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waste free me - the good stuff is in here

Stories and experiences of living waste free. Articles to help you get waste free too! 

The Soft Plastic Special - What to do with your problem plastics.

Waste Free Bee

"Do I have something in my beak?"

In this post - 

  1. What to do with all that plastic
  2. Download your printable poster - Recycle Your Soft Plastics In 3 Easy Steps

Cling film and other soft plastic items are on the NO GO list for things we can put into our recycling bin at home (Canberra, Australia). This meant, when first deciding to go waste free, Nic and I believed we would be unable to buy anything that was packaged in plastic wrapper. It was pretty scary to contemplate as everything these days seems to be wrapped in plastic. We did some research into where to buy naked groceries (ones that don't have plastic film) and I prepared myself to say goodbye to my favourite bulk shopping warehouse - haven of mass amounts of plastic wrapper – Costco.

Don't make Doug growl at you...

Don't make Doug growl at you...

Meet Doug. Whilst researching the recycling systems in Canberra, I interviewed Doug, the supervisor at the local recycling facilities. I found out, much to my amazement, all the plastic film and soft wraps we toss away can be recycled. I mean ALL OF IT! And Doug wants you to know something very important: He doesn’t want it. If it goes in your recycling bin, it totally messes with his recycling machines and contaminates good recyclable materials which then have to be sent to landfill. So don't make Doug growl 'cos he has got such a winning smile. Keep your plastic bags out of the recycle bin. There'll be more from Doug next week :) And he knows who does want all that problem plastic...

Cling film, biscuit wrappers, faux-foil (appears to be foil but is really plastic) chip packets, straws, shrink wrap, vacuum wrap, sauce sachets, plastic netting and really annoying little plastic things like the plastic line attaching the tag to new clothing.  All this can be quickly and easily recycled by remembering one thing as part of your shopping habit. Are you ready for it?  

Put the bag of your collected plastics INSIDE the reusable bags that you will take shopping.

Do you know why?

"Yeah! Tell me why."

"Yeah! Tell me why."

Most Coles and Woolworths shops in Australia have a drop off point that takes all your soft plastic and turns it into playgrounds! Way, way, way better than going to landfill and leeching chemicals into the ground or blowing away into waterways to choke natures beautiful creatures. When you add your discarded soft plastics to your reusable shopping bags, you give yourself the best and easiest way to be near a drop off point and actually have the bags full of recycling with you.

How does this work?

A Melbourne based company called Red Group provides many drop off points, in an initiative called REDcycle. It means you may leave your collection of soft, flexible plastics at grocery stores and places like Coles, Woolworthes, Masters Home Improvement stores and Officeworks. (I'm working on a full list available to you soon). When you drop your soft plastic collection into these places you contribute to Red Groups significant efforts to create sustainable futures.

Red Group believes “...manufacturers, distributors and consumers have a responsibility for a product throughout its entire life cycle, including its end-of-life outcome.”

YES. Yes we are. Each of us is responsible for, and accountable to, future generations. So get your plastic wrappers out of the bin, rinse them off and pop them into the REDcycle bins. They look like this.

And you can find the nearest one to you by using the Red Group locator below.

Important Notes

Plastic to Playgrounds

You will need to start cleaning your plastic wraps. (Did I hear you groan?). A fair exchange for the convenience of having so many kinds of food available all year, is to put in a few minutes a day into cleaning and recycling resources that have no business being chucked away.  So don’t pander to inconvenience and feel great about yourself while being a vital part of a snowballing movement to respect this Earth’s precious resources. Yes, the little annoying plastic tag line off your clothes and bits of cling film are precious resources!

Not everyone will have a REDcycle drop off point easily available. Farmers, remote communities and anyone not living in Australia may need to do a bit of hunting around to find out if there are any initiatives in your local area. If your nearest point is a bit of a drive away perhaps If you can arrange a plastic pooling system between you and your neighbours to make the most of a trip into town.  You can also mail your soft plastics to:

RED Group
Attn: Plastic packaging recycling
80C Maffra Street
Coolaroo, VIC 3048

I am not adverse to having a friendly chat to Australia Post to see if they have suggestions for postage costs. I’ll let you know how that goes.

If you do know of companies that take soft plastics near you, please let us know so we can build on the Waste Free Me recommendations for soft plastic recycling. If there is nothing near you, perhaps this is a good time to ask the question, “Why is a perfectly good resource going into landfill and where might there be a market for it?”

3 Easy steps to recycle soft plastic

  1. Collect and clean your soft, flexi plastics.
  2. Put into your reusable shopping bags to go with you to the   store.
  3. Locate the REDcycle bin and put it in!  

Here is a little poster to remind you. Download it HERE, email it or print on recycled paper and put it around where people will see and think twice about throwing that plastic away.

Share Me!

Share Me!

Easy Peasy! Unless you haven’t gotten into the habit of using reusable shopping bags. Then you may have to go through an intensive training period, like I did, to remember to take them to the shops. Training method: Refuse to use or buy bags and hand stack your entire grocery load into the car boot, then into the house. (I hope you have stairs!) You’ll only do this once, maybe twice.  

Do we still use plastic? Nic and I are, of course, attempting to buy naked groceries as much as possible. (Go naked!) Lots of fresh food comes naked at farmers markets. Wholefoods stores such as Let's Be Natural, Choku Bai Jo and The Food Co-op provide wonderful bulk bins of products you can put into your own containers. However, in going for zero waste, there are many difficult to avoid items that include soft plastic. Even waste free heros like Lauren Singer - trash is for tossers, and the owners of the Zero Waste Home are storing bits of annoying soft plastics in their little jars of troublesome trash.  So spare yourself the guilt trip, reduce where possible and do what you can to get to the nearest REDcycle bin. First principle is to refuse to use but when you can’t, then recycle!

I am still floored that no-one seems to know this amazing thing about problem plastic? It's national news worthy in my book! Help spread the word by sharing this article - click 'share' below - and telling others in your community how to save their plastics from landfill. 

Take care waste free-ers, of yourselves and of your surrounds.

Bee and Nic