Need for recycled products market in solving the waste crisis despite the kerbside four bins system

Do you know that Australia is still struggling with a surplus of recyclable materials post China closed a majority of its market to their recycling in 2018?

However, the Victorian government has introduced the first significant change to state waste recycling policy: a container deposit scheme and a steady roadside four-bin system by 2030.

So what's the suggested new roadside bin system, and will it aid in reducing Australia's recycling crisis? Here's what one needs to know about the extra bin introduced. Also, can India be benefited by implementing the same?

The problems with the Australian recycling system

There are two main problems - especially since the China ban.

One is about supply. The material quality for recycling could be better, partly from product design and partly from how waste items are collected and sorted.

The other is demand. There's insufficient demand for recycled items in new infrastructure and objects, so the commodity value of the materials, even high quality, is low.

The Victorian government announced $96.5 million to maintain the waste industry. And even though many Victorians think they are good at recycling, many households need to be getting recycling correctly because they place things that don't belong in the recycling bin, like soft plastics.

One reason is the uncertainty about what can be recycled, when and where. A standardised collection system (no matter how many bins) can be promising to improve this, and the most exciting part of the Victorian announcement is the strong leadership towards stablity across the state.

This implies that by 2030, wherever Victorians visit or live, they'll have a constant roadside bin system.

But to enhance the recycling potential, consistency across the nation is imperative. South Australian, New South Wales & Western Australian governments are already facilitating combined garden and food organics bins. Other states are expected to follow as the evidence of profits grows.

What can change?

Information is still being ironed out, but significantly, the new system expands the latest two or three bins most Victorian houses have to four.

While cardboard, paper and plastic or metal containers may still go in the yellow bins, glass containers will now land in separate purple crates (or bins). A green bin, which some Victorians already own for garden vegetation, will expand to gather food scraps.

The purple bin will be introduced first, with the regular roll-out beginning the following year, as some Victorian councils' existing collection contracts finish. The service will likely be entirely in place by 2027 (some isolated areas can be exempted).

Also, the expanded green bin service accepting food scraps for composting will be introduced by 2030 unless councils choose to move previously (some are already doing so).

How are extra bins likely to make a difference?

A 2015 report on overseeing household waste in Europe represented separating our waste increases the quality of the material gathered. Some nations even have up to six bins (sacks or crates).

That's because it's easier for people to sort out the different items than for machines, especially food and the complicated packaging they have.

A different bin for food and garden organics will aid in recovering Victoria's share of the 2.5 million tonnes of scraps and food Australian households chuck out annually. Also, a different bin for glass will aid with glass breaking in the collection truck or yellow bin polluting surrounding cardboard and paper with tiny glass shards that make them unrecyclable. It must also boost how much glass gets recycled, as per Australia's largest glass reprocessor.

What do they need to get right?

To ensure the transition to the latest system is smooth, councils and the Victorian government should ponder the following:

The space required for four bins

Not all have sufficient place (outside or inside). This might need creative council and household solutions like those already found overseas (segregated bins and stackable crates).

The collection schedule

Does the new purple bin imply introducing another truck or a particular multi-compartment recycling truck? Also once councils have food waste in a green bin weekly, will the red bin collection go fifteen days a week? This makes sense because 35-60% of the red bin is for food scraps, which may be gone.

Proper food waste disposal

Several councils that have already added food waste to the green bin report pollution problems as people get their heads around the transition, like placing food wrappers in with the food scraps. Proper disposal can enhance food recycling.

Right sorting of recycling

Putting the wrong object in the recycling bin is an issue across the nation, and taking the glass out of the yellow bin won't solve this problem. While this is already being handled in government campaigns and council trials, Victorians will probably require more government effort at both a household and systems level.

The enhanced collection doesn't mean much without the demand

The collection is just a single piece of puzzle. Government support is required to ensure all this recycling ends up somewhere. Efforts to enhance the supply-side aspects of recycling can only be used with the demand for recycled items.

Environmental economists have long highlighted that without government intervention, free markets in most nations won't pay or use enough recycled items when new or virgin things are so cheap.

What is excellent for Victoria is the latest four-bin system is only one pillar of the state's new recycling policy.

It also includes many demand-side efforts, from infrastructure funding and market development grants to developing a Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre. The policy also states waste management as an essential service and has left space for strong procurement commitments. Lately, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also highlighted the importance of procurement by introducing an overhaul of the Commonwealth Procurement Norms at the National Plastics Summit to enhance demand for recycled items.

Stepping up to the challenge

But to effectively solve Australia's recycling crisis, more must be done. This involves reinvestment of landfill levies; standards for recycled items at a federal level; clear strategies to enhance product design; and funding to facilitate the waste & recycling industry to meet the export ban.

They believe they also require regulation on using recycled items in items, for example, through compulsory fiscal policies or targets such as a tax on items made from virgin materials.

Since 2018 when China stopped accepting most of the recycling, the level of community, industry and media interest has created a robust platform for policy change. It is interesting to witness Victoria responding to the challenge.

Watching India implement and benefit from the same will be even more exciting.

Diksha Khiatani

A writer by day and a reader at night. Emerging from an Engineering background, Diksha has completed her M. Tech in Computer Science field. Being passionate about writing, she started her career as a Writer. She finds it interesting and always grabs time to research and write about Environmental laws and compliances. With extensive knowledge on content writing, she has been delivering high-quality write-ups. Besides, you will often find her with a novel and a cuppa!

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