Keep on recycling
Author: Carol Warwick
The waste and recycling industry has been under the spotlight recently causing Australians to ask “Should we keep recycling?” Planet Ark says yes, and this is why.
Why should we recycle?
The recently released Australian National Waste Report 2016 states that in 2014–2015 Australians produced about 64 million tonnes of waste, the equivalent of 2.7 tonnes per capita. This includes approximately 565kg of municipal waste per capita, collected from kerbsides. The proportion of waste that was recycled in 2014–2015 is about 60%. This is good but Australia’s rates of waste generation and recycling are around average for a developed economy, so more can be done, and when the options of reduce, reuse, repair and refuse are not possible, recycling is still the best option.
Australia is generating more commercial and industrial (C&I), and construction and demolition (C&D) waste, but recycling a greater proportion of it. One of the reasons for Planet Ark’s continuing partnership with Bingo Industries is their industry-leading recycling rates for C&D waste. Their new Auburn plant recovers at least 85% of C&D materials that go through their facility. It still means 15% goes to landfill but there is no better C&D recovery rate in Australia.
The recycling process recovers and diverts materials away from landfills which is important because resources like glass, aluminium, paper and plastic are too valuable to send to landfill. Getting those materials back into the circular economy, by recycling them into new products and materials, benefits the environment and the economy, and reduces the burden on virgin resources.
Every Australian produces waste and the unfortunate reality is, we all contribute to landfill, either directly with our home waste or indirectly through our workplaces and the products and services we purchase. Generally, the recycling and waste industry is doing well in moving materials back to markets but there is more work to do. In an ideal world we would have a fully circular economy, in which waste is considered a resource and used as the input for further manufacturing, rather than using virgin materials with less consumption and packaging, no landfills, and no waste going into the environment. But we have to be realistic about our capabilities to manage our current level of waste production.
If you have separate recycling and general rubbish bins at home, you’ll know there is always some waste that cannot go into the recycling bin. It’s the same for the recycling industry. Until technology in this area advances further and the economics become more favourable, there will be materials which cannot be recycled and have no other viable option than to go to landfill.
Like any other industry, recycling is vulnerable to the fluctuations of the commodities market. The industry’s profit margins are often tight and it has stiff competition from cheap imports. Demand for recycled materials is an important part of the equation. It has been reported that quantities of glass are currently being stockpiled because low cost glass imports make it unviable for manufacturers to purchase locally recycled glass.
Stockpiling (within legislated limits) is a regular and legal practice, designed to store materials, rather than sending them to landfill, until the market price rises and they can be sold and used. Providing it's done safely, stockpiling is not necessarily bad for the environment, but it is not a perfect solution because ideally those materials would be made back into new products. Excessive stockpiling could be avoided through levies on cheaper imported materials, market incentives or recycled content legislation which would encourage manufacturers to buy their materials locally.
If recycled materials are contaminated they can be deemed valueless by a recycler, and sent to landfill, rather than stockpiled. In the case of glass, contamination due to the mixing of different colours is a big barrier to recycling. Glass must always be separated by colour, but this isn’t easy because through kerbside recycling, a glass bottle from one home will be mixed with glass from thousands of other homes, and the risk of contamination is high. This is why container deposit schemes can be so effective — they remove glass from kerbside recycling and process it in a more specialised way.
What’s the deal with landfill?
State and territory governments manage and enforce laws around landfills and waste management. Any form of landfilling must be done safely and legally, and anyone involved in illegal dumping should be called to account. We support the NSW EPA’s firm legislation in this area. If Queensland had a landfill levy like NSW, the issue of the transportation of waste interstate would not exist.
The NSW EPA is leading the country when it comes to investment in waste and recycling with another $337 million to be invested from 2017 to 2021, and states and territories with the lowest recovery rates are improving the fastest and catching up to the highest performing.
The good news
Like the ABC’s War on Waste before it, Four Corners’ program Trashed has brought the issue of waste management to the fore, and now major players in the industry, our politicians and the community are talking about it. We see this as a very good thing.
Australia is generating less municipal waste per capita and recycling more of what is generated. Planet Ark believes the emerging circular economy will provide a significant solution to the problem of waste.
There are plenty of positive environmental actions you can take with waste:
- Reduce. Reuse. Recycle! Reduce consumption where possible, especially of single-use items like plastic bags. Reuse existing items rather than repurchasing something new. If you can’t reduce or reuse, then recycle.
- Keep recycling: For more on what can and can’t be recycled in your area visit contact your local council and www.recyclingnearyou.com.au
- Be a conscious consumer: and consider the packaging of a product when making a purchasing decision. What will you do with the packaging? Is it recyclable in your area? Can you take your own container or buy in bulk to reduce waste?
- Practise a circular lifestyle: Look for products made from recycled materials, such as recycled toilet tissue or recycled office paper.
- Choose the right recycler: If your business is concerned about which recycler to use, Planet Ark’s Choosing the Right Recycler Checklist and Factsheet outlines the key questions you should ask a potential recycler to help you ensure they are doing the right thing environmentally and legally.
- Learn more about the circular economy here and here . If you would like to read more detailed information about our partnership with Bingo Industries you can download our Q & A statement.
Carol worked at Planet Ark in the PR and Media Team in 2017.
