plastic bags in REDCycle bins found at Woolworths and Coles. REDcycle will recycle your plastic bags into water and termite-resistant outdoor furniture. Also, don’t contain recycling in plastic bags that then go in the yellow-lid bin. Instead, use a container and drop the recyclables in loosely. Finally, keep plastic out of your green-lid garden waste bin. If you are throwing away flowers, separate the plastic from the organic material.
  • Better – say no to plastic bags altogether. Use a box or green bag to hold your groceries.

2. Don’t be soft on scrunchable plastic

Soft plastics are usually wrappers and packaging (bread bags, pasta packets, biscuit and chocolate trays). Rigid plastics are often containers (water bottles, ice cream containers, fruit punnets, shampoo bottles).

The difference? Soft plastics are not recyclable and should never go in the yellow-lid bin. Use the scrunch test if you’re unsure. If you can easily scrunch it, it’s probably not recyclable.

What to do:

  • Good – recycle soft plastic with your plastic bags in REDCycle bins
  • Better – avoid buying products packaged in plastic wrapping. Shop at local markets or choose packaging that can easily be recycled.

3. Don’t get caught out by combined items

Combined items, such as magazines that come wrapped in plastic, can’t be recycled as is. Take the wrapping off and recycle separately.

Composite items include packaging that contains cardboard and another material – say, plastic or aluminium. Unfortunately, the materials can’t be separated, meaning that composite items are not recyclable. Put them in your red-lid bin.

What to do:

  • Good – separate recyclable materials like cardboard and paper from contaminants and put them in the right place. For example, paper goes into the yellow-lid bin, soft plastic wrapping goes to the supermarket for recycling.
  • Better – avoid combined items like plastic-wrapped publications. Choose not to buy or take yourself off distribution lists. Where possible, choose products packaged in recyclable materials.

4. Take note of the little things

Those cute fish-shaped soy sauce containers have a habit of hanging around. Can they be recycled? Yes, but this comes with a caveat. Even if properly disposed of, small items like sushi fish can be lost at the recycling plant.

This is because the machinery used to sort recyclables has size limits. Only items as large as a business card will go through. Anything smaller ends up in the landfill pile.

What to do:

  • Good – put them inside a bigger plastic container, like a bottle or tub. Keep them contained within something else of the same material. This goes for other small things, such as metal lids. Put them in an old tin can and squeeze the can shut so the lids don’t fall out. Remember: like goes with like when it comes to combining materials.
  • Better – keep a bottle of soy sauce at home and at your desk, so when you get take away sushi, you don’t need to resort to the fish containers. Also, ask your favourite sushi place to not automatically give away soy fish containers.

5. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the recycling triangle

The chasing arrow symbol does not denote the recyclability of a material. The number inside the arrow denotes an international plastic code. The best way to find out if an item is recyclable is to check with your local council. The rules are different depending on where you live. If in doubt, it’s better to place in the red-lid bin to avoid contamination.

  • Good – if you live in the inner city, check your item against the City’s rules. Also remember the plastic rigidity test.
  • Better – the best way for you to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill is to avoid packaging. No matter how wonderful your recycling efforts are, reducing consumption is the ultimate goal.

Posted . Last updated .

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