11 November 2019

The in’s and out’s of recycling

By Elta Fans Asia

11 November 2019

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Recycling; we know it’s important but remembering all the rules of what can and can’t be recycled is like navigating a mine-field.
We break down the recycling basics that will start you on your path to becoming an eco-warrior!

The 7 types of recycled materials

The recycling triangle has been an easily recognisable symbol to look out for when we are throwing away our trash. But what if I told you that not all materials sporting the recycle symbol can actually be recycled… Confusing, right?

As it turns out, there are seven different recycling symbols that are placed on our packaging and each one means something different. In fact, some even mean the item can not be recycled in your regular recycling collection. The tiny little (easily missed) numbers located in the centre of the logo are what it all comes down to.

The numbers (1 – 7) represent the type of material an item is made from and outlines the recycling process for each. Here is a breakdown of each of the categories:

PET
Polyethylene
Terephthalate
Widely recyclable plastics.

Often includes plastic bottles, mouthwash bottles and yogurt containers.
PET can be recycled into polyester fabric and filling for fleeces, carpets and cushion fillings

HDPE
High Density
Polyethylene
Recyclable items dependant on council.

HDPE is often found in stiff coloured bottles/tubs and is recyclable although your local council will determine if you can toss these plastics into your recycling bin. HDPE items often include milk containers, shampoo bottles, ice-cream and margarine tubs, as well as plastic bottle caps. HDPE can be recycled into pens and detergent bottles.

PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride
Not recyclable in regular recycling collections.

Materials such as cling film, hoses, outdoor pipes, and plastic furniture can not be recycled through regular channels. Items such as these need to be taken to specific recycling facilities for processing.

LDPE
Low-Density Polyethylene
Recyclable items dependant on council.

LDPE can be recycled but only some councils will allow you to place these items in your regular recycling bin. LDPE items include plastics such as bread bags, frozen food bags, single-use plastic shopping bags, and bubble wrap. LDPE can be recycled into bin liners.

PP
Polypropylene
Recyclable items dependant on council.

PP can be recycled. However, you will need to check with your local council to ensure it is recycled in your area. Items of this nature include packing tape, plastic straws, and condiment bottles. Polypropylene can be recycled into brooms, brushes, garden rakes and plastic trays.

PS
Polystyrene
Not recyclable through regular channels.

Polystyrene is not recyclable in normal collections and need to be processed as specific facilities capable of breaking down the materials. There are two types of polystyrene (hard, brittle plastic) and expanded polystyrene (light, insulating, waterproof plastic). Polystyrene items include CD cases, plastic cutlery, and yogurt pots. Expanded polystyrene can include items such as foamy takeaway packaging, meat trays, styrofoam, and insulation.

OtherNot recyclable through regular channels.

Other plastics are not recyclable in normal collections. This categorises all other plastics including bioplastics, composite plastics (like crisp wrappers), plastic coated wrapping paper and polycarbonate (which contains BPA).

Common things you should not be putting in your recycling bin

There are things we know we can recycle. Paper = recyclable, right? Well actually, not always. There are some materials that shouldn’t be put in our recycle bins

  1. Pizza boxes/paper takeaway containers
    Although pizza boxes and the like are made from paper which is easily recyclable, the grease left of them by our food contaminate the material and make them unable to be recycled. Before throwing you pizza boxes or take away food containers into the recycling, make sure there is no oil contamination and no food remnants as this can also cause other materials that come in contact with your items to be deemed contaminated.
  2. Light bulbs and eye wear
    Glass jars are easy to recycle if they are not being reused. But when it comes to other types of glass, recycling them in your council recycling bins is not always possible. Glass from lightbulbs or eyeglasses cannot be accepted by local recycling bins and should be recycled through proper channels.
  3. Shredded paper
    Again, although shredded paper should be easily recycled, the thin, flimsy nature of shredded paper can cause it to become stuck in the recycling processing machines, causing all sorts of problems for the facilities. For this reason, you should avoid discarding shredded paper in your general recycling bin.
  4. Plastic bottle lids
    While plastic bottles are widely recyclable, the lids that come with them are made from different plastic that is not so easily recycled. For this reason, you should be careful when throwing your plastic bottles into your recycling bin. Either remove the lids before putting bottles in or double-check that plastics lids are able to be recycled in your local council and make sure when placing in the bin to separate the lids from the bottles.
  5. Styrofoam
    Styrofoam is everywhere but should be avoided wherever possible. If you can’t avoid it, make sure you are not placing this into your recycling bin. Not only is it not recyclable but it also doesn’t degrade, meaning it will not break down in landfill.
  6. Napkins/paper towels
    Similar to take away container and shredded paper, napkins and paper towels are classified as contaminated due to their contact with food and can become ripped and caught in machines when being processed at recycling facilities. For these reasons, they are also unable to be thrown into council recycling bins.

The 4 R’s for reducing waste

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; the four R’s of waste reduction and words to live by. These four words outline the basics of how we can effectively reduce our waste.

Refuse
Refuse single-use plastic items such as plastic cutlery, plastic bags or takeaway coffee cups. Instead use reusable options such as reusable coffee cups, bamboo cutlery, or cloth napkins.

Reduce
Reduce the amount of plastic you are using in your everyday life and when possible opt for more sustainable solutions such as items made from bamboo, paper or biodegradable materials.

Reuse
Reuse as much as possible. Glass jars are great for pantry storage, furniture can be upcycled, and clothing can be repurposed. By extending the lifespan of items, the amount of waste we produce is decreased.

Recycle
When items cannot be refused, reduced or reused, try to ensure they can be recycled. Where possible, recycle and ensure you know which materials are recyclable and the proper channel for them to be recycled through.

We all know that the recycling problem is bigger than just a single person, but it only takes one person to make a difference. Ensuring you are recycling correctly, educating others on how to recycle, and advocating the reasons behind it can encourage others to follow in your footsteps.

The more people who make this change, the more who will follow and the bigger impact it will have on our planet.

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