What are plastics used for?
Plastic is light and durable, can be easily coloured and is one of the most commonly used materials today.
It is used in food packaging, toys, furniture, buttons, water hoses, credit cards, light switches, computer keyboards and even our clothes!
Even polyester (a kind of fabric) is made from plastic.
In fact, you need 25 two litre plastic bottles to make one adult polyester jacket!
Plastic bottles are used to package liquids – juice, milk, shampoo, cooking oil, fizzy drinks and more.
It is also used to make plastic bags, which people use for grocery shopping.
Did you know?
Shoppers use ONE TRILLION plastic bags worldwide per year?
Australians alone use 10 MILLION plastic bags EVERY DAY.
Only 3% of Australian plastic bags are recycled.
All plastic bottles (except for the brown ones used to contain beer) are recyclable.
The energy saved by recycling one plastic drink bottle will power a light globe for 6 hours or a computer for 25 minutes.
It is estimated that it takes 400 to 1000 years or more for plastic to degrade.
One piece of plastic can kill many animals. If one animal eats a plastic bag, that animal dies and decomposes, releasing the bag back into the environment.
Recycled plastic bottles can be made into all sorts of new things, including fleece clothing, garden furniture, seed trays, the fiber filling for doonas and sleeping bags, drain pipes, compost bins, and of course, new bottles.
What can we do?
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Use reusable cloth bags at the supermarket.
Where possible, buy glass instead of plastic.
To reduce harm to animals, cut the rings from bottle necks and six-pack holders before you dispose of them.
Plastic bags, bin liners, and cling wrap are not recyclable. However, many Australian supermarkets have special plastic bag recycling bins (ask at customer service).
If you cannot find a supermarket that will accept your plastic bags for recycling, your household garbage bin is the next best place to dispose of them.
When placing plastic bags into household garbage, reuse them as the garbage bag itself, and tie the tops together to prevent them blowing away.
When buying plastic, look for its identification code to identify the type of resin used.
Here are some common products you will find for each type of plastic:
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – soft drink and fruit juice bottles
HDPE (High-density polyethylene) – milk bottles or shampoo containers
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride or plasticised polyvinyl chloride) – cordial, juice or squeeze bottles
LDPE (Low density polyethylene) – garbage bags and bins
PP (Polypropylene) – ice cream containers, take-away food containers and lunch boxes
PS (Polystyrene) – yoghurt containers, plastic cutlery, foam hot drink cups
Other – all other plastics, including acrylic and nylon
Your local council may only be able to recycle certain types through your kerbside recycling program. In Australia, most areas recycle plastics labelled 1, 2, and 3, although many councils are now extending their programs to include those labelled 4 through 7. Check with your council for details.
Make sure you are aware about what plastics can be recycled and only put these in your recycling bins. Contamination of recyclables is a problem because it raises the costs for collectors, recyclers and the community.
When preparing your plastics for recycling;
- Take off lids.
- Wash thoroughly (conserving water).
- Squash flat, so it takes up less space.