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RECYCLING : is it a farce in Australia?


I believe that this should not be seen as the first solution…but using mulit-use containers would be the primary aim. When many baby boomers and generation Xs grew up, most glass bottles were reused (soft drink, beer etc). With the advent of cheap single use plastic and glass containers which competed with the reusable containers, these reusable containers slowly disappeared from the packaging industry. It maybe worthwhile focusing on packaging reuse over all manufacturing sectors. If this is done, only those with unique packaging requirements or reusable containers which are damaged, would need recycling. Most containers can be reused potentially hundreds of times.

Reuse also removes the problem of what to do with the materials waiting to be recycled and also the problem of litter (reason for the NSW/Qld ineffective and inefficient container deposit schemes) as the multi-use containers would become a valuable resource.


Japan has apparently taken recycling seriously. Perhaps they offer a “Laymen’s Phd” for the sort process…


When you read something like that Phil it’s a case of " Ripley’s Believe it or Not " lives .:open_mouth:


Riding my mountain bike hundreds of kilometres around the backroads each week I get to see all the roadside rubbish (now much more visible due to the extremely dry conditions), and I’m afraid that despite the recently introduced container deposit/refund system introduced in NSW, people are still throwing cans and bottles from their cars. Freshly discarded cans and bottles continue to appear at a similar rate. I have seen a couple of people collecting cans and bottles, but only the ones they think they can get money for, the rest is left.


And from what I’ve heard despite NSW now having an aluminum can recycle thing, it’s (at least in the Newcastle region) a non starter due to 1. Recycle locations being few and far between, and 2. (So I’ve heard) that you can’t return crushed cans, so you have to cart them all there in their original boxes, full size!


Yes, that is the case. Doesn’t make much sense to me, especially when truck loads of cans are involved- truckloads of air with a small amount of Aluminium makes no sense at all!


Literally decades ago, fascist can depots in SA tried the same rubbish - making up their own rules as they went along, usually bullying kids collecting cans, and getting away with it. But not all of them :slight_smile:

More recently it has happened in the NT - and container collection depots seem to be trying the same thing, along with some inane laws that seem to be directed at people who are perceived to be bringing truckloads of cans from 2000km away to cash in … as if … its like the perfect storm of bureaucracy and stupidity, but I tautologise :slight_smile:

I actually believe container deposits are a good idea - and anecdotally they seem to be working here - the red centre is again more red than VB-can green, with both individuals and clubs doing the recycling for cash thing. Rumour has it the scouts will be in on the act officially soon, which is fantastic - money going to a good cause. I was never a scout, but I count among my friends some lovely, selfless and generous people who do amazing things with our local youth, to the extent that I prefer just to donate all my deposit containers to them rather than collect on them.

Like so many things in this crazy country that we love in-spite-of - container collection should be national in my loosely informed opinion :slight_smile:


My best guess is to follow the money between the pollies and the trucking companies.:thinking:


It’s to do when the automated sorting systems. Flattened cans can become mixed with other recycled streams such as cardboard.

The sorting machine are more effective in sorting uncrushed cans and these are removed using induced polarity…a magnetic field is induced on the can allowing it to be magnetically pushed from a production stream. After sorting the cans can be crushed and transported.


With a population in the 1000s, it would be not cost effective to automate the processing of such a small waste stream. They would be better to join with neighbours and ship their recyclable stream to the ‘big smoke’.

There are sporting systems which can do most of the manual sorting that they do, especially for steel, glass and some plastics. The optical eye/scanning technologies have advanced enormously in the past decade and it is possible to air blast different colour glass from a recycled glass stream using gas jets and optical eyes.

Likewise with plastic sorting, the use of specialised optical scanning can also differentiate between plastics.

There is a downside though, optical scanning technologies while are becoming more efficient and effective, they can take time to separate large waste stream and the waste stream needs to be pre-sorted (automatically?) to minimise contaminants and also the time taken.


On ABC last night a story about our recycling problems, featuring in a village in Japan where waste is sorted into 45 different categories by the residents! Different coloured glass, types of plastic etc.


