In some recent discussions that I have had with communities across our region, the two questions that always comes up is ‘what can I recycle?’ and ‘what happens to my recycling?’ Both really pertinent questions given the recent fire at SKM Recycling in Melbourne.
By material type, here are the answers.
Glass – clear, green and amber glass bottle and jars can be melted down to make new ones. There are some other innovative uses of glass when it is crushed very finely as abrasives for removing rust and coatings, sand replacement in pool filters and concrete for footpaths, kerbing and guttering.
Metals – All steel can be recycled, regardless of the first use. Using scrap steel is more energy efficient than digging up more iron to create new steel. The recycled steel can be used to make all the same items that the original steel made – from cans, to cars, to whitegoods.
Recycled aluminium cans also go through a smelting process and made into ingots that are used to manufacture other aluminium products such as outdoor furniture, window frames, bicycle and more cans.
Paper and cardboard – most paper products are recycled into cardboard packaging, newsprint and toilet paper. A novel use for old newspaper is in cat litter products, oil absorbents or insulation.
Food and drink cartons – those containing milk and juice can be recycled into higher quality products than normal paper products. They can be recycled into white office grade paper that is used in printers.
Plastics – we have rigid and soft plastics and of course they are split into several different varieties depending on their use. At the moment we cannot recycle soft plastic in our kerbside recycling bin but trials have been done in Melbourne to see how it might work.
The way to tell the difference between soft and rigid plastic is the ‘scrunch test’ – if you scrunch it up and it returns to its previous shape then it is rigid and recyclable, if it does then it cannot be recycled in the bin.
There are recycling options for soft plastics at some supermarkets. Soft plastics include shopping bags, produce bags, bags for bread, biscuits, sweets, rice and pasta, frozen food, cereal box lining bags, newspaper wrap.
Rigid plastics will have a triangular symbol and a number inside it – although similar the triangle is not a recycling symbol – it is merely the way to tell what type of plastic it is. All rigid plastics from 1-6 can be recycled.
Help the recyclers by making sure your recycling is relatively clean and remove the lids. Make it easy for yourself by washing containers when you do your normal washing up.