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Aged care recycling program a win for residents and the environment

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An innovative aged care recycling initiative at a Melbourne aged care residence is helping the planet, and supporting older peoples’ wellbeing, one bread tag and plastic lid at a time.

Since February 2021, Corpus Christi Aged Care Residence in Clayton, run by not-for-profit organisation VMCH, has been collecting and sorting plastic bread tags and lids to be remanufactured or sold for environmental groups.

Just last month, residents’ first load of 34,484 bread tags (11.5kg) was shipped off for recycling, with proceeds funding wheelchairs for people in South Africa via Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs (61 wheelchairs since it began in 2018). The lids, meanwhile, are washed, dried, sorted (by polymer and colour) and sent to Rethink Recycling Co-op (RRC) to be remanufactured into meaningful products.

VMCH physiotherapist and RRC Co-Founder Caitlyn Socwell, who introduced the aged care recycling program, says she’s thrilled with its progress.

“Residents say it makes them feel good knowing they are giving back to a greater cause, leaving them with a renewed sense of purpose and fulfilment. Plastic lids sorting also encourages residents with advanced dementia, who may not otherwise participate in activities, to become involved.”

Resident Jim says, “I like the fact that I’m doing something to help somebody else, and that people in the long run are benefiting from our efforts.”

While the concept of sustainability is nothing new to residents, Caitlyn says they enjoy learning about the latest initiatives and technology.

“Their generations typically grew up in times of conflict or shortages – a time when you fix what’s broken and use it until it’s gone. However, residents are often surprised by interesting sustainability facts that highlight the state of our climate.”

Jim says: “It’s important to see and learn different things every day. Ultimately, it’s important to learn about the end result and who/what will benefit from them.”

Caitlyn says RRC, together with Puppets Alive, is looking to expand the bread tag and lid sorting program to aged care and disability services across Melbourne. Corpus Christi is already a registered community collection point and sorting centre, allowing local community members to drop their bread tags and lids.

“Not only do we want to rescue plastic from landfill and our environment, we want to integrate an otherwise (seemingly) forgotten population back into the community and provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment,” Caitlyn says.

“Given the current climate crisis, making a positive impact on my local Australian community is my ultimate goal – helping its people, its planet, and its profit.”

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