Recycling of Waste In Australia

Piles Of Cardboard Boxes And Plastic Bottles Stored For Recycling. Separate Garbage Storage. Ukraine, Kyivmyskvtorresursy Plant. Kyiv Plant for recycling. 01.10.2018

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Most people in Australia know you can’t recycle a plastic shopping bag but what about a take away coffee lid or a bottle top.  Ask most people and they will say they support a cleaner environment and most people say they will do whatever they can to manage waste to keep the world and waterways as clean as possible.  

Australians buy 3.5 million tonnes of plastic each year.  Only about 11% of it can actually be recycled.  Much of it used to get sent to China for recycling, until the Chinese Government became stricter on what recycling they would accept.  China has imposed some impossibly hard guidelines for allowing other countries waste into their country.  The global market for recycling changed dramatically with these changes and countries around the world are rethinking what they do with recycling their rubbish.  China’s war on waste has created a major upheaval around the world and countries are scrambling to come up with creative solutions to waste processing and recycling. 

In Australia people continued to put their rubbish in their recycling bins, rubbish removal companies continued to show up day after day to pick up rubbish and recycling was still delivered to rubbish and recycling management plants around Australia.  But Australia was left with a problem the size of a giant pile of rubbish.  The great news is things are beginning to turn around. There is a new industry growing.  We are taking our own waste and recycling it ourselves.  

It’s been six years since China put a stop on allowing other countries rubbish into theirs. Here is a look at what Australia has done since then and if that shock to the waste processing system has actually helped us get our act together. First, let’s admit we have a problem and it’s not just in Australia.  It’s a global problem. One of the biggest rubbish tips in the world is located in China.  It was opened in 1994 and was meant to continue to operate until 2044 but it reached capacity 24 years earlier than predicted.  One of the worlds largest rubbish tips is the size of 100 football fields and is 150 metres deep. By 2030 the World Economic Forum estimates China will create three times the household waste of the United States. China is generating so much waste themselves it’s no wonder they didn’t want anyone else’s. 

Sending our waste to China was a convenient way to deal with the issue. It was out of sight and out of mind, as the saying goes. By the time the China ban kicked in we were using 3.4 million tonnes of plastics in Australia. Just 9.4 of that was recycled of that we still had more than half of it sent offshore. The problem was it wasn’t really our recycling it was our rubbish.  The stuff we were sending was contaminated. Unwashed food containers, mixed materials.  Without China we tried to send our waste elsewhere.  Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, but that didn’t last long either.  Not only did these countries stop taking our recycling, but they sent it back. A problem we had pushed offshore was all of a sudden back on our doorstep.  Australia had been caught with no plan and an industry that is not coping. 

In Australia, plastic became the must have material in the 1950’s.  During the 1960’s plastic production increased by over 400%. By 1979 we were making more plastic than steel.  In the 1980’s came the catch phrase ‘Do The Right Thing – Chuck It In The Bin’ and ads with this have been telling Australians to be mindful of our rubbish and waste ever since. Nevertheless, we have been generating more and more waste including a lot more plastic. In the 1980s we used more than 70 million tonnes of plastic, sadly that was nothing compared to the years that followed.  Recycling has helped us deal with some of that plastic with Australians now recycling 31.7 mega tonnes of plastic, but we are still sending a lot of waste to land fill. The bottom line is that Australians are still creating a lot of waste. 

So how far has Australia come since China announced it would no longer take our waste? In 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Government would be providing one billion dollars to help solve the problem of our waste.  “We need to look at how we create waste, recycle waste and how we can turn our waste into products we can reuse” Prime Minster Morrison stated. “It’s our waste, it’s our responsibility, we have to deal with it”. 

Since then, recycling plants around Australia have become central in dealing with our waste and the Australian national plastics plan was born.  The Australian Government has pledged that 100% of Australian packaging will be recyclable or compostable or reusable by 2025.  Australia has never seen such a commitment to managing waste like this before. 

The plan includes phasing out single use plastics.  South Australia has led the way phasing out those products early in 2021.  Single use plastics are things like knives and forks, balloons, straws and plastic bags. Plastic plates and cotton buds are next.  The stickers on fruit will also be going.  Because the small sticker on fruit can’t be composted.  

There is a lot to sort out and sorting out begins at the point of sale.  In Australia, there are several types of recycling labels, and it is confusing for most people.  Some labels mean the entire package can be recycled but for a lot of the packages our food and drinks come in it means only part of the package can be recycled and that’s where the confusion starts for most of us and it is why we throw things into the rubbish bin instead of trying to figure out what bits of the package can be recycled. Even worse, manufactures in Australia have been able to put a recycle logo on their plastic even if the plastic can’t be recycled! 

Across the country we have such a diversity of waste management labels and systems that there is likely to be things that can’t be recycled.  If you can figure out what the labels mean, figuring out what bin to put it in is the next hurtle.  Depending on where you are in Australia, there are different bins for different things.  Most have red for general landfill and yellow for recycling.  But there are also green for organics being introduced in New South Wales and blue for paper. Victoria is adding a purple bin for glass. 

It can all get very confusing and as part of the one billion dollars the Australian Government has allocated to aid recycling, a new app has been created where you can take a picture of your piece of rubbish, so you know where what recycling bin it goes in.  In Australia, sorting out the real recycling from the rubbish at the waste management plants has been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome also. Sorting has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. Sorting improves the recycling process but there are lots of different types of plastics that need to be sorted and separated to make the recycling process viable.  Mixed plastic passes through sorting machines and then reprocessed.  Aluminium and paper products are also sorted. 

Once the plastic is processed and the plastic cleaned, it is chipped and broken down into pellets so it can be reused.  Large corporations are helping to make the change to recycling and reusing our waste in Australia. Kellogg’s (the maker of Pringles) are trialling a new chip tube. Tip Top have phased out the plastic clips on bread bags, they are being replaced by 100% recycled clips.  Coca-Cola have committed to purchase 13 thousand tonnes of recycled plastic resins from Australia.  It’s significant because it’s the first-time drink bottles will be made with 100% recycled marital.  This is a really important step because the one thing we have never had in Australia is a commitment to use recycled materials once it comes out the other end of waste management plant. 

Using the plastic that recycling creates, isn’t compulsory in Australia yet.  Countries like France are putting taxes on virgin materials.  If a company chooses to use material that hasn’t been recycled, they are taxed as a real incentive to change their ways.

The good news in Australia is there has been a massive shift since 2018 in addressing recycling and waste management has become an important issue.    

The media team have had a lot to do with Sydney based Best Price Rubbish Removal and if you are looking for a junk removal company with a focus on recycling, then these are the people we recommend to call: