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Hard Plastic Recycling: Reuse Recover Rethink

Plastic is an amazingly versatile material and it is no wonder it is used to make items and as a packaging material for our food, beverages, cleaning products, equipment etc etc.

However, consumers and manufacturers alike think of it as disposable and that is where the problem lies. Not to mention that in many cases it is overused or unnecessarily used because it is cheap and convenient.

Until this mindset changes and cost comparative, environmentally friendly alternatives become widespread, the ‘plastic problem’ will be with us.

Recycling plastic gets us of the hook right?

No but it is a great start considering what I wrote above.

However, I hear a lot of negativity from people about plastic recycling. Most of it revolves around the idea that recycling schemes are all a charade and the plastic still ends up in landfill.

Firstly, I bet some of it does as no system is perfect and recycled plastic is a commodity subject to supply and demand like any product. There has to be manufactures willing to buy enough recycled plastic to keep up with the recycling schemes.

Secondly, I believe that shouldn’t stop me trying to recycle where I can and lobbying/voting with my wallet when required for improvement in recycling schemes and food transportation etc.

Thirdly, I believe that combining recycling with reducing the plastic you bring into being and resusing everything possible as often as possible is a wining strategy. Some examples are buying in bulk, refusing plastic shopping bags when offered and going to stores that let you bring your own containers. One of my friend’s mum even made a peg basket out of a milk bottle for the best recover example I have heard in ages!

Want to know more?

As always I want to know more about what I am using. So I look for the little symbol on each product to inform me.

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Here is an example. The number is a code for the type of plastic.

There are 7 types of hard plastics in common use in Western Australia that can be recycled or reused to varying degrees. Many hard plastics are collected by our local councils and some are also taking soft plastics now. I am going to try and get you examples of each.

1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

Tough as nails and very common. Think soft drink/spring water bottles and tomato punnets

tomato punnet 1.jpg

2 High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

One of the most common plastics and is usually fully or semi opaque and dyed.

Examples include bottles (milk, detergent, shampoo etc) and plastic bags.

milk bottle 2

plastic type 2
3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Examples familiar to us gardeners are reticulation pipes. Flooring even which shouldn’t have surprised me but did.

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4 Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

The dreaded packing foam is a common example.

5 Polypropylene (PP)

A hard yet flexible plastic.

A few common examples are:

  • microwaveable food containers and their lids.
  • the 5 gallon buckets some of us use use in the garden or take fishing.
  • seedling pots and tubs of feriliser.

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plastic type 5

6 Polystyrene (PS)

Strong but brittle. A common example is take away cup lids.

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7 Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) or Other

The opaque meat trays you get in a supermarket are a common example. Buying meat in bulk is a great way to reduce this plastic. Heavy duty reusable bottle lids are another example. Sometimes you might see a number 7 and the word ‘Other’.

You may even see a note saying a particular item of packaging is not recyclable in Australia but that is not across the board.

plastic type 7 lid

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I hope these examples help inform your choices. I am passionate about reducing my plastic consumption and this post has been a real eye-opener for me.

Happy reusing, recovering and rethinking,

PK

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