Soft Plastic Wrapping Can Be Recycled

We separate our paper and cardboard from cans and plastic, religiously rinse containers and take pride in how much we recycle each week. But how many of us realise that soft, scrunchable plastic wrappers can also be recycled? This material is used on everything from biscuit wrappers to chip packets, sandwich bags and plastic film packaging, according to War on Waste. It’s the stuff that goes around your ice cream, the plastic cover that comes with new appliances and even the plastic bag that you buy a roll of toilet paper in.

The problem is, most of us assume that it can’t be recycled because it isn’t rigid – like plastic bottles and jars. However, the War on Waste reports that this misconception is causing millions of dollars in lost revenue for recycling companies. This is because these plastics are often thrown in with rubbish and not taken to a recycle bin. It also clogs up recycling machinery.

Thankfully, some local councils and supermarkets have started to offer a dedicated plastic film recycling bin for these materials. But it’s still not widely available. Instead, we’re left to find drop-off points in Coles and Woolworths stores or visit the Redcycle website for a suburb-specific list of participating supermarkets.

As with most recycling, these plastics need to be clean and dry. So, before placing them in a recycle bin, give the material a light rinse and a tear where possible. And it is important to remove any food scraps, so that the material can be recycled without contamination of other materials.

Once the plastic has been collected it’s sent to a materials recovery facility, where it is separated into different polymers and processed. Some of the polymers are reused, while others can be turned into new plastic products or recycled into mulch. The goal is to move towards a circular economy, which means that the same materials are used over again rather than being thrown away.

In a perfect world, the KitKat prototype would be turned back into its own wrapper using advanced recycling techniques. But this is a vision for the future, as the infrastructure to support it doesn’t exist in Australia at present. In the meantime, we can continue to put pressure on our major supermarkets to introduce a soft plastic stewardship scheme.

Until then, we can reduce our plastic use by swapping it for reusable alternatives. Apartment Therapy suggests glass Mason jars and food containers, cloth or fabric bowl covers, wax wraps and silicone covers. These alternatives are cheaper than buying new packaging, and better for the environment. You can also try to do more baking at home, which will not only save you money, but is healthier for your waistline and the planet. It’s also worth trying to shop locally, which will reduce the number of miles your goods travel before ending up in your kitchen. This will cut down on air pollution and carbon emissions from transportation.