CHOICE membership

RECYCLING : is it a farce in Australia?


I wonder if this forum has been used by journos?

"There’s also scope for better public education on recycling to avoid contamination for “much more pure, recyclable waste streams”, he added.

A shock-tactic advertising campaign could also be on the cards, urging a behavioural change to reduce waste and teach people how to recycle properly."

It will be interesting to see what approach is taken.


While the article I am linking to does not specifically relate to Australia, our habits of disposing of plastic via many non recycling ways eg dumping on beaches, throwaway habits and so on must inevitably end up somewhere in the environment causing harm and some could be ending up on the island referenced.


The reason for the farce: market failure.


Queensland Government has released its Energy from Waste (EfW) discussion paper and invites comment from the Queenslanders. EfW refers to converting waste materials into fuels, or energy in the form of electricity, heat, or cooling.

The Queensland Government has developed a discussion paper that outlines the proposed role for EfW in Queensland, how it could support the implementation of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy and support Queensland’s transition to the principles underpinning the circular economy.

The discussion paper provides a set of proposed principles to help guide EfW developments in a way that ensures human health and the environment are protected, and maintains the higher order options such as reuse and recycling identified under the hierarchy.

Queenslanders are invited to have their say on or before 26 August 2019.

More information as well as links to the Discussion Paper can be found here:


The recycling fiasco in Victoria continues.

It certainly reflects the title of this topic.


It’s a joke personally.There have been tests overseas where roads have been made out of 100% recyclable materials,and are better than the real thing A lot less potholes as the road stays together better over a lot longer period of time…2nd point i want to see the government to force all manufactures to use recyclables hardly any companies do that practice.Do those 2 things we will never have any more issues.I’m in Victoria and really dislike what’s going on


An article regarding Victoria being the only state or territory in Australia without a container deposit scheme.

I have never watched Sienfeld but I did watch the videoclip in the article.



Not hilarious, just disappointing. There are always some in the community that try and make as much money from government funded schemes/benefits, thinking it is okay as it is the government.

One would know that the scheme was not rolled out in Victoria and that the deposits could only be returned in NSW (which is why they had ro cross the border with their containers).

Even if they didn’t know it was illegal, blind Freddy would have been able to see that containers bought in Victoria did not have a deposit attached to them…and taking them to NSW was only to make money from these containers. This was more or less confirmed in the clip by all involved. To also boast about having a holiday from the proceeds also shows that more was known about whether it should have been occurring than reported.

This could easily be corrected by only allowing registered depositors (with a customer id) rather than issuing anonymous cash type refunds for centres in a short drive from states without a deposit scheme. It may inconvenience some, but prevent those in border areas of Victoria abusing the NSW scheme.

The NSW government should have identified this through their policy impact assessment…which is a deficiency on their part if they chose not to make the refund scheme NSW only in such areas. Maybe they might chose to do this until such time Victoria implements a similar scheme.


Hilarious was in reference to the Sienfeld clip.

The failure of Victoria to follow the rest of Australia is disgraceful, especially as they hold themselves up to be the leaders in everything.


There’s quite a lot of consumer-themed comedy in Seinfeld. Here’s the clip in the article:

As a side note, we received a query from a researcher at the Oxford English Dictionary who is researching the term “E-waste”. She wrote, “The earliest example we have found, but have been unable to confirm, is from an article in Choice from June 1999, entitled ‘E-waste’, on page 22 of the issue.” It has been confirmed that CHOICE coined the term and it looks like this will now be referenced accordingly.


The next COAG meeting is in Cairns this Friday.

Hopefully something will actually be implenmented to solve this disgraceful mess.


It seems to me that much of our problem comes down to economics. That based solely on capital is inadequate. We need economics that takes account of environmental and social values, as well as capital.

We should get away from notions like waste and disposal. Everything can be used for something. Nothing should be thrown away.

Capital economics seems to say that the stuff that’s the focus of this article can’t be used. Environmental economics tells us that it must be. To my mind, social economics might put the two together and come up with ways of mitigating problems such as underemployment. In this instance politics has intervened, but that’s a poor foundation for the future.


The reality is quite stark and the assessment to the point.

It does sounds a bit like an added cost on waste, or a big fat waste tax. We set out to do something similar with the carbon tax, and it was undone.

I was considering sorting all our waste at home more precisely by each recycling type number (1, 2, 3, etc). And clean paper and cardboard to another, and metals to there own piles, and so it went on. Get rid of the mixed mess in the recycle bin, save the rates charge and do a dump run every second month.

