Unveiling The Plastic Journey – From Consumption To Recycling And Beyond

UNDERSTANDING RECYCLABLE PLASTICS AND THE RECYCLING PROCESS

For efficient and sustainable waste management, it is crucial to understand the breadth of recyclable plastics and the recycling process. Over 76 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced in Australia each year, which, if unmanaged, is a serious threat to our environment and community. 

 

Littering our beautiful  landscapes is not the only negative effect of plastic pollution, it also has a detrimental impact on human health, marine ecosystems, and our wildlife. Improving our recycling processes is essential to maintaining both the health of the earth and moving towards a circular economy where waste minimisation is an absolute priority. 

 

Untangling the confusion around plastics and how we manage ‘the material with a thousand uses’ has long been a focus for environmental organisations like WWF, which support and drive initiatives to change the future of plastics recycling.  

 

WHAT TYPES OF PLASTIC ARE RECYCLABLE – AND WHAT DO THE RECYCLING NUMBERS MEAN?

 

Have you ever noticed that on most things made of plastic, there is a little number and that recycling symbol? Ever wonder what they mean?

 

The recycling symbol is called a Mobius Loop. And the number is called a Resin Identification Code, or an RIC. It tells us what the plastic is, which tells us if its recyclable or not.

 

RICs play a crucial role in the recycling process. These codes, which are imprinted on plastic products, classify polymers according to their chemical composition, which affects how they are handled and recycled.

 

Every RIC provides information about the plastic’s recycling procedure and possibilities for reuse. Certain polymers, for instance, may not be appropriate for ongoing recycling due to their increased susceptibility to breakdown. 

 

Effective recycling starts with knowing these plastic recycling codes, yet many Australians are unaware of their meaning! 

 

Below is the list of the numbers, or codes, you will find on most plastic products, and we will take a look at each along with useful advice to increase the efficiency of recycling.

 

 

  • PET & PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – Frequently found in water bottles and soft drinks. One of the most popular plastics in home recycling programmes is PET, which is readily recyclable. Always rinse and empty. Eliminating labels is beneficial, but not necessary.

    • PET is a highly recyclable material that may be used to make a variety of goods, including new packaging materials and textile fibre. PET recycling helps the environment by reducing plastic waste while also conserving resources.

 

  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – Useful and robust, it is used in detergent, shampoo, and milk containers. The majority of councils accept HDPE for kerbside collections since it is easily recyclable. Rinse, and to conserve room in recycling bins, you can also flatten.

    • HDPE is highly sought after for its strength and adaptability in the recycling industry. Recycled HDPE supports a circular economy as it is often used in the production of outdoor furniture, piping products, and new containers.

 

  • V & PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – Utilised in garden hoses, shower curtains, and plumbing pipes. PVC’s complicated chemical composition makes recycling it difficult. Think about giving away reusable products or looking for specialised recycling facilities.

    • Because PVC is made with a variety of chemicals and plasticisers, recycling it can be difficult. Recycling is frequently not the most environmentally friendly option when it comes to PVC product reuse or repurposing.

 

  • LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – Mostly found in bread bags, plastic wrap, and supermarket bags. Although LDPE recycling is limited, some supermarkets do provide collection boxes for plastic bags. Bags that are dry and clean can be recycled at designated drop-off sites.

    • Although it is currently a small segment, LDPE recycling is expanding. LDPE waste can be greatly decreased by reusing plastic shopping bags and choosing reusable alternatives.

 

  • PP (Polypropylene) – Found in yoghurt, takeaway, and plastic straw containers. Kerbside recycling is starting to accept PP more and more. To save space, rinse and, if possible, stack clean items to save space.

    • The increasing use of PP in recycling streams can be attributed to improvements in sorting technologies. Because of its durability, it can be used to create a wide range of new products.

 

  • PS (Polystyrene) – Frequently found in meat trays, takeout cartons, and to protect and house items during transportation. Because of its large bulk and little economic worth, polystyrene is rarely recycled. When feasible, avoid use; look into specific local drop-off points for large quantities.

    • Recyclability of polystyrene is restricted and frequently not an economical option. Mitigating environmental impact can be achieved by avoiding PS-made products altogether and looking for eco-friendly packaging choices instead.

