Soft plastics (basically anything you can scrunch in your hand including plastic bags) should not be put in your household recycling bin*. When soft plastics are incorrectly put in household recycling bins, they can contaminate the recycling and cause problems at recycling facilities if they become entangled in the machinery.
Unfortunately, REDcycle has closed its soft plastics recycling scheme. Collection bins at supermarkets and other drop-off points are now closed. Most Australians will unfortunately have to put soft plastics in their garbage bin until an alternative service is established. However, some councils are offering soft plastics recycling services, so check directly with your council.
Businesses and workplaces with large quantities of soft plastics can visit Business Recycling to find recycling services in their area.
*Some councils may have set up collection points or services for soft plastics (check directly with your council). The National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project is currently trialling soft plastic collection in kerbside recycling bins in six councils in NSW, SA and Victoria.
Why are soft plastic recycling bins at supermarkets closed?
REDcycle have collected more than 5.4 billion pieces of soft plastic since the program launched in 2011, turning them into new products like shopping trolleys and street furniture. Unfortunately, the program closed on the 9th of November 2022.
Due to several unforeseen challenges, exacerbated by the pandemic, REDcycle’s recycling partners were unable to continue accepting and processing the large amount of soft plastics that were being returned (5 million pieces every day).
Check this page for updates on soft plastic recycling. In the meantime, soft plastics should be put in your garbage bin, unless your council has a specialised recycling service for soft plastics (check with your council directly).
For more information, visit REDcycle.
What are soft plastics?
Soft plastics are any kind of plastic item (usually packaging) that can be easily scrunched in your hand. Common soft plastic items include:
- Plastic 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
- Cling wrap
- Bubble wrap
The problem with soft plastics
When soft plastics are put in household recycling bins, they can cause problems at recycling plants, often becoming tangled in the machinery. They can also contaminate the recycling, degrading the quality of the materials once they have been recycled.
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 soft plastics including single-use plastic items wherever possible.
Find out more about soft plastic recycling trials through the National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project.
A number of councils in the Greater Sydney region are working with RecycleSmart to offer free collection of soft plastics and certain types of e-waste.
Learn about the specialised recycling service for soft plastics available to residents in the Central Coast Council and the City of Newcastle, which is run by Curby.
Learn about Boomerang Bags, a community bag-sewing project.
Visit Plastic Police to find out about their plastics recycling program for schools.
Discover more plastic recycling solutions.