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RECYCLING : is it a farce in Australia?


How is it minimising costs by outsourcing recycling to companies that exist to make a profit and have no long term planning aside from winning the next contract?

Government is 100% responsible for everything that happens in this space, they are responsible for losing so much support from the public and they are responsible for the current mess.

Government (all) levels should do what they are paid to do and that is govern and make decisions based on what is best for us not based on what means no work for them. Recycling should be handled by all levels of government, for example all that glass was sitting around and governments were using virgin sand for building roads when that glass could have been put to use. The other issue is that road building is now contracted out to firms that once again only care about profits not about the longevity of roads nor using recycled goods.

I’ve always recycled everything that I can and minimised waste but now I just don’t see the point anymore, a lot of it is just going to landfill and they have all sorts of ridiculous rules around what can be recycled. (look at the container refund scheme in Queensland that no longer accepts bottles with lids on because they might fly off under pressure! Every other CRS in the world accepts them but Queensland makes you remove them.).

You mean like the Queensland government who flew in bottled water made from treated sewage from Singapore to promote it’s treated sewage water plan that resulted in over $10 billion being wasted when no-one would accept it as safe and we now have water bills that are three times what they used to be? Where no-one really cares now about saving water because we pay so much anyway in fixed costs why not use some more water.

Because we are stupid beyond all belief. What other decent country would do such a thing?

No we’re not. The only part that I play is to vote for people to manage in line with community expectations and it’s not my fault they are totally inept and useless, the people involved are all paid very well to manage this process yet have chosen without consultation to allow private companies to decide how to do deal with the processing and as usual we only find out when it all falls over. Outsourcing government responsibilities does not work as we can see time and time again. All I see is money being wasted everywhere because governments don’t want to do any work. What I expect is that we recycle as much as we can in Australia using Australians and with Australia profiting.

Our politicians have sold us up the river again, it’s an ongoing issue in Australia and there are no repercussions for their poor performance.


“Is Australia Farcical”
and our inability to deal with recycling just a symptom of the failures of government?

It appears our governments:

  • Cannot deliver a solution to waste management and reuse?
  • Cannot agree on and effectively manage water west of the Great Divide?
  • Cannot agree on and deliver an effective national energy policy?
  • Cannot deliver an effective and equal national broadband network to all?
  • Cannot deliver - add as many roles and functions as seem appropriate. (Health and aged care, NDIS, Cultural Equity, etc, etc, etc)

However, they can find the funds to deliver the JSF, new submarines and other defence goodies. All late and all over budget worth many hundreds of billions of dollars.

Would it be farcical if we could make Canberra the recycling capital of Australia?

It has plenty of expertise in recycling. Mostly outdated policy though from another era!

P.s. Climate change omitted for clarity. It’s not farcical, simply factual.


A good news article regarding recycling.


Victoria is now producing recycled products to produce sand and asphalt for for road construction materials.

And recycling may be declared an essential service in Victoria.

Great stuff. Maybe we are finally getting somewhere.



Another fantastic recycling project in Australia turning old tyres into oil, steel and carbon without any emissions.

What a shame that the EPA stalled the project for years whilst the forward thinking entrepreneur had their capital tied up instead of being able to process old tyres.

Another article regarding waste recycling in WA.


Unfortunately we (all Australian) are also part of the problem.

Australian’s still are placing contaminants into the recycling waste stream thinking it is someone else’s problem. China also refused recycled from western countries, including Australia, because of the level of contamination (contaminants were >5%).

If Australian’s were not contaminating the recycling waste stream, then we would have many other countries which would accept materials from this stream. It is also likely that the opportunity to recycle the plastics in Australia would be maximised. If the contaminants were less than 5%, then there would still be a international market open for our recyclable materials which could not be consumed by industry locally.

I have no issue with other countries using our recyclable outputs, as it will still reduce the reliance on virgin materials (e.g. oils, forests etc) which affects the planet as a whole.

What is a farce, is that even after Australian has been actively for over 20 years, Australian’s still can’t get it right or don’t care much about recycling. If we did care and take ownership of the problem in our recycling bins, then there would not be any issues. like those which exist today.

Even visiting our local supermarket today, there were yoghurt containers, juice containers, whole non-plastic materials (e.g. cardboard biscuit packaging) placed in the Redcycle bins. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that these are not soft plastics. Another example of Australian’s not taking responsibility in the recycling available to us to ensure that it is recycled and doesn’t become landfill because of the contaminant’s added.


