Do you know how to recycle right? Regions launch plan to update your rubbish habits

Genevieve Jacobs 12 July 2019 17
There are plenty of major misunderstandings about what's really recyclable. Photos: George Tsotsos.

There are plenty of major misunderstandings about what’s really recyclable. Photos: George Tsotsos.

You wouldn’t credit the rubbish that people put into the recycling. On a freezing day at Mugga Lane Recycling Facility as the new Recycle Right campaign is launched, we’re looking at some of the things that have been fished out of the recycling chain in the last ten days alone.

There’s an entire table full of knives, large and small. A child’s toy electric guitar. A very used vacuum cleaner.

More seriously, given the recycling goes into crushing machines after being sorted, there is a pallet full of batteries. It all goes to show that while we diligently believe we’re doing the right thing when we sort the rubbish, there are plenty of major misunderstandings about what’s really recyclable.

The ACT Government and surrounding regions have banded together to launch Recycle Right, a cross border effort that they hope will help to address what Urban Services and Transport Minister Chris Steel called “a national waste crisis”.

There are six steps to the Recycle Right campaign: keep it simple; keep out soft plastics; keep out small items, keep it safe, keep it clean and keep it loose. The campaign is accompanied by television advertisements focusing on the basics.

There are six steps to the Recycle Right campaign

There are six steps to the Recycle Right campaign.

One of the major problems is soft plastics including bags, cling wrap and chip packets. Even if they have a recycling symbol, they’ll jam up the works. Items smaller than a credit card are also unsuitable for recycling, while recycling that’s contaminated with food scraps, nappies and soiled paper can also disrupt the process, shunting otherwise reusable waste into landfill and posing safety issues for staff.

Speaking at the launch, Canberra Region Joint Organisation chair Rowena Abbey said that an average 43 per cent of kerbside domestic waste generated is already recycled in the region, but the target is to reach 70 per cent by 2022.

It’s a significant matter for regional councils like the Snowy Monaro, where new charges have been introduced for domestic recycling disposal and new green waste disposal at all Council waste facilities. While recycling fees have been in place for many years for commercial disposal, Mayor John Rooney said that Council had seen no alternative to additional fees in order to continue providing the community with access to recycling services.

The Snowy Monaro solution was to enter into a processing and management agreement with the ACT, which also accepts and processes waste from the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

Many local government recyclers have been hit hard by the China National Sword Policy, launched at the beginning of 2018. The Chinese government now imposes heavy restrictions on the importation of recycled materials, including strict contamination limits for recyclable materials.

The ban has had a bracing effect on existing recycling options, meaning that many local governments have had to rethink where their waste goes. Minister Steel also noted that there are strong economic positives for regions that do recycling well, since the resale and manufacturing profits are retained within Australia.

The recycling process at Mugga Lane is managed by Re.Group. Managing director David Singh pointed out that cutting edge recycling technology can include some unexpected wins: a building site sand shortage in the ACT is being partly remediated by 99 per cent recycled glass.

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17 Responses to Do you know how to recycle right? Regions launch plan to update your rubbish habits
Steve McGrory Steve McGrory 5:24 pm 12 Jul 19

Having worked at this facility (briefly) I can tell you how hard a days work it is to sort recycling and remove waste. Your 2 seconds of laziness is a non stop full day job.

Robyn DiBlasio Robyn DiBlasio 11:29 am 12 Jul 19

Yes you are very right Michele Gorman the same person does it -time and time again at our complex resulting sometimes in our bins not being emptied.

Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 11:10 am 12 Jul 19

People know which bin to use, they are simply lazy and don't care

    Anna Kay Anna Kay 11:56 am 12 Jul 19

    Michele Gorman 100% agree! In my complex we know its the renters not the owners

    Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 3:23 pm 12 Jul 19

    Anna Kay same here

ACT resident ACT resident 10:54 am 12 Jul 19

Reduce, reuse, recycle – the familiar chant. It’s up to all of us but it’s the ACT Government’s responsibility to identify suitable sites for major waste facilities. Current waste proposals are developer driven with mixed waste projects of 1.3 million plus an additional vehicle fragmentising of 40,000 tonnes per annum to be trucked into and out of the Central Canberra urban suburb of Fyshwick.

Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 10:49 am 12 Jul 19

probably a lot of these issues could be avoided if the government just gave everyone bigger general waste bins. I feel like the small bin (which I assume is to make you use the recycling bin more) is actually causing the problem it's trying to avoid.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 1:39 pm 12 Jul 19

    What the heck are you putting in this bin now if it's not big enough? Most weeks I have one small bag (the bag my CT came in, so smaller than a supermarket bag) worth of rubbish to put in it...and I'm not trying hard. Some weeks I don't even fill that bag, so my bin doesn't go out every week; maybe not for weeks. Even the occasional week I have more rubbish, the general rubbish bin is usually still nowhere near full. Don't blame the bin for being too small; blame yourself for creating excessive rubbish.

    Nicole Nesbitt Nicole Nesbitt 2:52 pm 12 Jul 19

    wow Julie. How many people dispose of rubbish at your house? There is no way my family of six could create less than a bag of rubbish a week. Even with the recycling we do.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 9:20 pm 12 Jul 19

    Nicole Nesbitt Maybe not one bag of rubbish for your large family, but you still could have less than a bin full. If everyone in your household created no more rubbish than me on a normal week, your bin would not even be half full. I am no where as good as this following example, as I don't try hard.

    Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 11:07 pm 12 Jul 19

    Julie Macklin your missing the point. Clearly people run out of room and dump their stuff in the recycling bin rather than pay a tip free to dispose of it themselves. If they had a bigger bin they wouldn't need to.

    If you don't fill it up then no harm done.

    Brook Clinton Brook Clinton 7:26 am 13 Jul 19

    Julie's point is valid. Why are people running out of room? If they generate more rubbish they should own up to it and pay the tipping fee. Why should the rest of us allow and subsidise their less than favourable habits?

    I would personally love to see the red lidded bins move to fortnightly collection but I suppose I am in the minority there, sadly.

    Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 10:27 am 13 Jul 19

    Brook Clinton But they don't. Unless you have some way of enforcing that they do that then I'm afraid they'll likely just keep taking the easy way out.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:17 am 13 Jul 19

    Joshua Andrew Morgan You comment, "get over yourself", means you don't want to think about the problem. Which is very sad, because there are too many people like you who just do not care. Even if your dogs produce more than two bags a week, think on this. The dog poo could be flushed down the toilet and no bags need to be involved. Shovel and scoop and less plastic waste. Or dig a hole and bury the dog waste, as many others do.

    Brook Clinton Brook Clinton 1:33 pm 13 Jul 19

    Warwick Alsop random bin audits and fines? Although rather than an authoritarian measure some social pressure around the issue of waste would be preferable I feel.

    Perhaps if we use our imagination we could even have positive incentives rather than punishment for poor behaviour. Just an example, but how about the govt try rewarding high performing suburbs with community facilities? i.e. upgrades to parks etc in exchange for non-contaminated recycling trucks.

    It's a shame it's difficult to get people to do the right thing but we really should be encouraging less waste rather than giving in to bad habits.

Anna Kay Anna Kay 10:19 am 12 Jul 19

People in my complex put nappies in the recycling. Dirty used nappies. It is beyond belief. The garbage bin is next to it, and usually empty.

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