Environmental Benefits of Commercial Recycling for Plastics

Why Recycle?

Most plastics are non-biodegradable and will persist indefinitely in landfill. They are derived from petroleum, an important non-renewable resource. By recycling plastic products the demand for oil is reduced. Many types of plastics are accepted by commercial recyclers by contract or as part of co-mingled recycling, where they are collected, shredded and extruded for use in new plastic products. Some local councils also provide this service for local businesses.

Victoria recycles around 63,000 tonnes of commercial plastic each year1. That's the equivalent "everyday" savings of over 1.95 million households' energy requirements for a month.

Environmental Benefits

"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of plastic2 recycled:

Greenhouse
greenhouse
5,894 km driven3
1.22 tonnes CO2e
Energy
Energy
31 houses' energy for a month4
57 GJ LHV (15,845 kWh)
Water
Water
31 bath tubs5
5.5 kL water
Waste
Waste
32 wheelie bins6
1.8 tonnes

For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.

More Info & Sources

1. Hyder Consulting (2009) Waste and Recycling in Australia (Amended report), Hyder Consulting Pty Ltd, Melbourne
2. Data for all plastic types (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14). For a breakdown of the different types of plastic see Figure 12 (p.21). Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity)
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)

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