Plastic waste in Brisbane

Plastic is everywhere and many household products we buy are made from or packaged in plastic. There are many different types of plastic, each with a unique look and feel. Use this page to learn how to identify the different types of plastics and how you can prevent plastic waste and reuse and recycle plastic in Brisbane.

Types of plastic

Firm and flexible plastics

Description
Firm and flexible plastics include household containers which 'pop in' and 'pop out' when you apply pressure.

Examples
Margarine containers, milk bottles, shampoo bottles, yoghurt containers

Hard or rigid plastics

Description
Hard or rigid plastics don't compress when you apply pressure.

Examples
Plastic plant pots, reusable water bottles, Tupperware

Soft plastics

Description
Film-like, 'scrunchable' plastics.

Examples
Bread bags, chip packets, pasta bags

Polystyrene

Description
Foam-like plastics.

Examples
Often used as packing material for household furniture, white goods and electronic items.

Other plastics

Description
Other plastics are products made of more than one type of plastic or are very small. Note - these items are hard to recycle.

Examples
Glitter, lids, pens, stickers, synthetic textiles, toys

How can you reduce plastic waste?

The top priority for households is to prevent plastic waste and if this cannot be avoided to then reuse plastic products where possible, or recycle plastic so it can be made into new products.

Prevent

Avoid single-use, excess and problematic plastics and plastic litter

Read top tips to prevent plastic waste including saying 'no' to plastic packaging, buying 'nude' food, using reusable water bottles and more.

Use these top tips to help prevent plastic waste

Avoid single-use and problematic plastics

  • Refuse plastic packaging when you purchase goods. It feels great to say 'no' and this simple action sends a signal to sellers to reduce plastic packaging.
  • Use reusable water bottles. You'll save money and reduce single-use plastic waste. Find out about reducing waste in school lunchboxes.
  • For your favourite products, look into reusable or refillable options like Soda Stream.
  • Refill empty containers at outlets providing refill stations and choose refill packs for cleaning and beauty products. You'll save money and reduce single-use plastic waste by following this tip.
  • Take reusable bags and containers when you shop and when you order takeaway food and drink.
  • Buy 'nude' food without plastic packaging. Use reusable produce bags, a basket or cardboard box to hold loose fruit and vegetables.
  • Make and bake household items, including meals, snacks, cleaning and beauty products. It's fun and great to get the family involved in actions that avoid plastic packaging.
  • If you have a baby or toddler, switch to using reusable nappies and wipes.

Swap soft plastics for reusable or recyclable options

  • Cling wrap – use clear containers, cover short use items in a bowl with a plate or a wet tea towel
  • Individually wrapped items like dishwasher tablets, teabags, muesli bars, ice cream – buy powdered or liquid dishwasher tablets, choose loose leaf tea, make your own muesli bars, buy ice cream in a tub.
  • Zip lock bags – reuse frozen fruit zip lock bags, label the bag with a marker
  • Frozen vegetables – chop your own pre-packed veggie packs for the freezer, reusing frozen fruit bags.
  • Falafels – make from falafel mix sold in cardboard box and replace premade.
  • Fresh herbs – grow herbs in pots. Mint, sage and rosemary are the easiest herbs to grow.
  • Dry cleaning – ask to bring your own reusable clothing protector to collect your items and the store can reuse their hanger and cover
  • Plastic postage bags – reuse your mail bags
  • Fetta and goats cheese – choose in-oil options and use the leftover oil for salad dressing
  • Vegetables – buy whole and not pre-sliced
  • Bread rolls and bakery treats – bring your own container
  • Bubble wrap – save and reuse or drop into your closest framers
  • Bin bags and liners – if you’ve got soft plastic bags in your bin, reuse these for bin bags.
  • Party soft plastics – use reusables: plates and serviettes, decorations, bunting instead of balloons. Keep a decorations box and pass onto family and friends for the next party.
  • Large parties – hire serve ware and decorations
  • Crackers – choose boxed crackers
  • Toilet paper – order from a supplier who doesn’t use soft plastic.
  • Online shopping – ask for minimal packaging from your supplier.
  • Meat and fresh seafood – take your own bag or container and let your server know
  • Menstrual products – use reusable options
  • Chocolate – buy from bulk food stores, think quality not quantity
  • Produce nets – buy loose fruit and vegetables

Limit plastic usage

  • Ask for gift experiences (e.g. show tickets, day spa treatment, day out with friends and family).
  • Complete a plastics audit at home. What plastics do you use and are there non-plastic alternatives? 
  • Borrow instead of buy. Visit the tool and toy libraries across Brisbane including:
  • Seek alternatives to plastic such as bamboo, wood, metal and glass. These products are long life, reusable and can be recycled or composted when they are no longer usable.

