FAQs: Plastic & Recycling

Can I drop-off / send you plastic lids?

We do not accept plastic lids directly from the general public. Rather than putting all of our resources into collecting and cleaning, we're channeling our energy into our special skills - processing and recycling all of that plastic waste!

For our plastic collection, we operate in collaboration with a national organisation called Lids4Kids, working closely with our local Victorian branches, the community and volunteers, who coordinate plastic collection through local schools, businesses and individuals. We feel exceptionally lucky to be part of such a supportive, collaborative community!

If you're looking for somewhere to donate plastic bottle caps, head to the Lids4Kids Volunteers Facebook group, where you can source up-to-date details and drop-off locations.

Do you accept plastic for recycling?

Commissioned work: If you'd like to commission us to repurpose your waste-stream into a new product, you can book a project meeting here.  

Post-Consumer plastic: We do not accept post-consumer plastic directly from the general public. Rather than putting all of our resources into collecting, cleaning, and sorting, our focus is on processing and recycling.

Who do you accept plastic from?

For plastic lid donations, we work directly with Lids4Kids.

We also receive other types of plastic waste from organisations who have commissioned us to recycle their plastic. Here's a great example of what that looks like!

Additionally, we receive various other bulk streams of plastic (e.g. old film canisters) where we've established robust collection requirements and key outcomes for the waste stream.

What do you create from the recycled plastic?

We work with a diverse range of organisations to produce useful products that close the loop. Head on over to Facebook or Instagram to see our latest projects!

Additionally, we offer shredded plastic for sale, perfect for organisations starting their own workspaces, and also produce our own range of products made from recycled plastic, available here.

How do you recycle the plastic into new products?

A number of ways! This is dependant on:
• The material
• The desired finish (texture / pattern)
• The size of the product
• The quantity of products required
• And any technical challenges

In short, the process begins with plastic preparation (cleaning / sorting / shredding), before the product is melted down into its new iteration using our recycling machinery - this usually involves extrusion, injection moulding or compression moulding.

For a closer look at our processes, follow us on Facebook or Instagram.

Isn't working with plastic dangerous?

The short answer: Not if you follow the proper precautions!

The long answer: We've been working with plastics since 2019. A core part of R&D has been ensuring we are working with plastics safely - this has involved developing a comprehensive knowledge of the various materials and processes. We choose to work with 'safe' plastics, ensuring they are kept under their respective burning temperatures, and work in a very well ventilated space where we also monitor for air quality.

Are your products recyclable at end-of-life?

Ideally, the products we create are well used and well loved for many years to come. However, if or when the time comes, yes - our products are recyclable at end-of-life.

We've opted to steer clear of mixed polymers, additives, and virgin plastics. Keeping the material stream 'clean' in this way allows us to recycle the products again at end-of-life.

In our workspace, we're also committed to re-recycling offcuts, sprues, and product rejects.

How many times can the plastic be recycled?

The ability to reprocess plastic centres around quality. Plastic is a strong material and, if clean and correctly sorted, in theory (and dependant on the type) it should be able to be recycled many times! If processed with care, it's said that plastic can be remanufactured around 10 times.

Ideally however, products created are long-lasting items, which in turn reduces the energy usage and time required to create another product.

What's the deal with upcycling and downcycling?

Dependant on the outcome, the recycling process can be considered either downcycling or upcycling.

To increase capabilities and refine processes, industrial recyclers may throw a range of 'grades' of plastic in together, along with binding agents required to recycle the mix effectively. The resulting products are often problematic when it comes time to recycle them again, as they are' poorer' quality and are only useful for downstream uses, e.g. plastic 'lumber' for decks or benches, or mixing plastic with asphalt for road materials.

At Precious Plastic Melbourne, our focus is on 'upcycling', where products are given more value, not less. We feel this is preferential, as the poorer quality materials produced by downcycling have limited applications and lifecycle.

So whilst most certainly better than landfilling, downcycling should ideally be used as a last resort, only utilising materials of 'low' value, so that quality recyclable plastics can continue their circular journey within the economy.

What's the difference between pre-consumer, post-industrial, and post-consumer plastic?

Pre-consumer plastic:
Imagine those little trimmings left over from cutting plastic sheets, or slightly wonky bottles that didn't make the cut. This "pre-consumer" waste happens before the plastic reaches consumers, and is often clean and single-type, making it quite simple to recycle.

