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Recycling Around the World Australia

Recycling Around the World Australia

Recycling Around the World: A to Z



In recent years, concerns about global warming and about the environment in general has seen a large increase in drives to improve recycling rates around the world.

In Australia, recycling has always been a part of everyday life. People reused materials wherever they could. There are clear areas of good practice in Australia but there is also room for improvement.

The history of recycling in Australia

The first paper mill was built in 1915, and it was used to make paper from recycled rags. Waste paper collections from factories and individual households started in the 1920’s. Horse and cart waste collections began in the 1940’s.

20 years ago, some companies started campaigns to promote the recycling of aluminium. These ‘cash for cans’ schemes were aimed at children and community groups, and they encouraged children to collect cans and deliver them to special centres which would buy them back for cash. The money raised went towards charity and community projects around the country.


Recycling of Aluminium


How things have changed

In recent years, concerns about how waste disposal methods are impacting upon our environment are driving a change in attitudes. Landfill is no longer seen as a sustainable option and waste is being seen as a valuable resource.

In the 1980’s and 90’s, kerbside recycling was introduced in Sydney, then spread to other major areas. The schemes allowed households to separate their waste into paper, glass, aluminium, steel, and cardboard.

In 1992, the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) encouraged the introduction of voluntary recycling targets for the major packaging industries. This was designed to ensure commitment to recycling at all levels of the economy.

More recently, there has been more of a focus on green waste, and much more waste is now being recycled through composting and vermiculture (worm farming), where even animal and human wastes have been turned into fertiliser that can be used on the land instead of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

July 1999 saw the introduction of the National Packaging Covenant, which makes producers, wholesalers, and retailers responsible for all aspects of packaging design and recyclability. Many Australian firms are part of the covenant, which aims to reduce packaging waste.

In 2012, there was a drive to collect televisions and computers, and industry-funded collection points were set up around Australia to tackle the growing problem of E-waste.

Australian Paper, the country’s primary paper producer constructed a $90 million paper recycling facility to increase production of recycled paper. The facility will mean that less materials will need to be imported, and less waste paper will end up in landfill.


Recycling of Paper


Good practice

A report found that Australia consistently manages to recycle plastics, and manages to save over 287,000 tonnes of plastic from landfill. The good recycling rates are down to consumer education, an increase in plastic collection, and increased investment in recycling. The Australian Packaging Covenant has also been a large contributor, and lighter weight plastic products have been designed, which use up less energy to produce, and so cause less carbon emissions. Most of the plastics that are recycled continue to be used to make new products.

Improvement needed

Australia’s recycling rate is good, though they rank poorly compared with countries like Sweden, Austria, and Germany. Even though recycling rates have increased, the national level still stands at only 52%. Changing behaviour and attitudes towards recycling is a challenge, but programmes like RecycleSmart have been introduced to increase recycling rates through education and incentive schemes. 

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