Calls for national ‘bin harmonization’ to make recycling easier

A spokesperson for waste management service Cleanaway, Mark Biddulph, said that while materials that can be recycled are largely consistent by state and territory, it was the bin system that made it confusing.

“We would need to either standardize ‘mixed recycling’ eg paper/cardboard, glass, plastic, steel and aluminium, or get bin harmonization on local bin availability and colour, such as dedicated glass, dedicated cardboard, but what goes in can be easily standardized,” Mr Biddulph said.

“Standardizing bin lid colors would be a game-changer for being able to consistently and reliably educate consumers, not just in the home but in workplaces and across Australia,” he said. “Source separation – where consumers dispose of their material in a specific bin, as opposed to it being sorted at the facility – has good evidence to say it’s easier for consumers as it’s more straightforward.”

“However, feedback we receive is that people are already struggling to find room for a three or four bin systems in cities and other dense living environments, and multi-unit dwellings are often not designed to support multiple waste services. We also see concern from consumers about the impact to their rates of multiple bin systems.”

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the state was leading the way with the rollout of their standardized four-bin kerbside waste and recycling system as part of a wider investment that will see a container deposit scheme implemented by 2023 , a purple-lid glass recycling service by 2027 and a FOGO bin by 2030.

“We are also working with the commonwealth and other jurisdictions to align these standards nationally,” she said.

In NSW, the proportion of waste diverted for recycling was 64 per cent in 2019-20, an increase of 1 per cent over five years, data from the NSW State of the Environment report released on Wednesday found.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said one of his key goals is to kick-start the state’s circular economy.

“We have an ambitious goal: to halve food waste going to landfill and achieve net-zero emissions of organics in landfill by 2030 – and we’re already well on the way to achieving this,” he said. “Already, 84 of the 128 councils in NSW have green lid bin services for organics, and by 2030, we’ll have a standardized approach across all councils.”


The state is working with the federal government and other jurisdictions to consider national standards to support FOGO recycling, including harmonization and ensuring high standards for the end product.

National Waste and Recycling Industry Council chief executive Rose Read said the types of plastic being reduced to three types of plastic accepted in the yellow bin: PET, HDPE and polypropylene, because they can be easily sorted at recycling facilities and remanufactured.

She added that the council also wanted to see an expansion of the container deposit scheme to include wine bottles and spirits, which when broken down can get embedded in paper and reduce its quality.

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Suzanne Toumbourou said one of the main challenges with bin harmonization was ensuring there was adequate infrastructure to meet the needs of rural, regional and urban communities. She added a national standard system would enable more consistent messaging but would also need to support investment in new technologies.

Australian households generated 12.4 million tonnes of waste, a 5 per cent increase since 2016 to 2017, according to the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This represented 16 per cent of the country’s total waste output. Households continue to contribute the highest proportion of plastic and organic waste.

The Sydney Morning Herald and Visy will host the inaugural Recycling Roundtable on February 18 featuring key industry leaders, Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, and Richard Marles, Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

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