Plastics are found in just about everything, but they’re not made equally. Australia has a simple number system to identify different plastics – but that doesn't mean they're all recyclable! Many of us are still unsure of how to dispose of various plastics. This blog will run you through the seven different types of plastic and their recyclability.
Why should we recycle?
Here at Flora & Fauna, we do our best to live sustainably by reducing our dependence on plastic, reusing items that are traditionally disposed of – and lastly – recycling as much as we can to encourage a closed-loop system.
We all know that recycling is one of the easiest things we can do to encourage a more sustainable way of living – from the consumption of the product to its disposal. Recycling essentially extends or gives a new life to a previously discarded product.
We all need to recycle more – the 2016-2017 Australia Plastics Recycling Survey found that of the 3,513,100 tonnes of plastic consumed annually, only 11.8% was recycled.
Types of Plastics (1-7)
1. PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)
Common Forms: plastic bottles (water, soft drink, sports drinks, etc.), condiment/dressing bottles, jars (peanut butter, vegemite, jam, etc.).
Is it recyclable? YES. If these items are made of hard/rigid plastic, they can be recycled. Ensure that all food/drink plastics are cleaned thoroughly before putting in the recycle bin.
2. HDPE (High-density polyethylene)
Common Forms: milk and juice bottles, butter and yoghurt tubs, shampoo and conditioner bottles, and household cleaning products.
Is it recyclable? YES. Hard/rigid items made of this plastic can be recycled.
3. PVC (Polyvinyl chlorine)
Common Forms: flexible or rigid plastic used for plumbing pipes, clear cordial and juice bottles, children’s toys, and playmats, and vinyl tablecloths and flooring.
Is it recyclable? YES AND NO. Rigid/hard items made of this plastic can be put in your recycling bin. PVC is typically used for medical-grade equipment and building materials, so it's not a plastic that you would need to recycle every day. PVC is hazardous to human health and the environment, plus it's difficult to recycle.
4. LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)
Common Forms: bread bags, produce bags, sandwich bags, frozen food bags, squeezable bottles, bin liners, and other kinds of wrapping.
Is it recyclable? YES – but not in your standard recycling bin. LDPE is a lightweight, ‘scrunchable’ type of plastic that can be recycled at REDcycle bins (found at most Coles and Woolworths stores). More information about REDcycle can be found here.
5. PP (Polypropylene)
Common Forms: textile production (clothes, carpets), ice cream containers, yoghurt and butter tubs, juice bottles, bottle caps, lunch boxes, and takeaway containers.
Is it recyclable? YES AND NO. PP is a hard yet flexible plastic that can be recycled in most cases. Textiles, however, cannot be put in your standard recycling bin.
6. PS (Polystyrene)
Common Forms: foam cups, trays, takeaway containers, and packing peanuts.
Is it recyclable? NO. ‘Styrofoam’ is lightweight, brittle, and breaks down easily into smaller pieces. Polystyrene debris is extremely hazardous for marine life and can contaminate other recyclable items.
7. OTHER (Mixed Plastics)
Common Forms: all other plastics, including nylon, acrylic, CDs, DVDs, sunglasses, and baby milk bottles.
Is it recyclable? YES AND NO. This category refers to the variety of plastics that do not fit into any other group. Recyclability depends on each item.