12 January 2022

Soft plastics saved from landfill and reused as five school benches

| Albert McKnight
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Children from Lumen Christi Catholic College with recycled plastic bench

Children from Lumen Christi Catholic College in Pambula love their new recycled bench. Photo: Bega Valley Shire Council.

Thousands of plastic bags have been saved from slowly deteriorating at tips and reused as benches for schools across Bega Valley.

A recent competition run by Bega Valley Shire Council’s waste services team asked for residents to show their novel ways of dealing with soft plastic waste.

The five winners were asked to nominate a school to receive a REPLAS recycled plastic bench, with Lumen Christi Catholic College, Eden Marine High School, Merimbula Public School, Saint Patrick’s Primary School and Bega High School all nominated for one of the prizes.

“We had lots of entrants showing us how they recycle soft plastics using our free collection bags, which shows real interest in finding a solution to the problem of soft plastic waste,” said Bega Valley Shire Council waste project officer Amber Gault.

“Children from year 1 at Lumen Christi Catholic College, for example, delved deeper into their soft plastics collection bags and asked why some soft plastics weren’t able to be recycled.

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“The students wrote letters to food manufacturers and supermarkets asking them why not all soft plastics in their range were able to be dropped off at local REDcycle bins.

“This shows amazing initiative and demonstrates that young children as future leaders are grasping some of the key challenges we face today.”

According to the Australian Plastics Recycling Survey, about 1.3 billion single-use plastic bags were used in 2018-2019.

Ms Gault said after soft plastics are emptied into the REDcycle bins at Coles or Woolworths supermarkets, REDcycle takes them to recycling organisations such as REPLAS, who turn them into functional items such as benches, decking, signs, bollards and even recycled road surface.

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She said council is thrilled to see children loving their new school benches that each contain thousands of plastic bags diverted from landfill.

“Soft plastics recycling takes a major landfill item and FOGO [food organics and garden organics] contaminant and flips it on its head by turning it into a valuable commodity,” said Ms Gault.

Bega Valley Shire residents can pick up a free soft plastics collection bag at any shire library or waste transfer station, or from council’s customer service centre in Bega.

For more information on what soft plastics you can and can’t recycle, visit REDcycle.

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