We are surrounded by plastic bottles and containers all day, every day. Our milk, shampoo, yogurt, moisturiser, detergent, sanitiser...the list goes on. Most of the time these virgin plastic containers are made from natural resources such as crude oil, natural gas and coal. Plastic isn’t biodegradable and will stay in the environment indefinitely unless it’s recycled.

Scarily only 15% of all Australian plastics are actually recycled, a number that we must improve.

But how do we know if we’re doing it right?

Most plastic containers have labels stamped on them, but what does it all mean?

A triangle with a number (1 to 7) inside is a Plastic Identification Code. It lets the recycling facility identify the plastic type so it can be separated, cleaned and remanufactured into a range of new products.

A full explanation of the codes can be found here.

If a container contains the general recycling symbol showing three chasing arrows (a mobius loop), you can feel confident that it can be 100% recycled.

If it is a container with a lid, it most likely can be recycled. Generally, the advice is:

  1. Empty, clean, and crush the bottle if possible. Screw the lid back onto the bottle or container and throw it all in the recycling bin.

  2. Most plastic lids and neck rings are not the same type of plastic as the container but they can be easily separated in many processing facilities.

  3. Don’t throw plastic lids into the recycling bin loose. They are just too small for the current recycling technology to sort them. 

  4. If your container has a pump or spray nozzle, this will need to be removed and thrown in the general waste and the bottle can be recycled on its own.  (Unless you use a speciality service like Terracycle)

We are lucky that most products now feature the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL). It makes it really easy to dispose of your packaging correctly, ensuring we keep contamination out of the recycling stream and recyclable material away from landfill.

Here is what the labels mean:

The best thing we can do is avoid plastic packaging altogether. But that’s not always practical. We don’t have to be perfect, but every single piece of plastic we divert from landfill and recycle effectively makes a difference. If you need any more information contact your local council for advice.

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