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Scruples and scrunchables: how to get rid of soft plastics

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You can’t turn all of your old plastic bags into giant puffer-fish like the one above, so what are you going to do with your ready-to-burst cupboard full of old scrunchables? Sean Dostal of Honest Grub shares his methods for ensuring that those bits of plastic we accumulate don’t end up in a turtle’s stomach.

Iturn mine into bollards, furniture, decking and exercise equipment. This has dramatically reduced my soft plastic rubbish to landfill, and it’s easy.

plastic3I do my best to refuse plastic bags, buy in bulk and avoid overly packaged goods, but with two small children and the time pressures that go with running my social enterprise, I always end up with some plastic –annoying, single-use disposable plastic. In most council areas it can’t go in kerbside recycling, but around six months ago I discovered that the REDcycle program (those bins at supermarkets) accepts my scrunchables and have since dramatically reduced the quantities of waste I send to landfill.

I interviewed Catherine Beaumont from the RED Group to find out exactly what can and can’t be recycled, and understand how the output is used.

Hi Catherine. What are scrunchables?

Scrunchables are almost any soft plastic product that you can scrunch into a ball that won’t pop back into shape. For example, plastic shopping bags are scrunchable, but drink bottles aren’t. Most people don’t know that there are many other packaging and plastic products that can be recycled in those green bins marked REDcycle at 580 Coles and Woolworths supermarkets around Australia.

Your website lists a few, but can I get a yes/no on whether the following are scrunchworthy?

  • bread bags – yes for plastic, no for paper/plastic combination
  • frozen food bags – yes
  • rice and pasta bags – yes
  • confectionery packets (including individual lolly wrappers) – yes
  • cereal box liners – yes
  • newspaper wrap – yes
  • plastic shopping bags – yes
  • old green bags – yes
  • dry cleaning bags – yes
  • chip packets (with the silver lining) – yes
  • cheese stringers packets – yes
  • single-pouch yoghurt packets – yes (including spout and lid)
  • ice cream wrappers – yes
  • plastic sachets – yes
  • bubble wrap – yes
  • fresh produce bags – yes
  • netting citrus bags – yes
  • plastic film from grocery items like nappies and toilet paper – yes
  • courier satchels – yes
  • sturdy pet food bags – yes
  • large sheets of plastic that furniture comes wrapped in (cut into pieces the size of an A3 sheet of paper first) – yes
  • Combination plastic and waxed paper (e.g. Mission Chips) – no
  • Coffee capsules – no

The quality of the end product in recycling can be affected by unclean plastic. Obviously, there will be some food remaining with these types of packaging, so how clean does it need to be?

We say cleanish, empty and dry – a few crumbs, cheese smears, gravy or yoghurt leftovers are all fine. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to recycle. But please don’t wash: it uses your water resources and wet plastic can get mouldy before it gets to us, which can affect the output.

How do I find the nearest REDcycle point to me?

Visit http://redcycle.net.au/redcycle/locator and type in your postcode or suburb.

And what products are made from the end product?

Replas make a huge range of products – bollards, signage, outdoor furniture, fitness equipment and Enduroplank™/decking as well as products suitable for traffic control, parks and gardens and the utilities industry, and they have a three-minute video here.

Forward-thinking councils that want low-maintenance post-consumer products are some of their biggest customers and they’ve got a range of innovative products. They are seeking more councils and other buyers to keep up with the supply of these materials.

(I sought out RED Group for this unpaid interview because I am so impressed with what has been accomplished by this collaboration – please support by recycling your scrunchables and forwarding to your council’s sustainability officer)

Photo credits: top, MMU Library Services cc; middle, Pascal Terjan cc;

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