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A walk through your local supermarket or general store reveals the increasingly diverse range of packaging types that our food comes in: snack packs, pods, pouches… the list goes on!
While many products can still be purchased in recyclable glass jars or cardboard packets, a growing number of items can only be found with copious amounts of plastic and Styrofoam around them.
Even if your local area is neglecting efficient recycling, you can still make a difference by giving up the 4 items that are most likely to be non-recyclable.
1. StyrofoamStyrofoam cups and containers are made from polystyrene, a type of plastic derived from petroleum. Due to its chemical composition, this material will never fully break down in the environment, which means that every Styrofoam cup you or anyone else in the world has ever sipped from is still in existence in some form or another, lurking in landfill and releasing methane gases, which have 21 times the ozone-destroying potency of C02.
Solution: Keep a reusable cup or glass at the office, and carry a reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup when you're out and about.
2. Single-use coffee cups
You might think that your takeaway coffee cup is cardboard and thus recyclable, but in truth many paper cups aren't made from paper alone. They are more often than not lined with polyethylene to prevent leakage. This makes them unrecyclable and puts them in the Styrofoam camp when it comes to landfill and methane emissions. Along with the cup, lids aren't generally recyclable. However, this guide shows you what to look for to decipher whether it is.
Even if the products in your coffee cup are recyclable, chances are that it will be thrown in the 'normal' rubbish bin.
It's estimated that 1 million cups end up in landfill EVERY MINUTE!
Solution: Grab a reusable coffee cup such as a Keep Cup if you're a regular coffee drinker, or opt for dine-in caffeinating if you can! Encourage your local café to offer incentives such as discounts for those willing to go reusable.
3. Single-use plastics such as cling wrap and chip packets
If we've learned anything from our Plastic Free July experience, it's that pretty much all of us consume too much plastic in our daily lives.
Also be sure that you don't put your recyclables in plastic bags, which according to Planet Ark is one of the top recycling mistakes made by Australians:
"All recycling wrapped in plastic bags goes straight to landfill, since staff at sorting facilities are unable to open the bags for safety reasons."- Planet Ark
4. Plastic bags
Ok, I know what you're going to say. Yes, some plastic bags CAN be recycled. Yes, some bags are biodegradable.
HOWEVER, most bags either end up in landfill or are not recycled properly. While some areas accept plastic bags in recycling bins, it's important to check with your local government first. Otherwise, keep them out of the recycling bins. As Planet Ark explains, plastic bags "can get caught up in the processing machinery and contaminate other recycling streams."
Australians use about 3.9 billion lightweight supermarket shopping bags every year, mostly as a single use item.
If you have plastic bags that you're desperate to get rid of, check at your local supermarket or shopping centre for specialty recycling bins.
What about 'Biodegradable', 'Compostable' and 'Degradable'? "These types of bags unfortunately cannot be recycled," says Planet Ark. "Biodegradable bags are made from plant-based materials like corn and wheat starch, in the presence of oxygen these bags will break down. However, in landfill, an anaerobic environment, the bags cannot biodegrade."
Solution: Recycle any bags you have hanging around, then refuse plastic bags when possible, opting instead for reusable canvas bags or simular.
Learn more about recycling here.
[Banner image: Shutterstock]
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