Prevent plastic litter and microplastics

  • Choose natural fibre clothing and textiles such as cotton, linen, wool and silk to prevent synthetic fibres washing into waterways. Find out more about textile waste.
  • Remove plastic stickers from fruit before composting as the stickers don't break down.
  • If you smoke, carry a small container with you to store cigarette butts until you can dispose of them in a marked bin, or your general waste (red lid) bin. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Brisbane. They are made from plastic and can take 12-15 years to break down.
  • Discover more ways you can contribute to a litter-free Brisbane and protect our waterways.
Reuse

Reuse, repurpose, gift/buy/sell/
donate plastic items

Read top tips to reuse plastic items to get the longest life out of them.

Use these top tips to reuse plastic items

  • Reuse durable plastic items for their full life (e.g. until they warp or crack).
  • Repurpose plastic items for a different use than their original purpose (e.g. use yoghurt containers for storage, soft plastic bags to keep vegetables fresh in the fridge).
  • Gift, buy, sell or donate plastic items that are in good condition and that you no longer need. Do this:
    • online via online marketplaces 
    • at local op shops and markets
    • at Council's Treasure Troves in Acacia Ridge and Geebung.
Recycle

Recycle plastic waste so it can be made into new products

Read top tips to recycle plastic instead of sending it to landfill.

Use these top tips to recycle plastic

  • Place firm and flexible plastic containers (e.g. milk and shampoo bottles, berry punnets, biscuit trays) in your household recycling bin (yellow lid). Find out more about what can go in your recycling bin and how to order a larger recycling bin for free.
  • Visit one of Council's four resource recovery centres to recycle clean polystyrene (used for packaging), hard and other plastics, mobile phones and more. All recycling drop-offs are free at these centres.
  • Recycle preloved plastic toys at your nearest Big W store.
  • Collect plastic bottles and small fruit juice boxes to participate in the 10 cent refund program. Visit the Containers for Change website to find eligible containers and refund locations.
  • Recycle your used pens and markers by dropping them off at your nearest Officeworks store.
  • Recycle bottle caps, bread tags and plastic cards at Biome stores.
  • Recycle cosmetics packaging and coffee pods with Terracycle.
  • Recycle medicinal blister packs at participating pharmacies or by post with Pharmacycle or at Biome stores.

More information and tools to help you better recycle plastics

Plastic waste facts

  • On average, Australians use 130 kilograms of plastic per person each year.
  • Around 40% of the plastic we produce is used for single-use packaging.
  • In Australia, approximately 130,000 tonnes of plastic leaks into the marine environment each year.

Impacts of plastic waste

  1. Cost - Plastics may be cheap to make and buy, but the plastic impacts to our environment are at least 10 times higher than  plastic's market price.
  2. Environment - Plastic is made from fossil fuels and releases greenhouse gases during production. When plastic enters the environment as litter or from washing synthetic clothing, it remains for hundreds of years. Plastics in the environment are absorbed by plants and animals and accumulate in the food chain.
  3. Health - Toxic chemicals are released from plastics to air, soil and water. Human exposure to plastic particles and additives can pose health risks.
  4. Landfill - 146,000 wheelie bins full of plastic were sent to landfill last year from Brisbane household general waste bins.

Targets

In Queensland by 2050:

  • there will be a 25 per cent reduction in household waste
  • 90 per cent of waste will be recovered from going to landfill
  • there will be a 75 per cent recycling rate across all waste types.

In Australia by 2030, we'll reduce total waste  generated by 10% per person. Australia's 2025 national packaging targets are:

  • 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging
  • 70% of plastic packaging will be recycled or composted
  • packaging will include 50% (average) of recycled content
  • phase out of problematics and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging.

Globally, by 2030 there will be a reduction in waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse1.


1. Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 - Responsible consumption and production, United Nations

    More information

    Last updated: 3 February 2023
    Topics: waste

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