How to Combat Wishcycling
Wishcycling is “the practice of putting something in a recycling bin without being certain that it is actually recyclable”. Sound familiar? We've all been there!
The average Australian home recycling bin contains roughly 13% contamination, but this varies from council to council. This increases recycling costs as these non recyclables can clog up the machinery and necessitate repairs. If in doubt, leave it out!
Here are 3 tips on how to become a recycling superstar:
- “Check it before you chuck it” - look for the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) on packaging; it’s a supermarket requirement for businesses to instruct consumers if and how their products can be recycled. Check out Planet Ark’s recycling guide here.
- Look at the little numbers in the recycling symbol
The number is a resin identification code, used to help recycling plants sort materials. Recyclable plastics are labeled with numbers 1-7 to tell workers what kind of plastic it is, and how it should be processed. If it says 1 or 2, rest assured most plants can recycle it. After that, it’s a guessing game and depends on your local MRF (Materials Recovery Facility).
Here are the numbers and what they mean:
1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET). For example: water bottles
2 high density polyethylene, or HDPE. For example: milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, butter tubs
3 Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is best known for its use in pipes, but also appears in cooking oil and shampoo bottles
4 LDPE: low density polyethylene. LDPE can be found in squeezable condiment bottles and toys, but it’s mostly used in plastic films
5 Polypropylene, or PP. Syrup, ketchup, and medicine bottles all rely on PP, but you’ll also find it in bottle caps and straws
6 Polystyrene. For example: take-out containers, disposable plates and cutlery
7 Miscellaneous. Don’t expect your local MRF to collect these plastics
How to find out what plastics your local MRF accepts: go to your local government website, where they will likely have a list of what types of plastic your council accepts under the Waste section. For the Gold Coast for example, go to their Recyclepedia.
- You can’t recycle soft plastics or ‘scrunchables’ - That includes plastic bags, biscuit packets, fruit and vegetable bags, toilet paper packaging, cling wrap, newspaper and magazine wrappers, pet food bags and bubble wrap. So don’t be tempted to bag up your recycling in a soft plastic bag, as the bag will get caught up in the sorting machines.
Unfortunately, Australia’s biggest plastic bag recycling program, REDcycle, recently collapsed amid revelations that hundreds of millions of bags of soft plastic items collected at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets were being secretly stockpiled in warehouses. The supply of soft plastics sadly was far in excess to the demand on the other side, i.e. companies willing to buy recycled plastic and convert it into new products.
There is no magic bullet on this one, but we can cut down on soft plastics with smarter purchasing decisions; such as reusable shopping bags, buying in bulk where possible and avoiding pre-packed or pre-weighed fruits and veggies.