Recycle With REDcycle

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.

Soft plastics for recycling.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.

Worm Farm

Last month we were at a community event where Frankston Council had a stand about environmentalism. Since that’s something I’m currently interested in, I decided to sign up for their e-newsletter. Everyone who put down their email address went in the draw to win a worm farm or a compost bin.

Yay for winning!

Normally I avoid entering competitions because I deem the risk of winning and having to deal with unwanted crap to be too high, but this time I was stoked. As in, there was dancing in the kitchen and the four year old ended up crying because Mummy had won and not her.

I couldn’t organise a time to pick up the worm farm fast enough. We already have a compost bin – more about that in a later post – but the worm farm was something we had been talking about and never quite getting around to. Our composting system wasn’t working as quickly as we needed it to, so the timing for this was absolutely perfect.

Worm farm

The worm farm came with a collection tray and two working trays. The collection tray is where the water drains into and the working trays are what house the worms and food.

To begin a worm farm, you need to prepare a bed for the worms to live in. This consisted of taking the cardboard packaging that the kit came in and stuffing it into the base of the first working tray. There was a block of shredded coconut that needed to be soaked and spread out on top of the cardboard once it had absorbed enough water. The worms were then dumped on top of that and food was dumped on top of the worms.

A worm farm will apparently house 5000 worms happily if it is managed well. We decided to start with 2000 live worms and an additional 1200 worm eggs. Because we have our own vegetable garden – I sense another later post – we have quite a lot of organic waste. You can also add things to a worm farm that we weren’t already composting, such as paper towels and weeds, so we definitely have enough to keep 5000 worms well fed.

We need to expand the worm farm to have room for two additional working trays based on how much is already going into the farm. Other than that one problem, which isn’t exactly an issue, the system is working very well. We started getting liquid fertiliser out of it almost immediately, we’ve reduced the load on our compost heap, and the kids finally have pets. This has meant we reduce what we send to land fill even further and the way we’re breaking down this waste should mean we’re releasing carbon instead of methane. Even though we’re attempting to reduce carbon, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas.

If you’re playing along at home…

…have you considered getting a worm farm to deal with your organic waste? They take up very little room, so they can be used in small spaces. Please share your experience with worm farms in the comments.