Let's talk about waste: creating a circular economy

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Recycling truck pouring out recycling contents onto warehouse floor

Every year, more than 80 billion tonnes of raw materials like metal, cardboard and plastics are consumed in Australia. That’s set to double by 2060.

Right now, only 9% of that raw material is reused and recycled. This is because Australia’s current waste system is not well set up to effectively process waste and recyclables locally. 

In fact, for a long time Australia has relied on other countries to take our recycling, particularly China. However, in 2018 China introduced much tighter restrictions on the types and quality of materials it would accept. 

This change (in addition to several other factors) had a major impact on the local recycling industry and meant that we had to become much smarter about how we value materials and manage our waste and recycling here at home. 

What does this mean? 

It means that we need to rethink how we produce, use and treat valuable materials at each step. It also has a direct impact on which items you can put in your recycling bin, because not all materials can be recycled locally

As individuals, it means we need to be more conscious of the materials we buy and what happens to them after we no longer need them. 

All levels of government, industry and community need to work together to design a way to increase our ability to recycle materials in Victoria. We need to develop a ‘circular economy’. 

What is a circular economy? 

The circular economy is a new way of seeing products and materials, viewing them as valuable resources instead of ‘waste’. 

Instead of dealing with waste materials when we throw things away, the circular economy approach works with the complete cycle of the products we consume – from the design of products and packaging, what we purchase and how we dispose of it when we no longer need it.

How does this affect us in Yarra? 

The Victorian Government introduced the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Act in 2021, with the aim of developing the circular economy in Victoria. The Act introduces changes that have a major impact on how all local councils manage waste, and includes:

  • A commitment to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill
  • Sharp increases to the waste levy per tonne (a levy paid to the Victorian Government by every council based on the amount of waste sent to landfill)
  • A commitment to provide all households with a 4-stream waste service (glass, recycling, food and green organics and rubbish)  

In Yarra, we introduced a glass bin service in 2020, which has seen 90% of glass collected turned into new glass bottles and jars. We are aiming to introduce a food and green organics bin in 2024.

Learn more about the waste and recycling services provided by Yarra City Council.


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