Post-industrial plastic:
Think of leftover bits from bottle production, or packaging mistakes happening within a factory. This "post-industrial" waste is similar to pre-consumer, but might have some contamination like inks or adhesives used in the manufacturing process.

Post-consumer plastic:
This is the plastic we all know and (hopefully!) responsibly recycle – the bottles, bags, and food containers we use in daily life. It's a more diverse mix and can be contaminated with food residues, labels, or other materials, requiring sorting and cleaning before recycling.

Where does pre-consumer plastic come from?

Here are some examples of reasons a pre-consumer plastic may be diverted to recycling:

• Unused packaging due to a discontinued line, a defect, or even a typo

• A box of packaging that no longer meets food safety requirements as e.g. it was dropped on the floor

• Industrial off-cuts, sprues, product rejects

Can biodegradable / compostable bioplastics be recycled?

Firstly, it's important to understand that the majority of bioplastics can only be broken down under industrial conditions.

In regards to recyclability, bioplastics are generally not recyclable, and can cause more harm than good when they end up in landfill.

So unless stated home compostable, we suggest steering clear of these kinds of products.

What is 'ocean' plastic, and can it be recycled at end-of-life?

The claim 'made from ocean plastic' generally means that a product contains a percentage of recycled plastic derived from the ocean. As effectively recycling ocean plastic is extremely difficult, these products can often contain added virgin plastic. Additionally, due to the mixed polymers and various additives, it's unlikely that these products can be effectively recycled again at end-of-life.

How can I make sure a recycled product I want to purchase isn't greenwash?

This is an extremely important question - and one that we hope all conscious consumers are asking! Searching for sustainable alternatives can be a minefield, but as consumers, we have the power to hold brands accountable. We recommend asking brands that produce / promote recycled goods the following questions:

1. What % of the product is recycled? Recycled products currently aren't regulated. 'Contains recycled plastic' could simply mean a product contains an unclear percentage of recycled materials, utilising predominantly virgin plastic.

2. Where'd the plastic come from? Traceability and transparency are key. A responsible business will clearly state where their recycled plastics are sourced, and whether they are post-consumer or post-industrial. Some companies may close their own loop by recycling waste generated by the manufacturing process, or source post-industrial waste externally - this is referred to as industrial symbiosis.

3. Can it be recycled again? We need to extend the useful life of materials that otherwise go to landfill by creating circular economies for plastic waste. And ideally, this new 'recycled' product will be recyclable again at end-of-life. However some recycled products are chockablock full of binding agents, additives, or even mixed plastics, which isn't ideal for future recyclability.

4. Who will recycle it at end-of-life? If it can be recycled again, excellent! A responsible company will also be transparent about any additional requirements regarding how the product can or will be recycled. E.g. If a product is technically recyclable, but there's nowhere you can send it for recycling, that 'recyclable' statement becomes entirely redundant.

What is embodied carbon?

Embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of a material or product. It considers how many greenhouse gases (GHGs) are released throughout the supply chain, and is generally measured from the extraction of raw materials through to transport, refining, processing, assembly, product use, and finally, its end-of-life profile.

The benefit of reusing waste as a resource, is that you avoid all the extra energy used and emissions that would have been released in the production of brand-new resources.

Are shredded plastic and micro-plastics the same thing?

Microplastic is defined as plastic debris less than 5mm in length (around the size of a sesame seed) occuring in the environment as a consequence of plastic pollution. Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including from the breakdown of larger plastics, which typically happens when larger plastics undergo weathering, through exposure to e.g. wave action, wind abrasion, or ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.

Shredded plastic refers to a process where larger pieces of plastic are 'cut down' or granuated into a workable material, with the purpose of recovering the resource for recycling.

Why is recycling 'contamination' problematic for micro-recyclers?

Thermoplastics are recycled by remelting and remoulding them (e.g. into a mould, a filament, or something else).

Different plastics (even different colours of the same plastic, or different manufacturers of the same colour) have different melting temperatures and viscosities, ranging from 140°c to over 300°c.

So using the example of a small piece of PP in an otherwise LDPE batch, LDPE melting temperatures may not be sufficient for the PP to melt, leading at best to a surface defect in the final recycled product, and at worst a clogged machine.