Yes, amazing how Japan manages waste. On our first trip in 2010 we had to separate all our waste into 6 different bins. Not that hard to do.

I wonder if changing our strategy with how we manage our own waste might drive change.

It is possible and sensible for the end user to sort or segregate all our waste first. Simpler to do this at source rather than just fill up the recycling bin.

The second part of the change process would be to do away with the recycling bin. Everything we recycle we have brought home from a shop. After making use of the contents the volume and mass left over is a fraction of each shop. Have the shops doing the selling become the collection point. And hold them responsible for the next step. All we need to do is remember to take it with us next time to the shops.

It would be in the best interests of the sellers then to minimise packaging and maximise waste recovery.

Such a strategy still allows for deposits refund schemes. Government can also set the cost bar higher for waste to burial/landfill if needed to discourage easy dumping.

The current business friendly strategy places the primary ownership of the problems and financial burden of recycling on the end user, IE the customers. That something is expensive to recycle or difficult to recycle does not cost the retailer/manufacturer.

Once upon a time we had a similar good system for milk and coke etc. We have since lost reusable glass bottles for milk, soft drink etc. There is a handling and cleaning cost to reuse. More critically paper and plastic containers are low cost to produce. Glass containers also take up valuable shipping volume and add weight increasing freight costs substantially. Food manufacturers had a windfall profit increase when they swapped to plastic and cardboard alternatives. This is where the change needs to be?

Waste Collection - pay by the kilogram

I wonder if these increased costs for recycling/reshipping used bottles/etc stack up against the externalised costs of a throw-away, unsustainable society? I wonder that if we start paying the true costs of our current ‘cheap’ options, will they really be cheaper than the cost of sustainability?


We consumers usually measure that through our pocketbooks, not the global ledger, so it would be politically painful for any party or politician to ‘go there’, so what are the odds?


Totally agree

  • the retailers have to be held responsible for their packaging and provide the facilities to take it back
  • the producers will therefore have to minimize the unnecessary and environmentally unfriendly packaging
  • the government has to provide incentives to establish a viable recycling industry (‘Jobs and Growth’)
  • the consumer will have to be guided to change their shopping and recycling habits to minimize waste
    This practice has been going on in other countries for many years and can work here in Australia as well if all parties strongly work towards it.


There is no way to respond to that truth without digressing into a furious political tirade. One just need review how each party has dealt with inherited policies of the other to see the probability of that in our fair land.


These are great ideas, thanks for sharing them.


The other important one is for the packaging, food and retail industries look into the post use value of the materials they generate. While cheaper packaging may be recycled, it may not be the best packaging solution for the particular product. For example, using plastic PET bottles for drinks which are reprocessed and re-manufactured at the end of its single use compared to washing and reusing glass vessels.

Unfortunately the packaging, food and retail industries tend to wash their hands of the waste they create which fits into one of the dot points you raised.


Multiuse - yes!
Remember as a school child visiting the local dairy factory and seeing all the returned glass milk bottles being cleaned to be refilled.
Breweries did the same thing with glass bottles.


Only the tallies as I seem to remember.
The glass stubbies were single use only.

The difficulty now with glass bottles and reuse for any product is one of cost and with the super markets. One way packaging suits their business model. It also saves them a fortune in handling and shipping due to the added weight and volume saved by cardboard or plastic containers.

How you factor in the economic benefits of the investment required and additional employment of going back to reusable containers as an offset might help an argument to go back in time? There is little in it for Coles or Woolies though and might go against imports that do not comply.

We would effectively need the retailers to be the point for return. That they have side stepped the latest container refund initiatives for some one else to do the heavy lifting shows their general contempt for environmental change. Noted Woolies branded mineral water has gone up 15c to cover the 10c container deposit refunds!

It is possible to legislate the use of reusable containers. Whether the political will is there to make an economic decision that will increase costs to the consumer is doubtful? Longer term perhaps new plastic and cardboards will become harder to source. Perhaps a non reusable container tax a bit like the carbon tax without Tony Abbott is needed?