In our household we consider ourselves relatively good recyclers, though I wonder whether we could do more. While we typically fill our 240 litre yellow recycling bin every fortnight, we still manage to put around 4 x 27 litre bags of general rubbish into our red 120 litre bin each week.
What exactly do we put into the red bin and how could we divert some of that waste from landfill?
The Need for Change
A recent report by the Victorian government to guide local councils on implementing a successful FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) kerbside collection service suggests that an estimated 36% of the 877,806 tonnes of rubbish we put into our red bins in Melbourne in 2016-2017 was food waste and a further 8% was garden organics. Sending food waste and garden organics to landfill is not only expensive, but it also generates greenhouse gasses that are harmful to the atmosphere. By Glen Eira council’s estimates, 79% of council area landfill emissions are caused by food waste, so if this waste can be diverted to existing organics (green bin) collections and broken down aerobically, then there will be a significant positive impact on the environment.
Although not primarily the subject of the guide, it does call out that 4% of rubbish is plastics and 14% is other plastics. Soft plastics, which cannot be recycled through the yellow bin likely constitute the 4% and/or 14%, so this will be a other item I will look to reduce the amount of rubbish we put in our red bin.
Soft plastics are called out as secondary in terms of amounts of waste produced, but are relatively easy in terms of implementing a recycling regime at home because they are typically clean, as well as having a relatively low volume and weight.
I also know change can be hard for people, so removing one waste source at a time was going to be easier for my family to get used to.
REDCycle provide collection points around Australia for soft plastics, which their partner, Replas, uses to make things like park benches and car park bumper-stops with.
Items which pass “the scrunch test” can be recycled through the REDCycle programme - i.e. any plastic which can be scrunched in your hand.
A Storage Solution
Both soft plastics and food organics needed a temporary storage area in the kitchen where they could be placed prior to being brought to the REDCycle bin (weekly) or the green bin (daily).
I opted for a pullout under-sink bin with 2 x 15 litre removable buckets. Not only was there space under our kitchen sink, but the whole setup was unobtrusive and easily accessible and would support both soft plastics as well as kitchen organics in the future. Another advantage was that 15 litre is also a common size for plastic bags, which can be used to line the bin and then transport the soft plastics to to REDCycle bin.
REDCycle provide a complete list of items they will accept on their website which I converted into a handy poster that could be printed and stuck on the kitchen sink door as a handy reference. You can download a PDF of the poster here.
Less then 2 weeks after starting to collect soft plastics for recycling, the whole family have got used to separating soft plastics from the regular rubbish and are aware of what items go into what bin.
We are collecting about 2 x 15 litre bins worth of soft plastics per week, diverting a quarter of our rubbish from landfill each week.
My eldest has already asked when we can start doing kitchen organics - that is for a future article.