Why Australians could be forced to use up to six rubbish bins

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Millions of Australian households could be forced to manage up to six rubbish bins thanks to new proposals to tackle Victoria’s recycling problems.

It is one of the options emerging from Infrastructure Victoria’s report addressing the state’s recycling crisis.

If the six-bin proposal is implemented, bins would be provided for paper, glass, garden and food organics, plastics, metals and a sixth bin for general waste.

The suggestion is aimed at ensuring recycled waste is not contaminated in the wake of exported recycled material recently being rejected by Asian buyers.

"It's very important that we have very clean streams of materials that are easy to recycle," Elissa McNamara, the project director at Infrastructure Victoria, told the ABC.

Victoria could be set for six recycling bins – a big change from the usual two or three. Source: Sustainability Victoria

She said the current system that’s been in place for 20 years, where waste is separated in two or three bins, is outdated.

"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."

The state has been facing an uphill battle since China pulled the plug on importing foreign waste over its concerns of the quality of materials that were brought in.

Victoria was forced to either send its waste to landfill or stockpile its recycled materials – a decision which so far has failed to pay off, notably for recycling company SKM which earlier this year collapsed thanks to its inability to sell on contaminated materials.

The report looks to the recycling model used in Wales, which has implemented a similar system which uses a collection vehicle that collects waste in separate compartments of the truck.

The report says urgent action is need as waste production rapidly grows across the state. In a 17 year period from 2000 to 2017, waste generation nearly doubled from 7.4 million tonnes to 13.4 million tonnes.

One of the major issues is contamination of recyclable materials. Source: Sustainability Victoria

According to the report, 63 per cent of household waste was sent to landfill.

Food waste was also identified as a key area, with proposals to convert it into low-emission electricity. According to Infrastructure Victoria, 35 per cent of household waste which is sent to landfill is food waste.

The report also proposed several other avenues to tackle the crisis including a crackdown on single use plastics, manufacturers forced to use recycled products and reforming the landfill levy.

Last month. on the back of a recycling report from professional services company EY, it was revealed the Victorian government was already looking at introducing at least four bins to households.

Earlier this year, Macedon Ranges Shire Council banned residents from placing glass inside their recycling bins in a bid to tackle the recycling crisis.

Stockpiles of recycled materials a significant danger

The Infrastructure Victoria report also highlighted the dangers of stockpiling recycled materials – a focal point of the Environment Protection Authority annual report.

A dedicated task force to tackle the issue completed 292 inspections in the 2018-2019 financial year and issued 109 notices.

"Throughout the year, EPA took strong regulatory action against resource recovery facilities that were stockpiling materials," chief executive Dr Cathy Wilkinson said.

The watchdog also handed out 24 sanctions across 164 facilities, she said.

A stockpile of more than 5300 tonnes of tyres at West Numurkah, near the NSW border, was removed by the authority.

"The removal of this stockpile eliminated the significant fire risk at this site for the local community," Dr Wilkinson said in the report.

But the agency was also keeping a close eye on warehousing illegal stockpiles of hazardous chemicals.

"The scale of deliberate waste crime uncovered reinforces the need for EPA to become a stronger law enforcement agency with improved intelligence and data analytics capability, modern digital systems and more effective compliance and enforcement," Dr Wilkinson said.

The massive audit was sparked by a series of fires at illegal warehouses and licensed recycling plants.

With AAP

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