Could The Six-Bin Approach Solve Australia’s Recycling Crisis?

A report from the ABC shows that the Victorian State Government is considering ways it can improve the effectiveness of its recycling program across the state using six separate bins.

The news comes after the publication of a report commissioned by the State Government from Infrastructure Victoria, where the six-bin model was mentioned alongside other recycling initiatives to keep the infrastructure in line with the rising amount of waste that can no longer be sent to China for processing.

“It’s very important that we have very clean streams of materials that are easy to recycle,” said project director at Infrastructure Victoria, Elissa McNamara.

“In the past, we’ve been able to just set and forget… Now, we’ve had this global shock that really requires us to urgently reconsider how we deal with our recycling,” she said.

According to the ABC’s Ben Knight, “the proposed six-bins system could involve separating rubbish into stackable crates that would be carried out to the kerb on something similar to a removalist’s trolley.”

The report also outlines some other options for the State Government to ponder, including new ways to deal with food waste which, as it stands, constitutes one-third of household waste making its way into landfill.

“The system where everything’s all put in the one bin has been around for 20 years, and we haven’t updated that,” she continued to explain. “The glass gets broken, paper and cardboard get tiny particles of glass in it… they’re so mixed up and contaminated that it’s really hard to extract a high-value material that can be recycled.”

Takeaways from the Report:

-Between 2000 and 2018, total waste generated in Victoria nearly doubled from 7.44 million tonnes to 14.5 million tonnes.

-Around one-third of waste generated - and more than half of all kerbside waste - went to landfill in 2017.

-14% of recovered material was exported overseas in 2017, but China, Malaysia and Bangladesh are now starting to refuse waste imports.

-Businesses generate 33% of waste going to landfill, and food waste makes up 20%.

-35% of household waste entering landfill is food waste.

-Infrastructure Victoria’s consumer research demonstrates 90% of households are open to changing how they sort waste.

Source: Infrastructure Victoria.

The proposed six-bin model is based on the model currently used by Wales, which is not-so-coincidentally the world’s best recycler of waste. Toby Brennan, a consultant who has worked on solving the issue on behalf of Infrastructure Victoria says that “all the evidence tells us that if you want a high-quality recycling system, you need more separation by householders before the waste gets into the system.”

“Wales has become one of the top recycling countries in the world,” Brennan added, stating that more than 50% of household waste is recycled in Wales.

“They don’t have three bins, they have six. And instead of the typical waste truck that we’re used to, where the bin goes on the back, it might have seven or eight different compartments along the side for different types of waste.”

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