An interesting article regarding research into recycling textiles into new products.

With so many people working on so many potential solutions to improve recycling outcomes, it must surely improve just as medical research is doing.

Clothing ethics - recycling, textiles productions, fabric type, retailers

An article regarding the massive amount of waste generated by single use products in the medical profession.

Whilst items such as syringes should not be reused, there are obviously many items that can be recycled instead of ending up in landfill.


We could go back to glass syringes, glass bottles for IV infusions etc. Break out the Central Sterilising Department again? It would be doable.

Waste is endemic to medicine. Dressings cant be recycled, even if they are made from some kind of recyclable material, because… cross infection. You’d never be 100% sure of getting rid of the bugs.

My insulin pens. PLastic but not recyclable. Don’t know what happens to the sharps. I put them in a big yellow contamination container and take those to the local dump which has a special bin for them.



Sharps are supposed to be incinerated in industrial furnaces similar to top secret documents after they have been also confetti shredded. I doubt it happens all the time but that is the accepted method.


As is so often the case, it’s a question of where to draw the line. The medical industry has gone down the same path as all the others - the path of least up-front cost. That externalises costs associated with pollution and other harms.


Yes it could be doable and may be cheaper for the patient, but also a possible weak link in the disease control and management chain. The main reason from what I understand and can find is that the medical industry moved to disposable items to reduce the potential risk of disease transmission from multi-use devices. Autoclaving may not be 100% effective for a number of reasons, such as equipment malfunction, human error and poor hygiene practices. It is also worth noting that there are still some multi-use devices still used in the medical industry, such as part of robotics, bedding etc.

Some items are recycled where possible (metal implements which are subject to extreme temperatures when recycled for remoulding…but much is burnt in industrial incinerators (including pathology etc). High temperatures are needed to ensure and reduce diease transmission). Maybe incinerators could have electrucity co-generation which could be an acceptable waste management strategy for the material, rather than losing all its energy potential to the atmoshere. There may also he other low risk management strategies which could be explored.

I suppose if the community (and insurers and legal industry) accepts higher risk of cross-contamination of reused medical implements, then higher level of reuse would be possible. I personally wouldn’t support this as one has a higher risk of getting a disease while being in hospital due to surgery/suppressed immunity…and the additional risk of poorly cleaned implements would increase existing risks.


I probably should have found a tongue-in-cheek icon. I have worked in a CSD and I have worked with most types of materials in hospitals. I wouldnt support a return to it, either.


From what I can gather based on a recent trip to accompany someone in emergency, the only thing not disposable is the building we were in, and the hard parts of bed frames/etc. Everything else, including the staff, seemed disposable - which was really sad because at the same time as they were tearing open wipes and cleansers and all manner of stuff for one moment of use, they were telling us how they were flown in and here temporarily etc etc. Don’t get me wrong - amazing people, skilled and dedicated and focused on their job, but I don’t know how they do it. That, and the waste from one relatively small wound scrape out from a bike accident amounted to probably a wheely bin full …


They still autoclave some surgical equipment but they are affected by the extreme heat and so do not last long. Needles, blades, and similar are too hard to deal with eg hypodermic needles are good for a single use as they blunt and are also impossible to clean, same with scalpels. As an example of one that may be saved for further use is a trocar or some say trochar which is like a giant sized hypodermic that is used such as a portal in laparoscopic surgery or for draining fluids. It can either be disposable or reuseable, the reusable ones are autoclaved. Forceps, artery clamps and others are also many times reusable.

I guess it all comes down to what is worth the extra effort due to cost of purchase, ease of cleaning, ability to be reused effectively eg as hypodernic needles blunt on first use and have such narrow ducts they are not reuseable, nor would needles that are used for stitching, but the staple guns would be worth trying to have reuseable ones.


I believe that recycling is a good thing, but as mentioned there are many flaws in the system. The very basics still need to be adhered to, recycle items only in recycle bins. A lot of people do not take the time to read about what can and can not be recycled and that the removal of tops/lids from bottles, jars, plastic containers etc is part of the recycle guide due to different materials used in the tops/lids etc. Also shopping bags are only recyclable through supermarket recycle bins. I find the recycle rubbish bins are a bit of a nightmare as people dump there rubbish in another persons recycle bin when it should be in the rubbish bin. A lot of people do not follow the basic recycle guides/rules. Also why not recycle bins in the shopping centre area streets?


