REVEALED: Why black plastic meat trays disappeared from supermarket shelves to help improve Australia’s recycling effort
- Aussie Meat Trays Went From Black To Clear Plastic – For A Reason
- Black soft plastics could not be recovered by automated recycling machines
- Color change makes the recycling process more precise and streamlined
- This is part of an effort to improve the country’s waste management processes
Aussie meat trays got a makeover because they weren’t being properly scanned by recycling machines.
The flexible plastics changed from black to transparent two years ago because the optical sorting technology used did not work on the black colored trays.
They were removed from conveyor belts instead of being sent to be recycled into new products, such as plant pots.
New transparent plastic trays for meat have been introduced as they can be collected by the automated recycling machines (pictured, the new trays)
The black soft plastics (pictured) have been removed from conveyor belts instead of being sent to be recycled into new products like plant pots
But the transparent packaging can be recovered by the automated machines.
Kyle O’Farrell, director of waste management consultancy Blue Environment, said The Australian the new look has a simple purpose.
‘They changed the color so [meat trays] are also sortable,” he said, adding that it took a lot of work to improve the design.
He said most major manufacturers have moved away from using PVC plastics and polypropylene (PP), which contains hydrogen and carbon.
PVC contains chlorine – a harmful substance that can produce toxic by-products when burned.
The shift came as the country generated 2.5 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2018-2019, according to a national waste report.
Mr O’Farrell added that plastics other than packaging used in cars, clothing, household goods and electronics have a shocking 7% recycling rate.
He said that’s 10,000 tons of waste.
“Not only does it have a terrible recycle rate, it’s also the highest amount,” he said.
The country produced 2.5 million metric tonnes of plastic waste in 2018-2019, according to a National Waste Report (pictured, an Australian Materials Recovery Center in Action)
Meanwhile, the pandemic has sparked a spike in plastic waste across the country.
Clothing, footwear and accessories topped the list of most popular items, according to a report from Monash University Retail.
“Understandably, the pandemic has led to an increase in online shopping and with it more packaging that consumers can throw away at home,” said a spokeswoman for sustainable packaging advocates APCO.
She added that recycling soft plastic is an ongoing issue as it is not recycled in curbside bins.
Soft plastic waste collected via REDcycle bins outside Coles and Woolworths increased by 200% in the 2020-21 financial year.
Items you can throw away in REDcycle bins
The REDcycle program makes it easy for consumers to keep “soft” plastic used in plastic bags and food packaging out of landfills:
Biscuit packets (outer wrapper only)
Bread bags (without the tie)
Bubble wrap (large sheets cut into A3 size pieces)
Cat and dog food pouches (as clean and dry as possible)
Cellophane of flower bouquets (cut into A3 size pieces)
Cereal Crate Liners
Packets of chips and crackers (silver lined)
Chocolate and snack wrappers
Cling Film – GLAD, COLES HOME brand and WOOLWORTHS Essentials Home brand ONLY
Document protector (remove the white reinforcing strip along the holes)
Dry Pet Food Bags
Bags of fresh produce
Frozen Food Bags
Green bags (woven polypropylene bags)
Ice cream wrappers
Large plastic sheets in which the furniture is wrapped (cut into A3 size pieces)
Meat – plastic packaging that has contained meat (rinse and dry first)
Mesh product bags (all metal clips removed)
Packaging of newspapers and magazines
bags of pasta
Pet Food Bags (Glitter/Horse/Chicken) – both plastic and woven polypropylene (but not woven nylon) types. Cut into A3 size pieces and shake to remove as much product as possible
Australia Post plastic satchels
Plastic bags from all stores
Plastic wrap from grocery items such as diapers and toilet paper
Soil and compost bags – both plastic and woven polypropylene (cut into A3 size pieces and free of as much product as possible)
Rice bags – both plastic and woven type (if large, cut into A3 size pieces)
snap lock bags/zipper bags
Squeeze bags with lid (e.g. yoghurt/baby food)
Wine/water bags – clear plastic only
Please make sure your plastic is dry and as empty as possible.