Debunking common myths
With so much (often conflicting) info out there, it’s no wonder why so many of us are confused about recycling, composting and sustainability.
Don’t worry though, we’ve debunked (or affirmed) some common sustainability myths to help ease the confusion.
Myth 1: Kerbside recycling does not get recycled in Australia
Good news! This is false.
Kerbside recycling, which is the process of putting your recyclable products into your recycle bin for collection, is an effective process that really is helping our planet.
Data from late 2018 suggests that between 84% and 96% of kerbside recycling is recycled, which is significantly better than not recycling at all. Although we’re still waiting on more recent data, it appears as though more and more products are being recycled every year. With Australia increasing its material recovery facility (MRF) capabilities and only 12% of our recycling being exported as of 2019, it’s safe to say we can put our trust in kerbside recycling.
Myth 2: Compostable products are more sustainable than soft plastics products
The answer here is: it depends.
Firstly, we need to define compostable. Compostable often refers to commercial compostable, which means that a product will generally be broken down into organic materials under specific circumstances i.e. not your worm farm or home organic waste. Instead commercial compostable materials can only be broken down in a commercial setting – meaning it has to be sent to a facility that has machinery to compost the item. This is in contrast to biodegradable, which is a loose term that means the product will break down over an unspecified period of time. To discuss this myth, we’ll be talking about compostable products.
Compostable products are generally made from plant-based materials such as corn and are marketed as an alternative to single-use products. However, as you often can’t repurpose the compostable material into something else after you’ve used it, they are technically single use too. In contrast, soft plastics can be melted and broken down to create something else, which is better for the planet in the long run. This process also uses less energy than what is required to break down compostable materials.
However, compostable products are preferred over soft plastics in situations where the plastic becomes heavily contaminated with food or other organic materials. In this case, the soft plastic cannot be put in kerbside recycling or be melted down using REDcycle, which means opting for a compostable alternative is preferred.
When it comes to choosing compostable or soft plastic products, select the best option depending on the situation you’re in. As a general rule, if you choose compostable products, make sure you have the means to compost them. This means you’ll need access to a commercial composting facility or live in a council that accepts compostable materials. It’s always good to check the resources available to you, and if you don’t have access, then opt for soft plastics instead.
Myth 3: All plastic is bad
Contrary to popular belief, not all plastic is bad. There is such a vast variety of plastics out there, it’s single-use plastics that are the bad guy.
So what are single-use plastics? This type of plastic is something that you only use once, whether that be drinking out of a straw, using plastic cutlery, eating from takeaway containers, using cotton bud sticks or unwinding with a face mask.
Many states like Victoria and New South Wales are in the process of banning sales of these single-use products, which will help all of us make the switch away from single-use products and turn towards reducing our environmental impact.
Other plastics such as soft plastics can actually be good for the planet because they can be melted down and made into something else. Bread bags, chip bags and glad wrap can all be recycled in REDcycle facilities to allow us to repurpose these plastics again. Plus good news: recycling these soft plastics requires less energy than making the plastic from scratch.
Myth 4: Being zero waste is hard
More good news! Living a zero waste lifestyle doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it’s just about educating yourself and making changes that suit your lifestyle. For example - there’s no pressure to have a worm farm at home if you don’t have the space or time to set one up – you can still help the planet by dropping your compost off to a neighbour on ShareWaste.
Making small, meaningful changes to the way you live is one of the best ways to help the zero waste movement. If you’re looking for more in-depth eco tips, check out The Good Give.
Myth 5: Recycling uses more energy than disposing products in landfill
Yes, it’s true that recycling uses more energy than simply disposing waste into landfill. However, it uses much less energy than if manufacturers had to create virgin materials every time we wanted to use something.
It makes sense that disposing in landfill doesn’t use any active energy because those products just sit there. That’s the issue. Disposing in landfill will also produce more CO2 than recycling, which combined with having to create new products every time is much more environmentally damaging than recycling.
So, that just about wraps us up ... but we know that you might have a few more questions - contact us and leave a question and we'll get back to you :) (or maybe we'll even make a blog post about it!)
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