Soft plastics, including plastic bags, should not be put in your household recycling bin (only a small number of councils* accept them). You can, however, drop off your soft plastics (basically anything you can scrunch in your hand) for recycling at most supermarkets. Look for the REDcycle collection bin at the front of your local supermarket.
Some commercial recycling businesses will accept soft plastics. Businesses and workplaces with large quantities of soft plastics can visit Business Recycling to find recycling services in their area.
*There are a handful of councils that can accept plastic bags and other soft plastics in kerbside recycling services: the City of Busselton in WA; as well as Booroondara, Nillumbik, Hobson's Bay and Cardinia Shire Council in Vic.
What type of soft plastics does REDcycle accept?
Most supermarkets have a REDcycle collection bin at the front of the store for members of the public to drop off their soft plastics for recycling. Some of the types soft plastics that are accepted include:
- Plastic bags
- Torn or damaged reusable ‘green bags’
- Pasta and rice bags
- Lolly and biscuit packets (outside package only)
- Fresh fruit and veggie bags and frozen food bags
- Magazine and newspaper wrapping
For a full list of items that can be recycled and to find your closest recycling location, visit REDcycle.
Why should I recycle my soft plastics?
When soft plastics are put in household recycling bins, they can cause problems at recycling plants, often becoming tangled in the machinery. That’s why it's important to recycle your soft plastics through REDcycle bins at your local supermarket or through other specialised recycling services.
Plastic waste and pollution are a big problem in Australia and worldwide. It’s estimated five trillion plastic bags are used every year globally – that’s 120,000 bags every second! Each plastic bag may only be used for a few minutes before being thrown away, taking between 15 to 1,000 years to break down.
Soft plastics including plastic bags can easily be blown away from landfills and enter our environment where wildlife can become entangled in the plastic or mistake it for food. When plastics are littered in the ocean, they break down into smaller pieces and are often eaten by fish and other marine animals.
The best solution to this problem is to use reusable shopping bags and avoid single-use plastic wherever possible.
What happens to my soft plastics when I recycle them?
Soft plastics collected through REDcycle’s recycling program are used to make all kinds of new products such as furniture, bollards, signage and asphalt additive for roads. REDcycle estimates Australians have used the program to recycle enough soft plastics to wrap around the world five and a half times!