A very important trial is currently happening in Gawler; kerb-side soft plastics recycling. Although only relatively small in scale, it is one of the first such programs in Australia.
Soft or flexible plastics make up one of the largest proportions of the general household waste stream that is not being currently recycled. There are many reasons why it has not been recycled previously, including difficulties in handling and processing and convenience for people.
In mid July this year, NAWMA and Visy, in conjunction with the Gawler Regional Natural Resource Centre (NRC), ran a small trial of the practicalities of collecting soft plastics through the kerb-side recycling bins. This trial was only for households in Gawler with a collection on a Friday.
The trial involved placing soft or flexible plastics into a supplied yellow bag, securing it off with the supplied tie and placing it in the normal household recycling bin (yellow lid).
The trial looked at the type of bag that would be strong enough to use, how the sorting process would occur back at NAWMA and the quality of the plastic collected. On all accounts the trial was successful.
A good outcome from that initial trial in July was the extension of the trial for a longer period. The extended trial is still only for Gawler households with the Friday morning pickup.
One of the aims of extending the trial is to gain more information and experience about this form of kerb-side recycling that can feed into a potentially larger, separate trial in the near future.
So, firstly what are soft or flexible plastics? Any plastic, that when scrunched up by hand, does not reform back into a shape, is called a soft plastic.
- Shopping bags (thin plastic)
- Vegetable bags used in supermarkets etc
- Bread bags
- Biscuit packets
- Lolly packets
- Pasta and rice bags
- Frozen food bags
- Cling wrap
At the moment we are not collecting the metal backed plastics, although we may in the futureFrom this ongoing trial we have also leant a few important lessons.
The first is to squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag before tying it off securely. When the bags go into the truck, the load is ‘half’ compacted. This puts pressure on the bags. When they reach NAWMA they go through a big rolling drum that allows different materials to drop out along the way. In this process the bags are tumbled around with all the other material, so if there is a lot of air left in the bag, the chance of it splitting increases as it is goes through the different stages.
The other issue to think about is that the plastics need to be clean, that is free of food wastes. So, for example no bread crumbs in packets etc. There have been concerns raised about packaging with meat juice still in it. Some people rinse off all the juices, let the plastic dry and then place it in the yellow bag, but if you prefer not to do this, it is best not to put this material in your yellow bag, as it could create a health hazard for you.
Another issue is dirt in with the plastic. We should keep the plastic free of dirt etc, but in most cases the plastics we are collecting are from inside the house, so this may not be a big issue, but be very cautious about including soft plastics that have been out in the weather for a while and may be contaminated with dirt etc.
At the moment there are around 50 families collecting for the ongoing trial. NAMWA is happy for more households to join in. So if you are a Gawler resident and would like to recycle your soft plastics, please let Emily at the NRC, or myself know so we can get things organised.
Also, if you need more bags, just contact Emily or myself know and we will make sure you get them.
To recap, for the normal fortnightly recycling days in Gawler, put your yellow bag with your clean soft plastics (flattened out and securely tied) into your recycling (yellow lid) bin.
Hopefully over time we will see large amounts of this plastic being diverted from land fill. Great stuff.
17th October 2013.
0431 866 586
This is great news and we would like to encourage more people to get involved.
Contact Paul Koch on the details above or Emily at the NRC if you need more yellow bags or if you would like to be involved