News, Uncategorized

Up to 35 per cent of recycling lost to landfill due to contamination

EPA - lemon spring

While Australians are committed to a more sustainable future, they remain confused about fundamental recycling practices, according to Cleanaway’s Recycling Behaviours Report.

The report, launched to support Cleanaway’s new Greenius online education platform, found 89 per cent of Australians think recycling is important and 74 per cent say they’re good at it.

Only 25 per cent of Australians are separating waste correctly at every opportunity, however, and almost 50 per cent are still putting soft plastics in kerbside recycling bins.

The Recycling Behaviours Report also found that only 15 per cent of Australians are familiar with the concept of a circular economy.

“Individuals, communities, government and businesses alike are all contributors to building a circular economy in Australia,” Cleanaway NSW Sustainability Manager Rebecca Evered said.

“And while it may sound complicated, it’s just about being more mindful of how we choose and dispose of the materials we use.”

According to Evered, the findings reflect consumer behaviour in municipal waste collection services, making the need for online education tools like Greenius more important than ever.

“We’re really encouraged by the support that recycling has in the community, and the public’s intention to do the right thing, but unfortunately, we’re losing a lot of valuable resource to landfill because people are unclear about what can go in the recycling bin,” she said.

Greenius Ambassador and Clean Up Australia Chairman Pip Kiernan said the research proved the importance of Greenius as a tool to help educate all Australians to improve recycling recovery rates.

She added that small behavioural changes can make a difference, with up to 35 per cent of recycling lost to landfill due to contamination.

“We know there is a lot of “wish-cycling” going on, with people hoping that what they put in the bin can be recycled at the other end, but actually that’s part of the problem,” Kiernan said.

“If every person focused on removing soft plastic, food, liquid and textiles from their recycling we’d resolve more than 50 per cent of all current recycling contamination.

“With the extension of our partnership with Cleanaway, we can continue to help Australians learn about sustainability and recycling through hands-on experiences so they can be part of the solution to treat waste as a resource, not something that ends up in landfill.”

The e-learning platform developed by Cleanaway takes users on a recycling journey through gamification, videos, animations and quizzes, and is easily accessed via mobile device or desktop.

Through education and easy-to-implement tips, Greenius aims to motivate people to facilitate and accelerate the transition to a circular economy, demonstrating how the small actions and changes we make every day can have lasting impacts for years to come.

Evered said while the education tool is ideal for students and families, it’s designed to meet the needs of all Australians.

“Our research has uncovered one in four parents don’t find it easy to teach their kids about recycling and nearly one third of Australians still find recycling confusing,” she said.

“Different regulations between councils and uncertainty around what can and can’t be recycled can be really tricky to navigate.

“On the bright side, we think users will be really surprised by how easy some of the universal recycling rules are to apply – and Greenius is here to empower people to make the right decisions when it comes to disposing of everyday household waste.”

The Greenius platform is an initiative supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation CEO Ian Learmonth said that by explaining how recycling works and pointing out common mistakes made when sorting waste, Greenius can help improve Australia’s emissions reduction efforts.

“Cleanaway’s commitment to reducing the amount of waste going to landfill demonstrates best practice in the efficient use of resources,” he said.

“By applying the principles of the waste hierarchy and prioritising recycling over disposal or landfill, everyone can contribute positively to creating a circular economy and reducing landfill emissions.”


• 89 per cent of Australians consider recycling to be important

• 74 per cent say they’re good at recycling

• Only 25 per cent of Australians always separate their waste into the appropriate bins at home, at work, and when out in public

• 47 per cent incorrectly believe soft plastics can be put in the kerbside recycling bins

• 21 per cent don’t realise you need to remove lids from plastic bottles before recycling

• 53 per cent of Aussies wrongly think a pizza box with greasy stains can be recycled or composted

• 17 per cent wrongly think recycling can be sealed in a plastic bag in the kerbside bin

• Only 15 per cent of Aussies are familiar with the concept of the circular economy

Related stories: 

Previous ArticleNext Article