 

  • Other (Resins and multi-materials) – Normally includes food containers, sunglasses, and DVD cases. These products are frequently excluded from kerbside recycling as they are challenging to recycle. Minimise use and, when possible, look into specialised recycling facilities.

    • These materials are difficult to recycle as they are usually a blend of various polymers. Giving priority to products with obvious recycling pathways and fewer mixed components is always the best option. Biodegradable sunglasses? Now there’s a great idea! 

 

Plastic recycling and repurposing are the responsibility of individual households and businesses alike. In partnership with our experienced team, you will know you’re in good hands. Our solutions are built from a place of knowledge, based on years of experience and expertise across a wide range of industries. Whether you need commercial waste bins, grease trap cleaning services, or hazardous waste management, we’re here for you. 

 

TACKLING NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTICS

So now we know how to classify our plastics that can be recycled – but which ones cannot? Plastics that are most commonly unable to be recycled are:

 

  • Composite Plastics – Which are made up of various fused materials, like fibreglass, which is composed of plastic and glass fiber.

  • Plastic with Residue – Plastics with food or liquid residues cannot be recycled and can lead to the contamination of large amounts of waste that is then directed straight to landfills as a result. 

  • Some Plastic Bags – Certain types of plastic bags that are thin or easily get tangled in machinery cannot be recycled. Shopping bags and produce bags are the main culprits and can delay processing for several hours. 

  • Plastic Cutlery – Usually made from two or more very low grade plastics, they are also frequently soiled and have left over residue. The recycling process is unfeasible due to challenges in quality and cleanliness.   

 

The sad news is that large amounts of contaminated recyclable packaging and nearly all non-recyclable plastics usually end up in landfills. Considering that the majority of plastic products take hundreds of years to degrade, the life cycle of plastics is a serious issue. These materials have a double-edged effect on the ecosystem when they break down because they release dangerous chemicals back into the environment.

 

FACT: It takes 20 years to break down a plastic bag, 30 years for a takeaway coffee cup, plastic bottles 450 years, disposable nappies and coffee pods 500 years!!!! 

 

Imagine that. When we dig up relics of the past, we think of coins, pottery, and other special items. In 500 years, what will our descendants be finding….nappies?

 

And of course, what happens when plastic finds it’s way out of the landfill and into the environment?

 

Eventually it ends up in the ocean.

Marine life suffers greatly as a result of plastic garbage that finds its way into the oceans. Through wastewater, wind, rain, and floods, plastic debris transfers from the land into the oceans, especially lightweight items like plastic bags, straws, cotton buds, and food packaging. 

 

Waste from boats accounts for more than half of the pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is composed of non-biodegradable plastics and microscopic plastic particles known as microplastics. 

The naked eye may not always be able to detect microplastics, but water may appear to have a murky soup like consistency due to microplastics. Larger things, like shoes and fishing gear, are mixed in with this soup. 

 

 



Microplastics and their destructive effects on our environment have been a focus for our team at Nationwide Waste for many years. 

 

We recognised the need to help our clients engage in more sustainable, reliable and holistic waste management processes to take their business from good – to great! 

 

Our plastic recycling services are leading the way, with new and innovative waste practices being introduced at every opportunity. 

 

Plastics are also prevalent in many electronic devices that require recycling. Electronics recycling is crucial to managing e-waste which is growing three times faster than any other type of waste. Valuable and potentially dangerous materials found in e-waste shouldn’t be disposed of in landfills, and with our help, we can assist your business in disposing of this kind of waste sustainably and with the least impact on the environment. 

 

ADDRESSING RECYCLING CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

Smooth and efficient waste management processes are a fact of life when you partner with Nationwide Waste. 

Whether you need advice and assistance with plastic recycling, bulk waste management, cardboard and paper recycling (including cardboard compactors and cardboard balers), or timber pallets and timber waste disposal services – we can develop a tailored approach that will work for your business to effect real change. 

 

We maximise sustainability across all waste streams and we’re laying the foundation for a greener future by working together on strategic alliances and sustainable recycling. 

 

Let’s collaborate to reduce waste, save resources, and give environmental stewardship top priority. Contact our team now.