Synopsis: This article shares three easy steps to reduce plastic waste and tells readers how to recycle soft plastics and “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging” in British Columbia.

This post is for my fellow British Columbians. If you don’t live in BC don’t worry, I like you too, I just can’t promise that what I’m about to share is also relevant in your hometown…(but it might be!)

I’m about to tell you something that will change your garbage forever. Ready?

You can recycle most plastic packaging in BC. 

This includes plastic bags, stand-up pouches, cheese wrappers and the works. 

Amazing, I know! 

I found this out last July, and since then, I have not emptied my garbage. Let me repeat that: I have not had to empty my garbage since last July. That’s eight months of no garbage emptying — and it’s not even full yet.

“How does one go about this?” you might be asking. Let me tell you. 

Three Easy Steps to Drastically Reduce your Waste

It all starts with being mindful of the waste you create. Take notice of the kinds of packaging you pick up at the grocery store and be aware of the moment you throw that packaging into the garbage can — the whole life cycle of that pretty-looking stand-up pouch containing crunchy yum-yums, just be aware of it.

Step One: Be aware of the waste you create.

See above.

Step Two: Recycle the obvious recyclables. 

Put all recyclable paper, glass, metal, and hard plastics into their corresponding recycling bins. (Or, in my case, save up paper waste to use as fire-starters. Thank you wax boxes, you are a life-saver.)

Step Three: Recycle soft and “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging” (ie. crinkly) plastics.

This is the exciting part! Instead of licking your fingers and throwing that crumb-filled chip bag into the garbage without a second thought, pause…and take that plastic bag to the sink, rinse it out, and determine whether it needs to go into the bin you’ve so carefully labelled “soft plastics” or “crinkly plastics” (it’s crinkly plastic). 

Repeat. It’s that simple.

Then, when you’ve piled up a month’s worth of plastic packaging, take it to your local London Drugs and drop it off in their corresponding soft plastic and “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging” bins. Or, if you live outside the city (like me), drive it over to your local Recycle BC Depot and deposit it there. Done! 

In the same amount of time it took you to drive to London Drugs to buy toothpaste, you can drastically reduce your contribution to the 3 million tonnes of plastic waste that Canadians produce every year.

Not a huge amount of effort required, really.

The difference between Soft plastics and Crinkly plastics

So, what all is included under the category of Soft Plastics? 

Here’s the official list copied from the Recycle BC Website.

  • Bags for groceries or dry cleaning, bread, newspapers and flyers
  • Bags for produce, dry bulk foods and frozen vegetables
  • Outer bags and wrap for diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, tissues and soft drink can flats
  • Bags for water softener salt and garden products
  • Overwrap on mattresses, furniture and electronic equipment

What is included under “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging” (ie crinkly plastics)?

  • Stand up and zipper lock pouches
  • Crinkly wrappers and bags, including chip bags, bar and candy wrappers
  • Flexible packaging with plastic seal
  • Woven net and plastic bags
  • Non food protective packaging

You can also recycle Foam Packaging (hello takeout food containers)

  • Plastic foam containers and trays used for meat and produce
  • Foam egg cartons
  • Foam clamshells, cups and bowls for take-out food
  • Foam cushion packaging to protect electronics, small appliances, etc.

And how do you tell the difference?

As a general rule of thumb, if you can push your finger through it, it’s soft plastic. If you can’t, or if it’s opaque and shiny, it’s probably crinkly plastic. You can always verify your plastic using the detailed list on the Recycle BC website if you have any doubts.

Another pointer: the people at the recycling depot will like you (and their job) a lot better if you rinse out your plastics before recycling them. No one likes a mouldy job on their hands. Plus, it just feels better to take that chip bag and rinse it out. Somehow, (weirdly), you will end up feeling more connected to your garbage. Who knew that would be a pleasant thing, but it is. Trust me.

gordon ramsay GIF by Masterchef

What does Recycle BC do with it?

That’s a good question. 

Soft plastics go to Metro Vancouver to be processed into pellets and made into new packaging and products. As per the Recycle BC website, flexible and crinkly plastic “is collected as part of a research and development project to determine how best this material can be recycled”, and any material that is unable to be recycled is recovered and turned into engineered fuel that is used as an alternative to coal in industrial applications.

I hope that sometime in the near future, Recycle BC comes up with an ingenious system for collecting and recycling all kinds of plastic and turning it into market-ready reusables. Or better yet, we figure out how to package and transport our food and products without using plastic. But for the meantime, this is what we have, so we might as well make the most of it.

And before you start saying that recycling plastics is not the answer to solving our global environmental crisis, let me say, I agree with you, you are right!

But it’s a heck of a good step in the right direction. 

And as far as identifying small, everyday habits that anyone can do to reduce their plastic waste, I’d say it’s the next easiest step we can all take. 

So that’s that. 

That’s how I’ve managed to keep plastic out of the ground and avoid the annoying chore of emptying and taking out the garbage — for eight months and counting!

Fellow British Columbians, I now hand the torch over to you…you too can recycle soft plastics. 

It’s a joy. 

Happy Proud Of You GIF by SYBO

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