At the local waste transfer and recycling depot what did I learn!
We can recycle:

  • Clean cardboard and paper,
  • Metal in ferrous and other,
  • Waste oil from the car,
  • Green waste including weeds but not solid branches or trunks,
  • E-waste,
  • Car batteries

All else goes to landfill, ( fee per load) and includes

  • All plastics, cat 1-6 recycle symbols,
  • Polystyrene and foams,
  • Dirty cardboard and paper,
  • Glass,
  • Terracotta and China,
  • Car tyres (fee each),
  • Timber,
  • Etc, etc.

Are we there yet?

No one wants plastics. In theory though they should be recoverable or convertible.


Which could be restated as reversing the externalisation of existing costs. Plastic seems cheap when we buy it because we don’t pay the full costs at the time we buy it.

Would it be realistic to expect the same from every resident of the nation? We must develop processes that will deal with the messy reality.

Nothing should be buried. Nothing should be burnt. Everything can be used.

Which is market failure.


If one wishes to see what was said at COAG in relation to recycling, the transcripts cab be found here:

While it is light on detail, there are some pertinent points which were raised. It is worth looking at some of the key points:

PM: We’re laying it out very clearly that there will be no export of plastics and paper and glass to other countries where it runs the risk of ending up floating around in our oceans.”

As which has been incorrectly reported in much of the media, the exporting of resource recovered recycled materials has not been banned. What will be banned is the export of materials which when handled at the receiving country, is likely to result in (plastic) materials entering waterways and thence the ocean. What is interesting is in effect it is localising the ban imposed by countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and China where they have already implemented measures to ban such materials. The outcome of this is the materials won’t be returned to Australia as they would never have left under the proposal by the Coalition government.

As outlined in previous posts, the materials which both the PM and other countries willbe/have banned are those which are contaminated with other waste, such a paper and card streams containing soft plastics (+ other waste such as disposable nappies which wee highlighted by the Indonesian customs officers), plastic stream containing mixed and soft plastics and glass containing contaminants. Due to the high level of contaminants, these materials are taken to local sorting centres where more valuable recovered materials can be isolated from the received waste, with the low or negative value contaminants left exposed to the environment. In Indonesia and Philippines, some of this residual material is either burnt or pushed into waterways in attempt to get rid of the mounting problem.

These are the every materials that the PM has flagged will be banned for export.

It also appears from the information available that the Coalition government isn’t banning the export of all recycled materials. High grade/value and low contamination materials such as those which have a high value noted here will still be able to be exported as they won’t need local manual sorting leading to a localised and global waste problem. Such materials are in high demand and sought by many other countries as raw feedstock to their own industries (and also sought in Australia for the same purposes).

PM: And you know, there’s an implied promise that when you take that plastic bottle and you put it in that little plastic bin that it’s not going to end up in the ocean somewhere or in a river somewhere or in a landfill somewhere. People think it’s going to be recycled. But only about 12 per cent of it is.

This 12% figure is possibly the percentage of plastic waste reused in Australia, rather than that which is reflective of the recycling industry in Australia. For example, in Queensland, about 6.8 million tonnes of recovered materials were generated in 2017-18 and around 880,000 tonnes was sent overseas either for recycling or for waste to energy. This corresponds to around 13% was exported to other markets. If one looks at plastics in Queensland, about 7000 tonnes was processed in Australia, with about 19000 tonnes exported (73% plastic stream exported while 27% processed locally).

Not really, potentially political spin of numbers that the real situation (see above figures).

There is already a tax or levy imposed on the disposal of waste in many states. These are often called waste levies. The only state which currently does not have a mandatory state based levy is Tasmania, however, Tasmania has a modest voluntary levy introduced by some local authorities in some regions.

These waste levies are significant and provide a large disincentive to land filling recycled materials.

In some states (Qld is one example), the waste levy is used to provide a source of funding to enable better resource recovery practices, provide certainty and security of feedstocks for advanced technology and facilitate industry investment in resource recovery infrastructure. So in another words, the waste tax or levy which has already been introduced by many states is used to facilitate the advancement of the recycling industry in Australia.

One wonders whether the PM’s announcement is announcing old news as a response to the recent problems relating to high contaminated and unwanted/unusable resource recovered materials in Victoria. ‘Seen to be doing something which is already happening’.

ALGA PRESIDENT DAVID O’LOUGHLIN: There are a lot of jobs that can be created onshore here in Australia to recycle this material to get it into hot mix, to get into the spray seal, to get into road base, to create high-value products.

There possibly needs to be a community debate of whether the use of plastic in hot mix provides a beneficial environmental outcome.

While plastic in hot mix asphalt has shown to improve the performance of the asphalt, in effect the process spreads plastic around the countryside where over time due to road wear and tear and the weathering of the road surface, these plastics most like in the form of microplastics, are likely to enter the wide environment. This includes the same oceans that the PM has indicated above.

