The Fate of Plastic Waste – What Really Happens When You Put It In The Bin


We’ve all been there. The walk to the bin, putting that plastic wrapper in there, then forgetting about it.


We’ve done the right thing, right? We’ve put it in the rubbish bin, not tossed it out into the environment. 


Well…. In reality, if we are putting plastic in rubbish bins, the truth is that the plastic you discard today will more than likely end up in landfills or polluting the ocean, even if you live hundreds of kilometres from the shore. 


Putting plastic in the bin means that it ends up in a landfill. On the way there, plastic sometimes blows away, since it is so lightweight, while it is being transported to a landfill site. 


From there, it can accumulate near drains or travel directly to our waterways and find its way into rivers and oceans. We’ve all seen the debris that washes up after storms or prolonged periods of rainfall. 


Plastic bottles, bags, and other types of plastic waste litter our beaches and watercourses, which is devastating for local wildlife and the environment.


The importance of sustainability in our waste management processes is the key to reducing all types of waste, plastics included. At Nationwide, we are champions of creating a circular economy, and there are thousands of organisations globally that support this change. Supporting those organisations that support our planet is critical if we are to reach our goal of net zero waste to landfills. 



At Nationwide Waste, our organisation, culture and services are founded on sustainable waste management practices, education and partnering with clients to create real change. We want to be part of the solution to a cleaner, greener and healthier world. Assisting our clients to take action and implement better processes gives us a huge sense of pride and achievement in knowing we are contributing to strategies for waste minimisation, reuse and recycling.


One of our proudest moments in 2023 was being recognised at the Telstra Best of Business Awards for Promoting Sustainability nationally. As a finalist in the “Promoting Sustainability” category of the prestigious awards, our team has been recognised for their dedication to sustainability and environmental responsibility. This amazing achievement not only recognises our hard work but also establishes us as Victoria’s representative nationally, which is evidence of the advancements we have made. Our provision of services, like recycled plastic collections for recycling soft plastics, is industry leading best practice.


Similarly, Clean Up Australia Day was championed by Ian Kiernan, AO, who was the sole motivation behind this endeavour. Ian loved to sail, and he was often horrified and appalled by the rubbish and filth he found floating in the world’s oceans. Ian decided to take action and gathered a group of friends to help him plan a community event held every year across Australia. From there, Clean Up Australia Day was born in 1990, remaining strong to this day. 


FACT: 38.5 Million hours of volunteer time have been donated to the Clean Up Australia initiative to benefit our environment!  


What began as an effort by Ian to clean up his own backyard, this ‘average Australian’ began a movement that is cleaning up our environment right across Australia. 


And this was just one man with an idea! We all need to step up and support ideas that bring Australia towards a circular economy, where everything is a resource and waste doesn’t exist. Outside of plastics we also need to be proactive in managing liquid waste, through bulk waste liquid disposal companies like Nationwide, and other specific waste management including clinical waste services and engaging with document shredding companies. The more we do now – the better off we will be in the future! 



With approximately 130,000 tonnes of plastic ending up in our beautiful Australian waterways each year, it’s critical that we implement ways to stop the journey of plastic to the ocean. Carefully separating plastic waste at home and in the workplace is paramount. 


When trucks collect waste from homes and offices and plastic is not separated correctly – this impact is huge. One plastic bag of waste, intermingled with your recycling, can potentially contaminate an entire truck load of recycling. Not paying attention to the correct recycling procedures can have an extremely detrimental environmental impact. 


Once waste that has been placed into recycling bins, it is collected, it is transported to a depot or material recovery facility (MRF). Waste is tipped onto a hopper with large items removed, before moving into a trommel (large metal sieve), which separates waste items by shape and size. 


Containers will generally fall through the holes, while cardboard will pass through to the end. A high tech optical sorter separates plastic containers using cameras and captures a high-definition picture of the containers as they pass by, and recognises them, ensuring that they are released into the appropriate funnel. 


