Wondering which plastics are recyclable in Australia?
A triangle with a number (1 to 7) inside stamped on a plastic container or bottle is actually a Plastic Identification Code. This code identifies the type of plastic the product is - not if it can be recycled.
People often confuse the Plastic Identification Code for the general recycling symbol (mobius loop), which involves three chasing arrows:
1 - PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – Water, soft drink and sport drink bottles, condiment bottles, peanut butter, vegemite and jam jars.
YES - As these items are a rigid/hard plastic, they can be recycled through your recycling bin.
2 - HDPE (High density polyethylene) - Milk and juice bottles, detergent, shampoo and conditioner bottles, water pipes and grocery bags.
MIXED - Some rigid/hard plastic items can be recycled through your recycling bin. However lightweight soft plastic grocery bags cannot be recycled in the recycling bin. They get caught up in the machinery at the materials recycling facility (MRF) and mix with other materials such as paper. You can recycle your plastic bags and other soft plastics through the REDcycle bins found at participating stores.
3 - PVC (Polyvinyl chlorine) - Flexible or rigid plastic used for plumbing pipes, clear cordial and juice bottles, bubble wrap, children’s toys and play mats, tablecloths, and vinyl flooring.
MIXED - The rigid/hard plastic items can be recycled through your recycling bin. Soft plastics, mats and flooring cannot be recycled in the recycling bin. Soft plastic such as bubble wrap and plastic packaging can be recycled in the REDcycle bins found at participating Coles and Woolworths stores. Cling film cannot be recycled through the REDcycle system.
4 - LDPE (Low density polyethylene) - Bread bags, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, produce bags and bin liner bags as well as a lining in milk cartons and takeaway beverage cups.
NO - Lightweight soft plastic bags cannot be recycled in the yellow lidded recycling bin. They get caught up in the machinery at the materials recycling facility (MRF) and mix with other materials such as paper. You can recycle your plastic bags and many soft plastics through the REDcycle bins found at participating stores
5 - PP (Polypropylene) - Ice cream containers and lids, yoghurt, margarine and butter containers, juice bottles, bottle caps, plant pots and plastic takeaway containers.
YES - Rigid hard plastic containers can be recycled.
6 - PS (Polystyrene) - Foam cups and takeaway containers, moulded packaging, packing peanuts, meat trays, yoghurt, margarine and butter containers
MIXED - expanded polystyrene—foam cups, takeaway containers and packaging cannot be recycled in your recycling bin. Polystyrene breaks up into many small pieces and contaminates recyclable materials. Rigid, hard forms such as yoghurt and margarine containers can be recycled in your recycling bin.
7 – Other (Bisphenol and other) - Nylon, safety and prescription glasses, sunglasses, baby milk bottles, headlight lenses, CDs and DVDs, water cooler bottles
MIXED - As the number 7 includes a wide range of plastic types and items, the recyclability of these will depend on the individual item.
Please note that the above information is general advice only, and in some instances, it may not be applicable to all products.
For example, PET plastic is usually considered a recyclable plastic in Australia, however according to the advice from Planet Ark, the recycling plants in Australia cannot accept lightweight plastics as they will enter the paper stream at the MRF (Materials Recovery Facility), and will be discharged as a waste. Some larger PET plastic blisters are also classified as not-recyclable, due to non-paper items greater than 200 mm in two dimensions being incorrectly passed through to the paper stream at an Australian MRF.
The Australasian Recycling Label (ARL), is an evidence-based labelling system that provides you with easy-to-understand recycling information for packaging. It shows what needs to be done with each piece of a package to dispose of it in the correct way. FIX-A-TAP are committed to adding the ARL logos to all packaging as soon as possible.
Visit arl.org.au for more information on recycling labels.
Visit the REDcycle page to find out where you can find their bins in your local area.
Can black plastic be recycled?
Black plastics include plastic meat trays, plant pots and seedling trays, bottle lids, coffee pods and microwave trays as well as other packaging.
Black plastics are tricky to recycle as they don’t reflect light so this means that they can’t be identified and sorted by the optical scanners at recycling facilities. Your local MRF may or may not be able to pick out these items by hand to recycle them separately.
The Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring that all packaging is 100% recyclable or compostable by 2025 will hopefully help to phase out black plastics, polystyrene and other plastics that are difficult to recycle. Alternatively recycling facilities will need to develop technology that can sort and recycle it.
More importantly, we need to try and avoid and reduce our use of plastic as well as put pressure on our supermarkets and manufacturers to stop supplying products that cannot be recycled.
Myth: All recycling goes to landfill
Busted: Recycling does actually get recycled
The most common recycling myth as nominated by councils is that all recycling goes to landfill. In addition, Planet Ark commissioned research shows 36% of the population believe most of our recycling goes to landfill No doubt the waste import policies of China and other countries have made it harder to find a home for our recyclables. The shutdown of recycling facilities, especially in Victoria, has led to a small number of councils having to send some recyclables to landfill until new markets are found. However, the vast majority of recycling collected by Australian councils is still getting recycled.
Myth: My recycling responsibilities are done once it’s in the bin
Busted: Unless you’re buying it back, you’re not fully recycling
True recycling occurs when items that you’ve put in your recycling bin or dropped off at a collection point are turned into new materials. In fact, recycling only works when products made from recycled materials are purchased by consumers, businesses and governments. This creates a circle of supply and demand and supports Australian jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries.
Myth: All plastic with a triangle symbol can be put in my kerbside recycling bin
Busted: The Australasian recycling label is the only evidence-based recycling symbol!
Not all plastics are made equal. The triangle symbols with numbers one to seven (or Plastic Identification Codes) are used to represent the type of plastic the item is made of. While every plastic type is technically recyclable, not all plastics are accepted in council kerbside recycling.
Myth: The only way to recycle is via my council recycling bin
Busted: There are other ways to recycle aside from council recycling
Most of us do our best to recycle through council kerbside recycling bins but this only makes up about 20% of the total amount of materials recycled in Australia. There are many other trusted, and often free, ways to recycle these items through awareness of these product stewardship schemes is not as high as council kerbside recycling – knowledge ranges from 61% for Cartridges 4 Planet Ark to 30% for FluoroCycle.
Myth: Food scraps are not an issue in landfill
Busted: Food scraps cause greenhouse gas emissions in landfill
What is in your bins when you take them out to the kerb each week? When it comes to food waste, Australians are some of the worst culprits with the latest National Waste Report finding food and garden organics make up about half of all kerbside garbage. Food organics were also noted by councils as a top 3 contaminant in the recycling bin.
Visit https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/nationalrecyclingweek/mythbusters/ to read more recycling myths.