Confidence in recycling slips


A new report has found that people are increasingly losing confidence in recycling, and overwhelmingly want governments to step in and support radical new approaches.

New research from the University of NSW has uncovered systemic flaws in recycling services across Australia, while also finding slipping confidence in the sector amongst the broader community.

Most people, across all states and demographics, believe the recyclables they put out in their council bins are ending up in landfill.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director of UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, said rising stockpiles and increasing use of landfill – in the absence of a coordinated government solution to our growing waste problem – had not been lost on consumers and they wanted action.

“Each council is fending for themselves right across Australia and while the meeting of federal and state environment ministers earlier this year made an important announcement about a new National Waste Policy, stating that by 2025 all packaging will be re-usable, compostable or recyclable, we don’t have to wait another seven years for this decision to come into effect,” Professor Sahajwalla said.

“There is much that can be done right now given that scientifically-developed and proven methods are currently available through the green microfactory technology, yet the federal government is now also pushing on with an investment of $200 million into so called ‘waste to energy’ projects that actually destroy forever waste materials that can be used over and over as a renewable resource.”

Key findings show:

  • 65.4% of people believe recyclables put into council bins goes to landfill (69.5% female, 51.4% aged 18-34, 75.1% aged 65-plus)

  • 49% of people believe green and ecofriendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime, and 63.8% of those aged 65-plus see no benefits being realised

  • 72.4% of people would recycle more if the material was reliably recycled.

Additionally, people are confused about which level of government is responsible for curbside recycling.

But what is overwhelming is the Australian public’s determination for our governments to do much more to better manage recycling and investment into technology such as microfactories.

91.7% of people say is it very or somewhat important for Australia to invest in microfactory technology to ‘reform’ most common waste into re-usable ‘high-value’ materials, and 80.4% support government investment in this technology to reduce landfill and create jobs.