August 2023 - As the push for a more sustainable future gains momentum, recycling plays a crucial role in minimising environmental impact. However, the recycling process faces a significant hurdle in the improper disposal of soft plastics. Australians are urged to take action and adopt responsible recycling practices to address this pressing issue.
“Soft plastics, including plastic bags, food packaging, and wrappers, pose unique challenges for recycling facilities across the country,” Nadia Steele from Biotuff says. “These plastics, made from various polymer resins such as polyethylene and polypropylene, have diverse properties and melting points, making them difficult to process. Contaminated with food and oils, soft plastics create sorting complexities, especially when layered.”
Recycling facilities encounter difficulties when soft plastics get tangled in machinery, hindering the recycling process. Specialised machinery is necessary for recycling soft plastics, emphasising the need for public awareness about the impact of including soft plastics in regular recycling collections.
Back in November 2022, Australia faced the consequences of mishandling soft plastics when the REDcycle recycling program collapsed, stockpiling approximately 11,000 tonnes of soft plastics. The revelation that the program collected without recycling prompted public concern, highlighting the lack of available recycling options for large amounts of soft plastics in Australia.
“The repercussions of improper soft plastic recycling are far-reaching,” Steele warns. “When soft plastics contaminate recycling streams, they can end up in landfills or litter the environment, contributing to the global waste problem. These challenges result in lower recycling rates and increased costs for recycling facilities.”
Statistics on soft plastic recycling in Australia are concerning. Clean Up Australia reports that approximately 20,700 tons of soft plastic packaging, equivalent to approximately 1.5 billion plastic bags, are disposed of annually. Alarmingly, only around 9% of soft plastics are recycled through designated drop-off locations, with the majority ending up in landfills or as litter.
“The issue of soft plastic recycling extends beyond Australia, with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimating that less than 9% of plastics are effectively recycled worldwide,” Steele says. “This global concern demands collective action to combat plastic pollution and its adverse effects on ecosystems.”
Abolishing Soft Plastics – The Way Forward
To tackle the challenges associated with soft plastic recycling, communities are urged to embrace responsible recycling practices. This includes refraining from "wish cycling" habits and correctly recycling soft plastics. Additionally, switching to compostable and biodegradable soft plastic options can significantly reduce environmental impact.
“Compostable soft plastics provide a more sustainable alternative to conventional plastics, breaking down under specific conditions to create nutrient-rich soils,” Steele says. “Consumers must be mindful not to mix compostable plastics with regular recycling and ensure they are composted at home or local composting facilities.”
Addressing the soft plastic recycling challenge necessitates a concerted effort from individuals, communities, and governments. By adopting responsible recycling practices, investing in compostable plastics, and correctly disposing of soft plastics, Australians can contribute to a more efficient and sustainable recycling system.
Biotuff, a leading advocate for responsible recycling, encourages individuals and communities to take action to safeguard the environment and create a cleaner, greener future.
Note to Editors:
Biotuff is a leading bioplastic distributor and manufacturer dedicated to promoting responsible recycling practices and raising awareness about environmental sustainability. The company strives to educate individuals and communities on the significance of proper recycling and the benefits of adopting eco-friendly alternatives.