Have you ever popped an item into the recycling bin but were unsure if it was recyclable or not?
That feeling of uncertainty is called “wish-cycling” and it holds some disastrous consequences for the environment and economy. Just this week microplastics were found in ocean-floor sediments in the Great Barrier Reef. A local council in Queensland just scrapped their recycling programs because the costs were too expensive, and some NSW governments look set to follow suit.
For most of us, recycling involves putting objects in the yellow bin and bidding it adieu. But, when we chuck things we are unsure about in with other recyclables, it actually lowers their recycling value. This is because they all end up in “residual waste” because the single-sort machines cannot process them. The Recycling facility then has no choice but to landfill the materials.
At Collective Purpose, we have a colour-scheme recycling system. Among the general public, we have seen takeaway coffee cups put into paper recycling bins, often while still carrying liquids. We have see people chuck tissues in recycling bins and old batteries strewn on sidewalks. We see this as a consequence of a lack of proper discussion and awareness about what can be recycled and how it is repurposed.
But, by improving our knowledge, even on a small scale, about what can be recycled and how to do so, we can make a big difference! We considered some of the recycling guidelines set out by our meeting and training room clients, Suez Recycling & Recovery, and investigated 3 items that often fall into the category of “wish-cycling”. By learning how to dispose of these items properly, we can tackle a big problem in a meaningful way.
Big No-No! While we may think that plastic bags are recyclable because they are a soft plastic, they are a hazard for recycling process facilities! They get stuck in the shafts and clog the machines, which has long term side effects. A single plastic bag takes 1000 years to break down! Although South Australia, ACT, NT, and Tasmania have all banned plastic shopping bags, the jury is still out for NSW. You can reduce your impact by:
- Taking a reusable shopping bag, green bag, or cardboard box to the store when you visit
- Saying No to plastic bags if you only have a couple of items that will fit in your day bag or you can carry
- If you do need a plastic bag, reuse it! It is estimated that a single plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes. We can do better than that! Reuse your shopping bags as bin-liners, to pick up after your pet.
- Click here for more handy solutions!
Shredded paper, Tissues, & Paper Towels
A common question asked in our Sydney office space is “Is shredded paper recyclable?”. Once you shred a piece of paper, its fibres become shorter and shorter, which lowers their grade to that of tissues or toilet paper.
In the office, if you need to destroy a confidential or personal document, ask if there is a document destruction bin. If not, redact the private information with marker or Liquid Paper, which wont affect the recycling process and will keep your information safe.
For the same reason, tissues and paper towels can’t be recycled. Although you might think “But, it is paper!”, dirty napkins and tissues are like little petri dishes. They harbour all sorts of bacteria, which contaminate and damage the other recyclables. So, while you may really want to recycle them, think about all the paper products that will be contaminated by one dirty tissue or used paper towel.
Batteries, Light Bulbs, and Old Mobile Phones
Our common household batteries, light bulbs, and mobile phones are tricky in that they are not as easily recycled as other products, but they are still recyclable! Batteries contain corrosive materials and metals which contaminate the environment. If you place batteries in a co-mingled recycling bin, they will often be sorted with glass objects, which impacts on the glass recycling process. They should always be recycled though! At Collective Purpose, we have a battery recycling scheme in place. Our staff simply put their used batteries in a safe bin, which we take to our nearest recycling station. City of Sydney NSW has a great online resource where you can find your nearest station. Click here!
If you take the time to recycle your used batteries properly, they will have a new life as:
- Brand new batteries!
- Mobile phones are taken apart and their bits of gold, silver, and copper are repurposed!
- Light bulbs are broken down and recycled into glass wool insulation and mercury!
When it comes to recycling, there are a lot of really wonderful ways that you can reduce your impact for the greater good! At Collective Purpose, our not-for-profit collaborative office space is dedicated to reducing our eco-waste! We hope you can too!