Soft Plastics Unwrapped – The Good, The Bad And The Alternatives

Monday, 19 Feb 2024

Soft Plastics Unwrapped – The Good, The Bad And The Alternatives There is no doubt that plastic is a revolutionary packaging material and plastic products are a necessity of our everyday lives.   However, we are becoming increasingly reliant on plastics, particularly single-use plastic products and soft plastics. 
Australia uses around 70 billion pieces of soft plastics each year and Griffith City Council is urging the community to consider ways to avoid or reduce consumption of soft plastics and ensure any soft plastics used are carefully and appropriately disposed of.
“Soft plastics refer to any kind of plastic item (usually packaging) that can be easily scrunched in your hand, and includes items such as plastic bags, bread bags, chip packets, lolly and biscuit wrappers, cling wrap, frozen food bags, pasta and rice bags and bubble wrap,” Council’s Waste Operations Manager, John Roser said.
Recent waste audits and recycling bin inspections undertaken in the Central West consistently show that soft plastics are the most common type of contamination found in yellow lid kerbside recycling bins.  Contamination refers to materials that cannot be recycled. 
Mr Roser explained it’s important that soft plastics do not end up in your kerbside recycling bin.
“Recyclable materials from the yellow lid bins are sent for sorting and processing at a Materials Recovery Facility, also known as a MRF.  Soft plastics get caught in machinery at the MRF, causing delays, placing waste workers at risk and increasing processing costs,” he said.
When it comes to plastics, only empty hard plastic containers from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry can be recycled, such as milk and juice bottles, shampoo bottles and washing detergent bottles, and clear plastic punnets. 
“Please do not use a plastic bag liner for your recycling bin, and make sure all your recyclable materials are placed loose in the recycling bin and not in plastic bags,” Mr Roser said 
One million tonnes of Australia’s annual plastic consumption are single-use plastics and most plastic bags are only used once before being thrown away.  Lightweight soft plastics can easily become airborne litter, impacting our environment and waterways.  Plastic packaging and single-use plastics items make up 60% of all litter in NSW and, by 2050, it is estimated that plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish. 
The NSW Government recognises plastic's impact on the natural environment and human health, which is why, in June 2021, the NSW Plastics Action Plan was released, to manage plastic throughout its lifecycle – from generation through to production, supply and reducing plastic waste.  In June 2022, the Government started to phase out single-use plastic items.
Correctly disposing of soft plastics is critical.  Unfortunately, there is not a specialised soft plastic collection service currently available, so the only disposal option for soft plastics is the red lid general waste bin destined for landfill.
The best way to address the soft plastic issue is to avoid soft plastic use wherever possible and consider alternatives.
In NSW alone, we generate 800,000 tonnes of plastic each year, with only 10% being recycled. However, there are a few simple changes we can all make to reduce our reliance on soft plastics.    Replace plastic supermarket bags with reusable bags, buy in bulk or shop at waste-free stores to minimise packaging. Select items with recyclable packaging instead of soft plastic packaging and opt for reusable mesh bags as produce bags for fruits and veggies.
For further details or to learn more about Council’s waste services and facilities, visit the Griffith City Council website at www.griffith.nsw.gov.au or contact Council on 1300 176 077.

***ends***

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