Some plastics can be recycled, but others can’t. Why? It’s all based on the properties of different types of plastic.
Plastics are polymers, are commonly made of synthetic or chemically modified natural materials. Most plastics are synthetic, made from petrochemicals, however some plastics are part natural, made from materials such as corn-starch or cellulose (also known as bioplastics).
Most rigid plastics can be recycled. In Brisbane, all rigid plastics labelled 1 – 6 can be recycled – with one exception: EPS – expanded polysterene – type 6 plastics cannot be recycled. EPS plastics (also referred to as styrofoam) include meat trays and foam cups.
Rigid plastics are sorted at recycling plants and are melted down into plastic pellets that are reused for manufacturing of other products.
Soft plastics are more difficult. These include plastic bags, bin liners, chip packets, cereal bags, cling wrap and bubble. These aren’t recyclable because they get caught in recycling equipment and jam the machinery.
However, some commercial supermarket chains have soft plastic recycling facilities for plastics including plastic bags, bread bags, biscuit wrapping and rice and pasta packaging. This plastic is recycled into hard plastic products such as plastic furniture.
The following products have no options for recycling, so I’m doing my best to avoid using these: cling wrap, bubble wrap and expanded polystyrene.
Tip: Don’t put your recycling into plastic bags. Recycling plant workers won’t open these (for safety reasons), so these will go straight to landfill.