Like many Australians, we’re keen to recycle as much waste as we can. Unfortunately, our local council recycling collection isn’t able to accept soft plastics such as shopping bags, cling wrap or bubble wrap. As a result, we were putting these items into landfill because we didn’t know what else to do about it. Then we found out about the REDcycle recycling program for soft plastics.
Based in Melbourne, RED Group has started the REDcycle program, which aims to solve this problem. They have collection points at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets in our local area. Like us, a lot of people seem to have noticed them as points where supermarket bags can be recycled, but they’re actually able to accept a much broader range of plastics such as chocolate wrappers, zip lock bags and clear plastic wine bladders. The general guide is that if it’s plastic and can be scrunched into a ball, it’s probably suitable for the program.
In our pantry we now have three areas where we gather and sort our waste: our garbage bin, a box for council recycling, and an additional plastic bag where we collect our soft plastics. When I do a supermarket shop I take as many items out of their plastic packaging as I can and immediately scrunch it up for our REDcycle bag, which helps me to make sure I don’t inadvertently put those plastics into landfill. When we go back to the supermarket, we take that plastic bag with us and drop it into the collection bin on our way into the store. We seriously have to walk at most 5m out of our way to do this, because the collection bins are right at the entrance; participation really is that effortless.
The plastic collected through REDcycle is sent to Replas, who then recycle it into new products. According to their website, the program has so far recycled 380 million pieces of plastic weighing 1525 tonnes. For our family, the change has roughly halved what we were putting into our rubbish bin in a standard week.
Recycling these plastics is great because it diverts waste from landfill and redirects it to where it can actually be used. Not only does this reduce the problems involved with rubbish going to landfill, but it also helps to reduce emissions because recycling a product requires less energy than extracting and processing raw resources. According to Sustainability Victoria, “recycling one plastic drink bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes“. Granted, that type of plastic can’t be recycled through this particular program, but it does provide a rough idea for how much energy can be saved through REDcycle.
If you’re playing along at home…
…are you able to reduce your household waste through programs such as REDcycle? Please leave a comment below if you know of other programs that can extend recycling beyond what your local council can support.