Generally, there will be six or seven distinct plastic classes. Once graded and sorted, plastics are baled and sent to other facilities where they can be recycled into new items. 


But what about plastic that doesn’t get to recycling plants?


There are generally three primary pathways by which plastic enters our waterways and oceans:


  1. Putting plastic in the bin when it is recyclable – Plastic that you throw away ends up in a landfill. Due to its extreme lightweight nature, plastic frequently blows away as waste is being hauled to landfills. From there, it may eventually clog drains and then find its way to entering rivers and eventually the ocean. Additionally, plastics that do make it to landfills, eventually degrade into microplastics, which can be picked up by rainwater, and make their way into nature…and our food.


  1. Discarding Rubbish – Litter left outside on the pavement moves. Plastic enters rivers and streams through drains, carried by wind and precipitation. The ocean is the final destination for every drain system globally! 


  1. Items that are flushed away – Many of the items we use on a daily basis, such as cotton buds, wet wipes, and sanitary products, are flushed down the toilet. Even when we use a washing machine to wash our clothes, microfibers are discharged into streams. Because they are too small to be removed by wastewater treatment facilities, microscopic marine animals eat them, harming their reproductive cycles and eventually finding their way into our food chain.


Careless and incorrect plastic disposal also plays a significant role and unlawful rubbish dumping significantly contributes to the plastic pollution of our oceans. After entering the ocean, plastic breaks down very slowly and becomes microscopic particles known as microplastics, which can enter the marine food chain and cause severe harm to marine life. 


Eighty percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources, making land-based plastic pollution the main culprit. They arent the only pollutants though.



Think too about other forms of reportable priority waste, such as hazardous waste chemicals and grease traps. It’s so important to dispose of these correctly!


These also play a huge role in environmental degradation, and having trusted grease trap companies who can assist your business in disposing of this waste is extremely important. Just ask our team!    



Plastic particles, known as microplastics, are produced by the breakdown of larger plastic waste as well as the production of commercial products. Microplastics are a contaminant that can have negative effects on both animal and environmental health as they seep into our waterways and oceans. There are generally two categories of microplastics: 


  • Primary microplastics are small particles found in commercial products like cosmetics and microfibers lost from fabrics like fishing nets and garments. 

  • Particles known as secondary microplastics are produced when larger plastic objects, including water bottles, break down. Exposure to external elements, primarily solar radiation and ocean waves, is the source of this breakdown. 


The issue with microplastics is that, similar to other plastic waste, they are difficult to decompose into innocuous molecules. While they inflict environmental damage, plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to disintegrate. Microplastics are microscopic, multicoloured plastic particles that are visible in the sand on beaches. Marine life in the oceans frequently eats microplastic waste which contaminates food sources for other marine life and humans as well. The ABC’s Behind The News recently released a video on Microplastics: Health Concerns and How to Stop Them to highlight the growing need for action by all Australians. 



Reducing plastic consumption is essential to protecting the environment. Choose products made from totally recyclable plastics or, whenever possible, repurpose plastic instead of throwing it away. 


The onus is on all of us to reduce plastic waste and manage every piece of waste product that we generate. In fact all recyclables. Its a known fact that the better we get at recycling, the less resources, such as water, and plants, are removed from the environment. 


Things like making sure we recycle cardboard and timber are particularly effective at this.


If you’re looking for a cardboard waste collection business (cardboard removal Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane) give us a call. We are also wooden pallet recyclers and can help you dispose or repurpose unwanted timber products. Let’s make thoughtful decisions about our future and commit to sustainability.


Contact our team today! 


Other services offered by Nationwide Waste include:


Quality certified waste management

Bin hire Melbourne

Brisbane waste disposal

Melbourne waste disposal

Sydney waste disposal

Waste management in aged care facilities

Sanitary disposal services

Waste compaction equipment

Liquid waste collection services in Sydney

Liquid waste collection services in Melbourne

Liquid waste collection services in Brisbane

Secure document destruction