The ubiquitous plastic bag, something that’s inundated society to such a degree they often end up stuffed in the kitchen draw, or thrown in the bin. Even those placed in plastic recycling are not collected by council. Instead, many plastic bags end up in landfill (over 7000 per minute in Australia), where they take years to break down, or they’re dumped offshore.
Thankfully, however, besides the conscious household consumer (such as you and I), there are those striving to ensure plastic bags and other food packaging are reused rather than discarded. One such entity doing this on a relatively large scale is the REDcycle Program, a volunteer offshoot of Red Group – a Melbourne based consulting and recycling organisation.
Standing for Recycling + Education = Difference, REDcycle is facilitating consumer engagement with plastic recycling via major supermarket chain Coles. Here REDcycle has placed plastic collection bins at stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. After the consumer deposits their soft plastic in Coles REDcycle bins, Red Group then sorts the items at their on-site facility.
The sorted plastic is then handed over to Replas, an Australian company that manufactures items out of recycled plastic. Here soft plastics are blended with hard plastics and made into furniture/items suitable for parks, schools and seaside areas. Plastic here proves particularly useful, as it doesn’t corrode near salt water. It also comes in handy in the Northern Territory, being impervious to the destruction of white ants.
For the school bench pictured on the right, more than 2000 shopping bags were used in its production. What’s interesting about this piece of furniture, apart from its plastic recycling conception, is that consumers, manufacturers and distributors all play a part in its life-cycle, from its birth to its eventual death. Possibly without knowing it, such furniture is the child of economical progress, and each participant is a culpable parent.
Jacquie Fegent-McGeachie, sustainability and social responsibility manager at Kimberly-Clark ANZ (KCA), believes organisations working together across industry sectors is vital in moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. She says “at KCA, we are diverting 95% of all our manufacturing waste from landfill through collaboration with our partners and suppliers”. Now other major companies such as Arnott’s, Birds Eye, Cadbury, George Weston Foods, Goodman Fielder, Kellogg’s, Kraft, McCain and SunRice have jumped onto the REDcycle Program.
Thus far, REDcycle’s plastic recycling program has proved a resounding success, as over 9 million units of shopping bags and food packaging were collected and converted into products between September 2011 and 2012 alone. All the result of teamwork.
For more on this consumer engaging initiative, take a look at the REDcycle website.