Taking a hard line on soft plastic

Green Lifestyle magazine

You'll be surprised at how much rubbish you could divert from landfill by recycling soft plastic refuse.


This is how much plastic Lesley collected in eight weeks – a shopping trolley’s worth of scrunchable plastic.

Credit: Lesley Lopes

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When I wrote a previous article for Green Lifestyle on recycling, I was pleased to find that you can now recycle soft plastic packaging other than regular supermarket shopping bags. This means all kinds of packaging used to wrap food, clothing, books, electrical appliances and a swag of other household items could be prevented from clogging up our rubbish tips.

This recycling initiative was started by not-for-profit RED Group, an organisation that saw the importance of dealing with difficult-to-recycle flexible – or scrunchable – plastic waste. Collection points are now installed in 480 Coles supermarkets. The plastic is made into benches by Victorian company Replas and donated to schools.

I started by putting empty rice and biscuit packets, bread bags and the like in a basket handily located beneath the bottom shelf of my pantry. After eight weeks, I had collected a shopping trolley’s worth of scrunchable plastic (that’s it all in the shopping trolley photo to the right).

Before heading to the recycling bin, I unfurled everything on the dining room floor, creating quite a mess. A quick audit showed I had 142 bags, including 27 that had stored bread, seven each from nuts and biscuits, six from pasta, five from clothing, three from lollies and 15 unidentified plain bags.
It really is astounding how much you can accumulate in a fairly short time, and how many household items are packaged in this soft plastic: cat food, kitchen towel, toilet paper, sponges, stationery, bagels, cocoa, noodles, and the
list goes on.

Multiply the 142 bags from my average household by the number of households in an average street, suburb, town or city and you come up with quite a mountain of plastic.

As the weeks progressed and I got better at remembering not to put my scrunchable plastic in the kitchen bin, I noticed that my regular kerbside garbage bin was not nearly as full each week. When you think that, according to Clean Up Australia, our nation dumps 7150 recyclable plastic bags into landfill every minute, you realise how important it is that we find a way of dealing with this waste. Of course, it’s always a
good idea to favour products that have minimal packaging.

RED Group Director Liz Kasell says the program is recovering about a million bags each week Australia-wide and public interest is growing. “We’ve seen increases of up to 300 per cent in cities like Sydney,” she says.

“People are emailing us every day telling us that their garbage bin is down to almost nothing. It’s pretty exciting.”

For more information visit: www.redgroup.net.au