Plastic Recycling

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Plastic Recycling Fact Sheet
July 2009

Plastic Recycling
Plastics are the most common rubbish item found on Clean Up Australia Day, representing over 30% of all
rubbish collected over the past 10 years7. This includes drink containers, confectionary packets and water
bottles, all of which pose a huge threat to wildlife and our environment. Recycling plastic saves energy,
valuable resources and helps to protect our environment.

The problem with plastics

Plastics are polymers, chains of
Persistence in the Environment: Most
Did you know?
plastic is not biodegradable and will
molecules called monomers. There are
survive in the environment for hundreds

The energy saved by
many different types of plastics
of years. Rather than biodegrading,
recycling one plastic drink
depending on their molecular make up
plastic photodegrades, breaking down
bottle will power a
and shape.
into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic
computer for 25 minutes. 8


resistant, meaning it can float easily in

Recycling plastic saves

air and water, and travel long distances.
twice as much energy as

burning it in an

Landfill Space: Australians use 1.3
incinerator. 8

million tonnes of plastic each year. We

are great recyclers, with 46% of waste

Plastic shopping bags can

recycled each year4, however, this
be returned to your

means that over half of our waste still

supermarket for recycling.

ends up in landfill causing serious
To help identify the different plastics, a
problems for the environment.
Plastics Identification Code is stamped

When you put materials
on the final product to indicate what
into your recycling bin,
type of resin it contains1. The code is
you shouldn’t put them in
displayed as a number inside a triangle

a plastic bag. For safety
of chasing arrows.
reasons, staff at recycling

centres won’t open plastic

bags, so your recycling

will end up in landfill.

Threat to Marine Life: Every year more

The rings from bottle
than 6 million tonnes of rubbish is
necks and six-pack
Impact on the environment
dumped into the world’s oceans. 80% of
holders need to be cut

this waste is plastic, with an estimated
when you dispose of them
Greenhouse Gases: Fossil fuels such

46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile
to reduce harm to
as natural gas, oil and coal are used in

of ocean5. Plastic waste including plastic
production process of plastic, emitting

bags, food packaging, and abandoned
dangerous greenhouse gases and
fishing nets can be deadly to marine life.

Tie the tops of plastic

bags up when disposing
decomposes gases are produced,
Turtles, whales, and sea birds mistake
of them to prevent them
particularly methane. Methane is 20

rubbish for food or get entangled in it
blowing away.
times stronger than carbon dioxide and

causing painful injuries or even death. It
represents up to 4% of emissions from

is estimated that marine rubbish, mostly

It takes 25 two litre plastic
plastic, is killing more than a million
bottles to make an adult

seabirds and 100,000 mammals every
Natural Resources: Plastics are made
fleece jacket. 11
year. 5
from non-renewable resources that,

once depleted, cannot be replaced3.

Clean Up Australia Ltd
ABN 93 003 884 991 PO Box R725, Royal Exchange NSW 1225 Australia
tel: 1800 CUA DAY email: [email protected] web:
Clean Up Australia Limited

ABN 93 003 884 991

Plastic Recycling Fact Sheet
July 2009

Avoid, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

The Solution

What kind of plastic is recyclable?

The best way to limit the plastic waste
Not all plastics are the same and your

that you create and to prevent rubbish
local council may only be able to recycle

from going to landfill is to avoid,
certain types through your kerbside
1) Sustainability Victoria:
reduce, reuse and recycle.
recycling program. In most areas,

plastics labelled 1, 2, and 3 can be
2) Science Daily:
Plastics are increasingly used in our
recycled, although many councils are
every day life, thus recycling is more
now extending their recycling programs
3) Zero Waste, South Australia:
important than ever to reduce waste.
to include those labelled 4 through 7.

Identifying the type of plastic is
Check with your council for details.
essential because each type of plastic

4) Nova, Magazine of the
Australian Academy of Science.
is recycled differently.
of recyclables is a

problem because it raises the costs for

5) UNEP, Marine Litter: A Global
collectors, recyclers and the community.
Identifying plastics:
Challenge (2009)
The Plastics Identification Code is
Make sure you are aware about what
stamped on all plastic products to
plastics can be recycled and only put
6) Department of Environment,
identify the type of resin used.

these in your recycling bins. To prepare
Water, Heritage and the Arts.
Here are some common products you
plastics for recycling, rinse
will find for each type of plastic:
residue from bottles and
7) Clean Up Australia, Rubbish

containers, remove lids,

and squash bottles.
8) Total Environment Centre,
PET (Polyethylene

terephthalate) - soft drink
9) Coles Supermarket,
What is not recyclable?
and fruit juice bottles
Plastic bags, bin liners, and cling wrap
HDPE (High-density
are not recyclable. These plastics can
10) Marine Parks WA,
polyethylene) - milk bottles
get stuck in the sorting equipment in
or shampoo containers
recycling facilities causing it to stop or
break. Often bottle tops and lids cannot
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride or
11) Recycle now,
be recycled with the bottle as they may
plasticised polyvinyl chloride)
be made of a different type of plastic.
- cordial, juice or squeeze

Polystyrene foam is generally not
LDPE (Low density
recyclable. This includes the spongy
polyethylene) – garbage
black foam trays that meat is often
bags and bins
packaged in at supermarkets. It also
includes some takeaway containers and
PP (Polypropylene) – ice
hot drink cups.
cream containers, take-away

food containers and lunch
Other items that cannot be recycled in
the normal recycling bins from your
PS (Polystyrene) – yoghurt
council are disposable nappies, and
containers, plastic cutlery,
foam hot drink cups

Remember, if you are unsure about
Other – all other plastics,
what is recyclable check with your
including acrylic and nylon1
local council.

Clean Up Australia Ltd
ABN 93 003 884 991 PO Box R725, Royal Exchange NSW 1225 Australia
tel: 1800 CUA DAY email: [email protected] web:
Clean Up Australia Limited

ABN 93 003 884 991