Contamination is one of the main challenges of mixed recycling, where glass paper and plastics are collected and processed together. Glass often breaks in the collection process and makes plastics and paper harder to recycle.
By separating glass from your other recyclables we’re able to reduce contamination and improve the quality of what we collect. This means more of what’s thrown out can be used to make something new.
We are revolutionising how we recycle in Yarra to help fix the recycling industry, create local jobs and use waste as a resource, instead of sending it to landfill.
This is part of the Victorian Government’s four-bin waste and recycling system (rubbish, mixed recycling, glass, and food and green waste), that will help us waste less and recycle more. We have been using this system in the Abbotsford trial area since June 2019 with great success.
To meet these new requirements we are introducing a new glass-only bin to every household in Yarra in November 2020, and we’re working towards rolling out a separate bin for food and green waste in the future.
What is contamination and why is it a problem for recycling?
When your recycling is collected it is transported to a sorting facility where the items are separated into different streams. Contamination occurs when the wrong items are placed in the recycling bin. This is a problem because the contamination is difficult to remove and often ends up ruining the quality of other recyclables, making them difficult to recycle into new products.
Examples of contamination are plastic bags, clothing, non-recyclable plastics and broken glass. Glass breaks when it is collected and as it is sorted. The broken glass mixes with paper, cardboard and plastic products, further decreasing the quality of the recycling. When the wrong items are mixed together, they become low quality and it is hard to find markets for them to be made into new products.
Traditionally, these low-grade recyclables were sent primarily to Asia, China in particular, which had a great demand for resources. But in 2018, China decided that it would only accept high quality recyclables with low contamination. This meant that much of the recycling from Australia was now even more difficult to find markets for.
To overcome this, we want to treat our recycling differently and at the same time boost Yarra’s local recycling industry.
We are now looking to rely on local workers, local businesses and local ideas, to process our recycling and give it a new life.
How we’re fixing the problem
Glass is a resource that can be recycled over and over again without reducing in quality. It is also much more energy efficient to make products out of recycled glass than to use new materials, so it’s great for the environment.
We’re collecting specific items that we know are valuable to the Australian recycling industry, ensuring that they’ll find a new life as a new product and not end up in landfill or overseas.
We’re collecting glass separately, so that it doesn’t break and contaminate our general recycling and turning it into new glass products.
Any glass which cannot be recycled back into bottles will be used in road resurfacing works here in Yarra.
What can you do to help?
We all play an important role in making the Yarra Recycling Revolution work. We’ve put together lots of resources to help us get recycling right.
Update you recycling know-how by:
- Downloading our Revolution Kit with everything you need to know to sort your waste and recycling.
- Understanding which items can and cannot be accepted in your purple-lidded glass bin and yellow-lidded recycling bin.
Why do we need a separate glass bin?
We’re introducing a separate glass bin to improve the quality of recyclable materials.
Glass often breaks in the collection process and makes plastics and paper harder to recycle.
Why do we have to change what we put in each bin?
For a long time, Australia has relied on other countries to take and process our recycling. These markets no longer accept our recycling.
From now on we’re only accepting items that can be recycled in Australia to help to grow our local industry and ensure we can recycle here in the future.
This means that some things we used to put in our recycling bins – like milk and juice cartons, aerosol cans, bottle lids and some plastics – can no longer be recycled.
Bins with the incorrect items will no longer be able to be collected until the non-recyclable materials are removed.