Australia / Press Releases
Bin It Right: Recycling Crisis Prompts New Waste-Sorting Scheme

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by Yin Yeoh
Feb 26 2020

The recycling sector has been thrown into chaos in recent months following a series of announcements from Asian nations that they would no longer accept imports of contaminated recycling waste from Australia. In January 2018, China ceased importing foreign plastic waste in an effort to improve its environment. This announcement was followed by Malaysia and Indonesia returning Australia’s waste in May and July 2019, respectively.

‘Australia’s exports of waste materials for recycling have grown by 17.9% over the decade through 2017-18. After China, Malaysia and Indonesia introduced restrictions on waste imports, domestic recycling companies were forced to stockpile the waste materials, creating an increasingly expensive and hazardous situation,’ said IBISWorld Senior Industry Analyst, Yin Yeoh.

Landfill operators in the Waste Treatment and Disposal Services industry have benefited from this situation, as more recycling has been directed to landfill. Industry revenue is anticipated to increase by 0.7% in the current year, to $2.7 billion.

A new rubbish-collecting scheme

A ban on exporting waste means that consumers and businesses will need to change the way they deal with rubbish. The Victorian Government has begun rolling out a statewide four-bin kerbside recycling system, and will introduce a container deposit scheme by 2023 as part of a $129 million overhaul of Victoria's recycling industry. A new purple bin for glass recycling has been added to the existing yellow, red and green bins.

‘Rising environmental awareness means that many consumers are willing to adopt recycling practices. However, for the new recycling program to be effective, both businesses and households will have to buy into the new recycling concept,’ said Miss Yeoh.

Consumers will need to be educated on separating recycling items into the correct bins. Using the wrong bin can contaminate an entire truckload of recyclables, potentially increasing the cost associated with sorting. To minimise the contamination, some local councils have been conducting bin inspections. The introduction of the four-bin system means that Victorian businesses and households could potentially face higher rubbish collection costs. While most Victorian households will receive the new purple bin for glass, commercial buildings and apartment blocks are not included in the new recycling system. However, the Victorian Government will put special arrangements in place for these buildings.

‘Currently, people living in apartments do not have access to recycling. The difficulty of implementing a recycling system in large commercial and multi-unit dwellings means that councils often bypass these properties,’ said Miss Yeoh.

Minimising waste

In response to rising recycling costs, businesses are likely to place a greater emphasis on minimising waste. Over the past five years, the Supermarkets and Grocery Stores industry has faced criticisms over the amount of plastic its operators use.

‘While Coles and Woolworths have phased out single-use plastic bags in 2018, a walk down a supermarket’s fresh-produce section reveals plenty of plastic packaging. Consumers are likely to place a greater emphasis on sustainable packaging over the next five years,’ said Miss Yeoh.

Plastic packaging has been popular with grocery stores because it preserves perishable food items for much longer than they would otherwise last. Ideally, there should be minimal or no packaging for fresh produce. However, the complexity of the Integrated Logistics industry means that there need to be innovative solutions to transform how food is distributed to reduce waste. Businesses could use reusable, recyclable or compostable materials in their packaging.

IBISWorld reports used to develop this release:

For more information, to obtain industry reports or to arrange an interview with an analyst, please contact:
Jason Aravanis
Strategic Media Advisor – IBISWorld Pty Ltd
Tel: 03 9906 3647