I know you are probably already eco-aware and doing the right thing for our future and our environment. It has simply become second nature for us to recycle our paper and milk cartons but sometimes we need a reminder so that we can push ourselves to do a little bit better. I have shared my thoughts on Sustainable Living and what we can and should be doing previously but since Planet Ark is pushing National Recycling Week (9th-15th November) I thought it was time for a refresher on recycling.
Recycling creates jobs, lowers mining and harvesting of new materials, reduces energy used to manufacture new products and so on and so forth but guess what else it does … it makes us happy! There have been studies conducted across the world that prove that people engaged in ecologically sustainable behaviours as simple as recycling, experience higher life satisfaction and higher levels of happiness.
Are you doing it right?
Aussies are actually pretty good little environmentalists but there is always room for improvement. Yes you recycle, but do you know if you are doing it right? Did you know if you don’t do your recycling properly that you could end up doing more harm than good? Yep, all your good efforts could just end up in landfill.
There are a bunch of rules of what should and shouldn’t go in your recycling bin.
>> Only clean paper & cardboard products – no tissues or dirty paper towel, no waxed paper or card
>> Plastic containers labelled with recyclable – take lids off and rinse off any food.
>> Only glass bottles & jars
>> Steel & Aluminium – cans, jar lids, empty aerosols (Yes!!), bottle tops
>> No plastic bags
>> No broken glass
>> No heat resistant glass like Pyrex or light bulbs
>> No clothing or textiles
>> No soft plastic, disposable nappies, crockery, china, ceramics
>> No electrical equipment
>> No wire coat hangers
>> No food waste or garden waste
>> Be safe – don’t put in anything sharp or dangerous
The biggest issue that they have at the recycling centres is plastic bags. While plastic bags have taken a step in the right direction and most plastic bags are now biodegradable, they are not recyclable! They will wreak havoc with the machinery in recycling facilities. So no empty bags, but also, and this is where a huge chunk of the problem lies, no recycling items should be put in a plastic bag. If you do, the whole lot will be sent to landfill because the staff don’t have the time to be opening them all.
What can we do?
Did you know that 7,150 recyclable plastic bags are dumped in Aussie landfill every minute! Not only do they take up to 1,000 years to break down but they can easily escape in the wind and end up floating long distances to pollute our waterways and destroy our wildlife and ecosystem. Sadly, only 3% of Australia’s plastic bags are recycled despite recycling facilities being available at your supermarket.
First up, try not to use plastic bags when shopping, this is easy to do with so many pretty reusable bags now available. I try to keep a couple in my car and one scrunched up in the bottom of my handbag. Many people use plastic bags as bin liners but you can actually just put your clean garbage straight into the bin and use other rubbish for the messy stuff. That is, try using the bread bag or the inside cereal box bag for your kitchen scraps (but remember to compost what you can first).
If you do have plastic bags, reuse them as much as you can, then take them into your supermarket and put them in the special plastic recycling boxes. I’ve made it easy for you and am sharing a picture of what they look like. All soft plastics like bread bags, pasta packets and biscuit trays (anything you can scrunch) can actually be recycled with your plastic bags in these bins, but not in your kerbside recycling bin. It is a little extra effort but will make a big difference.
I found this cool little video about where our recycling goes after the truck picks it up, it really makes it obvious why we need to be careful with what we include in our bins. If something that doesn’t belong in the recycling gets mixed up into the wrong section, the whole bale needs to be discarded. What a waste of everyone’s efforts to recycle just because one person got it wrong.
So you can see that some things can’t go in your kerbside recycling bin, but don’t just throw them into your regular bin, they are still recyclable with a little effort. Check with your local council to see what they accept and where the drop off points are for things like electronics, tyres, batteries, green waste etc. I like to make life easy so just visit Recycling Near You for a quick and easy search tool.
There are plenty of great initiatives out there with everyone trying to make it easier to recycle. For instance did you know that your toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss containers can be recycled too! TerraCycle is doing a great job of this, there are some public drop off’s but you can just post it to them for free. This is just one of many organisations making an effort. So before you throw something out, do a quick Google search and check to see what else you could do with it.
I am going to make a bigger effort to recycle my soft plastics.
What are you going to make second nature?