Why would we need to rethink recycling? Surely a zero waste lifestyle means we'll be recycling more?! Well, yes in some ways going almost zero means being more vigilant with recycling, but in reality, saying no to buying over-packaged products in the first instance means that overall there will be less recycling to deal with.
The aim of a zero waste lifestyle is not to recycle more, it’s to consume less, but part of this endeavour is to reuse or recycle what is left.
In Europe the onus is on the people to sort their own recycling and manage multiple collections/drop-offs, but in South Australia we are fortunate enough to have a strong catch-all recycling program through our local councils. Whilst this means we are able to simply throw the bulk of our recycling into one bin, it also means that the recycling is sorted primarily by equipment rather than people, which limits what can be thrown in our recycling bins. Those limitations are in part due to size, for example a small bottle lid or piece of foil can slip through the sorting equipment and cause problems, but we are also limited by what is currently being recycled in Australia1.
We are fortunate to have an easy system, but its simplicity also restricts what we can recycle, so imagine the difference we could make if we all started capturing a few extra things for recycling instead of sending them to landfill!
1A prime example is the blister pack that a lot of medication comes in - even though it is made from mixed materials (plastic and foil) it can technically be recycled however there is no one in Australia currently capturing and processing this waste stream for the general public. Stay tuned though, we’re getting ready to step up and help divert blisterpacks from landfill. Watch this space!
Here's a breakdown of what goes where and how you can take your recycling to the next level
This is the recycling you do through your local council, most councils publish a council specific recycling guide on their websites so if you're not sure if something can go in your recycling bin, you can always refer to their guide for help.
Redcycle can help you recycle more than just plastic bags. The redcycle program also processes the kinds of soft plastics that many people accumulate in their weekly shopping. Packaging from stuff like pasta, pet food (kibble) bags, plastic fruit netting, biscuits (the outer pack not the tray), chips, pre-packed salad leaves etc can all be recycled along with any plastic bags you have on hand. The general rule of thumb is if it is scrunchable then it is redcylcable.
There's often a lot of packaging in the average bathroom cabinet, from moisturisers to makeup, dental care and sanitary products. Thankfully some of this can be recycled through the terra cycling program, which has bins located at the Adelaide Sustainability Centre (Adelaide City) and Lightfoot Eco Store (Port Adelaide)
Examples of waste that’s suitable for terracycling:
• toothpaste tubes
• old makeup containers
• pump dispensers
Terracycling can capture a significant volume of specialised waste, from latex gloves to old staplers, but their recycling tubs can be a bit pricey so there aren’t a lot of them around just yet. We’re in the process of changing this by investigating partnerships with local councils and schools for terracycling initiatives to decrease South Australia’s waste to landfill.
eWaste can be cumbersome and it can pile up quickly these days too, but programs such as Electronic Recycling Australia’s Unplug ‘n’ Drop bins are making it easier for homes and businesses to recycle their e-waste. The Unplug ‘n’ Drop bins are placed at convenient locations around the country (often outside Bunnings and Harvey Norman stores) but if you can’t get to those bins you can also save it up to be dealt with by organisations like sita.
Hard polystyrene (think yoghurt containers) is recyclable through your general council recycling, however the polystyrene used as a packing material is not. Most people chuck it in their general waste bin thinking it can't be recycled, but it can be. There's a great company called cool foam who can (and will) recycle polystyrene into different polystyrene products, they're Australia wide and super helpful 🙂