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, feel and disposal method. Use this page to learn how to identify the different types of plastics, how to prevent, reuse and recycle plastic waste 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
Packing material used for household furniture, white goods and electronic items.

Other plastics

Description
Plastic products made of more than one type of plastic or are very small. These items are hard to recycle.

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

How to reduce plastic waste

The top priority for households is to prevent plastic waste from coming into the home in the first place, followed by reusing plastic products, and recycling plastic so it can be made into new products.

Prevent

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

Use these top tips to 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. This will save you money too. 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. 
  • Take reusable bags and containers when you shop and pick up takeaway food and drink.
  • Buy 'nude' food without plastic packaging, such as loose carrots and apples.
  • Make and bake household items, including meals, snacks, cleaning and beauty products.
  • Avoid home-delivered ready-made meals. They include extra packaging waste.
  • If you have a baby or toddler, switch to using reusable nappies and wipes.

Swap soft plastics for reusable or recyclable options

  • Avoid cling wrap by storing food in clear containers.
  • Avoid individually wrapped items like dishwasher tablets, teabags, ice blocks by buying powdered or liquid dishwasher, loose leaf tea, or ice cream in a tub.
  • Chop and make your own veggie packs for the freezer, reusing frozen fruit bags.
  • Grow fresh herbs in pots - mint, sage and rosemary are the easiest herbs to grow. Find out more at Grow It Local.
  • Bring your own reusable garment bag and coat hanger when dropping off your clothes at the dry cleaners.
  • Reuse bubble wrap or drop into your closest picture framers.
  • Party soft plastics – use reusables for picnics and parties such as: plates and serviettes, decorations, bunting instead of balloons. Keep a decorations box and pass onto family and friends for the next party.
  • When shopping online ask for minimal packaging from your supplier.
  • Take your own bag or container when buying meat and fresh seafood and let your server know.
  • Use reusable menstrual product options.

Limit plastic usage

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 they 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

Use these top tips to reuse plastic items

  • Reuse durable plastic items for their full life (e.g. until they warp or crack).
  • Choose reusable or refillable options like Soda Stream for your favourite products.
  • Reuse produce bags, a basket or cardboard box to hold loose fruit and vegetables.
  • Reuse zip lock bags for frozen fruit.
  • Repurpose plastic items for a different use (e.g. yoghurt containers used 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

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, toothpaste tubes 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.

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 impacts on 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

    More information

    Last updated: 8 March 2023
    Topics: waste

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