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Recycling and resource recovery infrastructure – your questions answered

Last week we released our interim report in providing advice to government on recycling and resource recovery. It’s fair to say it got the country talking about recycling and what people would be willing to do in their house to change how they sort their waste.

Here are answers to some of the common questions we received:

Has Infrastructure Victoria recommended six bins for Victorian households?

No, Infrastructure Victoria has not recommended six bins. In fact, we haven’t made any recommendations just yet. We’re half way through the process of developing our advice to government, and have outlined our findings to date for feedback.

What we have found is that countries that lead the way in recycling separate their waste more in their home. Wales for example has seen a big increase in their recycling figures. They separate their waste into six different streams, but they don’t have six different bins. They have stackable crates that take up about the same amount of space as one wheelie bin.

Some areas in Victoria are already separating their waste into four types – general waste, recycling, glass and organics.

In any case, there is more work to do to determine the right approach for Victoria.

What’s wrong with having just one recycling bin?

Putting all of our recyclables in the same bin increases the risk of those items being contaminated and then not able to be used again. For example, when broken glass gets embedded into cardboard and paper, it makes it very hard to recycle any of these items. Separating each of them means they can be recycled into higher quality products, which makes them more valuable.

Isn’t our recycling just going to landfill anyway?

It’s true some Victorian councils have been forced to send their recycling to landfill due to changes in global policy. Additionally, local recycling facilities have also closed, exacerbating the problem.

Fortunately some councils have since been able to secure recycling services with other contractors.

What’s wrong with landfill?

Landfill causes all sort of problems for the environment, for communities and for the economy.

It’s also a wasted opportunity. We’re wasting precious resources, like energy and water, when we put things into landfill unnecessarily. That’s because most goods take energy and water to produce. When those goods end up in landfill, we miss out on the opportunity to reuse some of those resources. For many products, it is more water- and energy-efficient to recycle them than to make completely new products from virgin materials.

There is also a huge opportunity to recover materials and use them in different ways – like using glass for our roads.