- Businesses urged to cease use of till receipts containing potentially harmful chemicals »
- Planet Ark meets Australia's new environment minister »
- Sustainable printing? Yes, it is possible! »
- Planet Ark to lead National Circular Economy Hub and Marketplace »
- The latest data on commercial and industrial waste »
- Research finds Aussies have faith in Planet Ark's endorsement program »
- Recycling is not a con. Here's why »
- Planet Ark's National Recycling Week 2018 recap »
- Planet Ark endorses Detpak's new coffee cup recycling system »
- Planet Ark announces media partnership with Australian Circular Fashion Conference »
- Important green dates for the 2019 school calendar »
- The new regifting - giving recycled products »
- Brisbane Tool Library takes share economy to the next level »
- Unilever takes steps towards a circular economy »
- Naturale pledges to end recycling labelling confusion »
- New research sheds light on Australian attitudes towards environmental sustainability »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - Preloved clothing as your first fashion option »
- Make the Naturale choice at the supermarket »
- Reflections on a Plastic Free July »
- China challenge an opportunity for the Australian recycling industry »
- Packaging industry moves towards better plastic recycling outcomes »
- War on Waste is back! »
- How Cartridges 4 Planet Ark is part of the solution to plastic pollution »
- Planet Ark urges Ipswich Council to reverse decision to send valuable materials to landfill - and the Council agrees »
- Win the war on waste at work! »
- 8 ways to green your 2018 »
- Our green resolutions »
- Office paper flung all over the country »
- Pay it forward and get a recycled bargain on Buy It Back Day »
- Inspiring story: "Charging" up local battery recycling »
- Inspiring story: Making 3D printer parts from e-waste »
- Inspiring story: Building roads from cigarette butts »
- Inspiring story: Creating outdoor furniture from soft plastics »
- Inspiring story: Landscaping a garden bed from printer cartridges »
- 3 tips for businesses to buy recycled »
- There's still time for a Fling »
- The missing piece of the recycling puzzle »
- We're bursting with ideas, events and activities to share with you for National Recycling Week »
- Why buying it back is good for business and the environment »
- What's so special about Naturale? »
- Take the Schools Recycle Right Challenge »
- Sunshine Coast sisters launch Australian-first sustainability project »
- What do Smiths, Kathmandu and Jurlique have in common? »
- Going plastic free: what does it take? »
- The Positive Results of the War on Waste »
- Australia's First Rescued Food Supermarket is a Win-win for the Planet and Those in Need. »
- Do you print on 100% recycled office paper? Epson does! »
- 14 Items You Can Recycle - But Probably Aren't (Part One) »
- Architecture Students and Refugees Build a Timber Community Centre for a Refugee Camp in Mannheim, Germany. »
- Australia's Tallest Engineered Timber Building to be Built in Brisbane »
- Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to Feature a Wooden Arena »
- Spotted Gum and Ironbark Feature in ICC Sydney »
- Construction to Commence on the Otago Polytechnic Student Village »
- WoodTek Headquarters - Taiwan's First CLT Building »
- Two More Wood Encouragement Policies Introduced in Western Australia »
- Kaikoura District Council Building Survives Major Earthquake Unscathed »
- Construction Commences on a 10-storey CLT Luxury Retirement Village in Sydney »
- Get Crafty this Christmas »
- National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life Launched »
- Low Carbon Football Stadium Made of Sustainably Sourced Wood »
- Planet Ark Launches 100% Recycled Office Paper »
- Planet Ark Launches 100% Recycled Office Paper »
- Win a YEAR'S SUPPLY of Naturale Toilet Tissue »
- Taking Shape - South Australia's First Timber Apartment Building »
- Canada Tops Out World's Tallest Wood-Frame Building »
- Post Back Your Post Packs »
- 5 Photos You Can Take to Help the Environment »
- Marist College, Bendigo Wins Sustainability Category in the 2016 Australian Timber Design Awards »
- New Nelson Airport to Showcase Engineered Wood »
- Construction Milestone for World's Tallest Mass Timber Building »
- East Gippsland Shire Council Adopts a Wood Encouragement Policy »
- Landmark Timber Skyscraper to be Built in Amsterdam »
- Community Garden Transformation Competition 2016 »
- Using Timber to Assist in the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy - A UN Report »
- First Shipment of CLT Arrives in Campbelltown »
- Community Garden Competition »
- Official Opening of the Centre for Future Timber Structures at UQ »
- Adding Trees - A Prescription for Health, Happiness and Fulfilment »
- Come and Join us at SEE Sustainable Experience »
- Keeping Warm for the Planet »
- World's Tallest Mass Timber Building Is Underway In Vancouver »
- Who Made the Top Ten Cartridge Recyclers »
- Cash For Containers In NSW - It Pays To Recycle »
- 57m Tall Timber Building Wins Competition In France »
- Fashionable Questions - Who Made Your Clothes and Where Do They End Up? »
- Maleny Wood Expo 20th Anniversary »
- Does Timber High-Rise Equal High Risk? »
- Four Eyes For Recycling »
- Norwegian Project Breaks Tall Wood Building Record »
- 2015 Australian Timber Design Award »
- New Code Allows for Eight-Storey Timber Buildings »
- Change Accelerates 'Wood First' Policies »
- Discount Tickets for 'dirtgirl's get grubby the musical' at the Opera House »
- Drink Coffee? Take our Coffee Recycling Survey »
- Re-Wrap It Up »
- What's In a Label? »
- Is it Gold For Australia? »
- Make Recycling at Work, Work »
- Let the Flings Begin »
- Recycling Role Models »
- Inspiring Performers »
- Help Save Safe Toilet Paper! »
- Planet Ark's new packaging tool a finalist in Banksia Sustainability Awards »
- Garage Sale Trailing Right Around Australia »
- Awake to the Fun of Recycling »
- Declutter Your Office E-waste for FREE »
- Power Tool Battery Recycling Pilot Launches in Brisbane »
- Reduce Your Pet's Paw Print »
- One House, Four Hours, Four Tonnes of Recycling »
- The art of upcycling »
- Clean Clothes for Sensitive Souls »
- PREP For Better Recycling »
- Turning Trash Into Treasure »
- Wood - A Growing Answer to Climate Change »