This is very good advice and one of tbe reasons why the export of recyclable materiaks are becoming more and more difficult. A metal lid on a glass jar or a plastic cap on a PET bottle can make the level of contamination in the glass/plastic exceed 5%, which is the threashokd level now used in China and some other countries for the maximum level of contamination.

I wonder how many in this forum place bottles, jars etc in their wheelie bin with the lids still attached…at out local container recycling centre which I have been to a few times now to get deposits back, from my own observation about 1/2 leave tbe lids/caps on. This significantly devalues the materials being recycled and the opportunities for reuse/recycling.

Australians are blaming the government, industry, other countries etc for Australia’s recycling woes, but if we were all dilligent recyclers and did follow best practice in the home/business, other countries would be seeking our recyclables due to the high quality/low contamination rate of the material.

The recent rejection of container loads recycled materials in Indonesia was because of the high level if soft plastics and even used nappies in the paper to be recycled. Both these wastes shoukd never have been in the recycling bin in the first place and it is Australian’s poor recycling practices…or not really caring, that has lead to the problems we face today.

I give lectures in resource recovery and this is a tooic I touch on as it often dominates questions students have.

It is saddening that we blame others for theproblems, when the problem is really ourselves.


An honest question since most people make decisions fully or partly on their pocket books. There is information and mis-information about washing recyclables prior to putting them in the recycling bins. One side says do it, the other says food scraps should be scraped off but it is a waste to also wash it since it has to be washed during processing anyway.

If ‘we’ wash our recyclables it is our water, our detergent, and possibly our electricity. It might effectively be a donation (albeit negligible) to the for-profit recycling industry, would it not? Depending on where ‘we’ live the water we use is multiply billed for use and sewage and sometimes also affects add-ons like ‘waterways fees’.

Depending on which advice is correct doing the right thing could have indirect costs to the recycler (us), and those doing it hard economically need every dollar just to get by; what do they do if recyclables are supposed to be washed prior to going in the bin?

Some clarity will be greatly appreciated.


It really depends on the local government area where the recycling occurs and it is always best to seek local information and requirements rather than a action that fits all. Different receivers of the recycled materials have different requirements and this will usually direct what is required locally.

Even it it is not required by the local authority, one may chose to rinse (rather the wash) recycled containers especially in summer or if the bin won’t be emptied for some time to prevent odours from putrescible food wastes residues.

In Brisbane, our local area, there is no requirement to wash recyclable materials…but they should be free of food residues which are likely to come loose or contaminate the remainder of the recycling bin. An example would be a half tin of baked beans…rather than dumping half a tin of baked beans in the recycling bin, the baked beans (free food) should be removed with the empty can, albeit still containing minor sauce residues, recycled. Likewise with a bottle of out of date milk…the cap/lid should be removed, milk should be drained and the emptied container placed into the recycling bin.

It is good practice, irrespective of what one’s local authority says, to remove all free food wastes on materials to be recycled. The main reason for this is most MURFs have manual sorting which means that the waste contractors employees manually handle some of the materials. As the materials are sorted by hand, it is best to ensure that foods and liquids which can easily be removed are to enable a safer and better work environment for the sorters. It also reduces cross contamination of other materials (e.g. oils on paper etc) and vermin (mice, rats, flies/maggots) in the bin. This means ensuring all liquids are drained and any contents of a jar/container are removed prior to recycling. It is depressing to see what materials end up in the recycling bin and are faced by manual sorters at the MURF every day.

Possibly if the waste industry/government educates the community that the contents of a recycling bin is handed by other after it is collected, one may be more conscious of what is placed into the they may have a concern for those who may have to handle their waste.

The other option may be to use large open containers rather than bins…so that a quick inspection of the recyclables can be taken on their collection. If there is evidence of contamination (soft plastics, general/green/building waste etc), the container is not collected. This may also encourage those who chose to do the wrong thing to do the right thing…or to not recycle which would still be better than their actions contaminating the remainder of the collected recyclables from others.


An article regarding constructing homes from recycled PET plastic bottles.

Presumably they are not flammable like the dodgy plastic cladding.