This form of use of plastics while it has some benefits in asphalt performance, is closer to a form of waste disposal (alternative to landfill) rather than a reuse or recycling as often consider better use of resource recovered materials. Such uses also possibly overcomes the high contaminated plastic streams, such as those currently a problem in Victoria, as such use can use in hot mix can use and ‘hide’ or provide an avenue to get rid of these problem materials.

Is it the best use of the materials, don’t know and why there needs discussion on the issue. The PM also indicated placing waste into roadbase. This potentially may be even more concerning than hot mix since roadbase is a looser, more friable/mobile product.

It also addresses the problem (contaminated plastic waste) rather than the source (preventing contamination in the plastic stream by individuals who chose to place such materials in their recycling bins. If Australia could solve such problem, the resulting recovered materials streams would be highly sought by industry (both in Australia and Internationally) and products would most likely have a positive value (rather than being a cost/negative value when it contains unwanted contaminants).

In the 1990s when recycling became mainstream Australia Australia, there was much work to keep ceramics out of the recycling stream (as ceramics have a similar density to glass and can’t be removed from the glass stream. Ceramics destroy the ability to recycle glass as it remains in the recycled product making it susceptible to failure). Maybe the same sort of education needs to also occur with the high level of contamination from some waste catchments.

All states should also roll out container deposits schemes which are convenient to the community (unlike those which exist in Qld and NSW where recycling centres are not located in convenient locations). States could also expand the program to include say wine bottles and other plastic containers to help minimise contamination (reverse vending machines would be set up to accept one particular plastic type).

As outlined in the very early part of this thread, transparent recycling containers used for collection purposes and those identified as being contaminated at collection, are not connected…this would also minimise contamination.

Possibly punitive action (infringement notices, prosecutions etc) should also be taken against those blatantly disregard current local authority recycling requirements.

Plastics are sought, but in many regional areas the cost of handling, processing and haulage of such materials makes them uneconomic to recover. It is often cheaper to use virgin materials than take in recycled materials which have travelled half the way around the country.

Not withstanding this, maybe if the plastic stream is clean, the local authority could apply to the relevant state government for a grant to collect and develop local markets for plastics. There are many uses, which are simple to do, which could be adopted. Such may include making fence posts, stock gates or polypipes from recycled plastic streams which are often in demand in regional areas.

Hopefully awareness of the problems such as that in Victoria and other states where streams are contaminated by poor behaviour of individuals will resolve some of the challenges facing the industry. Hopefully it may also encourage those with a conscious to also buy recycled products in preference to their virgin counterpart.


An article regarding that the medals to be presented at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be all made out of recycled materials from old mobile phones.

At least some people are actually doing something useful with waste.


There is some good research going on around the world, and Australia has one of the leaders in the field…namely Professor Veena Sahajwalla. If one is interested, it is worth seeking out some of the research that Professor Sahajwalla has done at the UNSW…it is quite interesting from a very innovative and enthusiastic individual.


Agree totally. I’ve mentioned similar concerns in another topic previously. It is not recycling and it is not safe disposal.

The most alarming aspect of adding certain recovered waste materials to roadway construction is how directly it becomes polluting.

Nearly all runoff from pavements goes to road side drainage and into waterways, or in urban environments to stormwater and hence major waterways. Run off is a mixture of wear materials from the pavement seals, car tyres, engine exhaust solids and lubricants. The seals include a mixture of carbon/petrochemical related products or byproducts. Adding recovered plastics to the pavement seals adds one more variation to the nature of the products entering the waterways and our food chain.

I wonder if there is wilful ignorance by those making the suggestions and an assumption the greater population are ignorant or don’t care? The alternative is that those in control of the decision making are genuinely ignorant.

It’s a question I’d also want to see an answer to.

The collection and recycling of urban runoff is often promoted as improving water security. Perhaps if we added plastics to the mix there is a even more pressing need to do so on a broader scale. In recovering such runoff, and recycling, there will be a concentrate or sludge containing all the related road runoff petrochemical byproducts and micro-plastic contaminants. To save costs would the waste be untreated and returned as part of an unregulated environmental flow? Typical disposal strategy for waste streams from some RO water treatment plants.

Should I still be concerned to ensure our household waste is pre-sorted reliably and managed for the best environmental outcome? :frog:

In the short term if we can’t recycle to a manageable product, it may be safer to ensure what we do create, (less is better) is collectively buried for future recovery or conversion, and to an environmentally safe outcome?


Sadly it is!

Saw a clip on line yesterday that in Japan it’s against the law to throw out electrical appliances… they re purpose them and then use to make new ones.

When will Australia wake up?


:thinking: Somehow, $20 million doesn’t sound very impressive.