Revolutionaries, let’s tackle plastic waste!

Friday 20 September 2019

More than 649,000 tonnes of plastic waste are produced in Victoria every year: enough to fill 92,000 garbage trucks. We can change this, and we need to.

The most powerful step we can all take on plastic waste is being very thoughtful about every bit of plastic we bring into our lives.

Plastic never goes away. It just slowly degrades, getting smaller and smaller, and ends up as microplastic in our soil, our water or our dinner. It’s bad for our environment and for our health.

We know that only a few plastic types are recyclable here in Australia. To protect our local recycling industry, we need to put the correct plastics in our yellow-lidded bins, and plastics that can’t be recycled in our landfill bins. This means the system doesn’t get clogged up and our good stuff gets made into new stuff.

But plastics can only be recycled a couple of times before they spend hundreds of years decaying into the earth. As recycling is only part of the answer, we need to avoid plastic in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

7 kinds of plastic you can’t recycle and how to avoid them

1. For plastic biscuit and cake trays, dip pots or tubs, fish trays, meat trays, and punnets: you can avoid packaging altogether by making your own cakes, biscuits and dips and by shopping at your local food suppliers and bringing your own containers. Visit your local bakery, deli-counter, butcher, fishmonger, markets and restaurants.

A lot of businesses in Yarra are going plastic-free, so get out there! The BYO food container movement is growing, and many shops will accept your container. Make sure to bring a clean container though! You can tell them you are using your own container to reduce your consumption of plastic.

2. For plastic yogurt containers and margarine tubs: you can buy yoghurt and margarine-like products packaged in glass. The Vegan Dairy offers glass-packaged yoghurt and butter that you can enjoy dairy-free. Jalna yoghurt is the only yoghurt brand whose plastic packaging we can recycle.

3. For plastic bottle tops: reuse bottles as much as you can to avoid litter. You can refill milk bottles at St David Dairy or Schulz Organic Dairy. If you can’t avoid them, recycle bottle tops at an Envision drop-off point.

4. For plastic clothes hangers and toys: you can donate your clothes hangers and toys to op shops. Instead of buying new toys, borrow them from Yarra’s toy libraries.

5. For plastic cups, cutlery, take away containers and sushi containers: you can get takeaway drinks in reusable cups and refuse single-use cutlery when getting takeaway.

Deliveroo has a “no cutlery” option on their takeaway service and they’ve also partnered with RETURNR. When you select RETURNR, your dish will be delivered in a reusable container. Finally, you can choose to eat out or order directly at the restaurant and bring your food home in a reusable container.

6. For medicine bottles, deodorants and beauty products: you can buy deodorants packaged in glass or metal, or recycle deodorant plastic packaging at the Holden Street Neighbourhood House in Fitzroy North along with other beauty products.

TerraCycle’s free recycling programs allows you to drop beauty products and other hard-to-recycle plastic items in recycling boxes. You can also purchase your own TerraCycle Zero Waste Box, and even become a drop-off point for your community! There are unfortunately no recycling options for medicine bottles.

7. For plastic bags and plant pots: try to bring your own bags shopping, to avoid colleting new ones that you might only use for a few hours. If you do end up with some, many supermarkets accept soft plastics for recycling in their REDcycle bins. You can drop off plant pots for recycling at our Clifton Hill recycling drop-off point.

Also, don’t forget to recycle in your yellow-lidded bin:

  • cleaning product bottles
  • detergent bottles
  • ice-cream containers/lids
  • juice bottles
  • milk bottles
  • shampoo, conditioner, shower gel bottles
  • soft drink bottles.

When in doubt about what can be recycled, check our plastic recycling guidelines.

How plastic can become things we need (and when it can’t)

We’ve made some of the biggest changes to plastic recycling – switching our collection partners, so we can build circular economies and have our waste turned into stuff we need, right here in Australia (rather than relying on China or other countries across Asia to deal with our waste).

After being sorted, our plastic is broken up into chips or flakes and washed. Plastic is then dried, melted, and pellets created are used to manufacture new products. These include artificial fleece, carpets, floor mats, tiles, furniture, motor oil, plant pots, garden furniture, detergent bottles and pipes. But because plastics cannot be recycled infinitely, our plastic products will eventually end up in landfill. So, avoiding them when possible is key.

We’d love to hear your tips on refusing, reducing and reusing plastic, and the businesses and organisations you know are helping reduce plastic waste. Tell us in writing at [email protected] and we will share your tips with the rest of the community. You can also join our Facebook group.

As revolutionaries, we can be pioneers of sustainable living. So, let’s take positive steps to reduce plastic use and encourage our neighbours and local businesses to do the same.

Read more information about the Yarra Waste Revolution.


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