Closed loop recycling is the end game for a sustainable recycling system. Container return schemes make this possible by separating drink containers at the source to produce a clean, high-quality stream of recyclables that can be turned into new items again and again.
Find out more about container return schemes and how they impact litter reduction in this article.
Looking for a one-stop resource to make #realisticplastic choices in your life? Visit this page for downloadable resources with simple actions anyone can do to avoid single use plastic and save the use of plastic for when it is essential in our lives.
Contact us to learn more about how we’re making a sustainable future possible for our communities.
Plastic is a lightweight material that can be moulded for different medical applications such as prosthetics, pacemakers, and other devices that increase mobility and quality of life.
From disposable syringes and surgical gloves to reusable sharps containers, essential plastics help minimise the risk of infection and stop the spread of disease amongst patients and staff in healthcare facilities.
Completely eliminating plastic isn’t possible but making #realisticplastic choices in our everyday lives is. To learn more about how you can sustainably manage the plastics in your life, download our #realisticplastic guide here.
Contact us to learn more about how we make a sustainable future possible for businesses, industry and communities.
Plastics are a durable and flexible material that plays many roles in our lives – in manufacturing, healthcare, transport and many more.
Syringes and straws, for example, are essential in healthcare, preventing infections and improving quality of life. They are also used in construction as long-lasting materials for building bridges and park benches. However, when disposed of carelessly, plastic can harm the environment and wildlife.
Quitting plastic altogether isn’t the solution. Making better, #realisticplastic choices is. Our Plastic Waste Hierarchy is a handy guide for realistic plastic use, focusing on how to make sustainable choices in selecting and disposing of plastics in our lives.
Avoid and reduce
There are certain kinds of plastics that most of us can do without. Plastic straws and disposable coffee cups, while unrecyclable in most cases, are essential in healthcare and medicine. These are often unrecyclable, so if you don’t need them, don’t use them. When it comes to single-use plastics, the less you can use, the better.
Durable, long lasting plastics such as kitchen utensils, white goods, and electronics are often still working perfectly when we decide to replace them. In these cases, consider donating or upcycling them to extend their lifespan.
Many throwaway plastics in our lives can be avoided if we used reusable containers for shopping and food instead. When making a decision about whether to consume a material with plastic in it, think about its applications and whether you can maximise its lifespan for repeated usage. The longer and more it can be used, the better.
If you choose to purchase single-use plastics, choose plastics you know can be easily recycled. Rigid or ‘unscrunchable’ plastics like milk jugs, shampoo bottles and stiff biscuit trays can be recycled in most kerbside bins.
Soft plastics like plastic bags, bubble wrap and cereal bags cannot be recycled in your kerbside bin. Although they are accepted at most major supermarkets with soft plastic collection points, it’s always better to go back to steps one and two in the hierarchy – avoid them if possible, and go with reusable bags, paper bags or boxes instead.
Plastics like bandages, adhesives and blister packs may be convenient but they can’t be recycled in most cases. Try to avoid them but if you can’t they go in general waste when you’re done.
Using the waste hierarchy can help optimise the use of plastic and help make #realisticplastic choices.
From just a few participants in Western Australia in 2011, Plastic Free July has grown into a worldwide movement with millions of people across 170 countries. Plastic Free July aims to encourage people to be more aware of their plastic use by supporting behaviour change.
This year, we are keen to lift the conversation beyond just avoiding single use plastic. We believe that people are ready to have a more sophisticated conversation about plastic – to understand what we need to do to consume the material in a sustainable way while reinforcing the unsustainable applications that we must avoid.
Using the hashtag #realisticplastic, we’re asking, “Are you having the right conversation about plastic?” and talking about the practical applications of plastic in healthcare, manufacturing and more, through a series of films, awareness visuals and educational assets.
1) #realisticplastic infographic
Confused about which plastics you should avoid? Download our handy infographic perfect for use in the office, school or at home.
The impact of improperly-managed waste goes far beyond a messy nature strip – it can lead to fines, stop-work orders, site-sealing and even court charges. We compiled a list of stories about waste management gone wrong that will set you thinking about the proper disposal of waste:
Faulty grease traps can be a nuisance
Depending on your location, regular grease trap maintenance is required by law. Neglecting regular maintenance can lead to fines and overspills. In extreme cases, it may also lead to a business being sued by its neighbours. A restaurant in Macquarie Street, New South Wales found themselves the subject of a nuisance suit due to odours from a grease trap in their basement.
In Tasmania, a blocked grease trap shut down the Emergency Department of the Royal Hobart Hospital and caused an evacuation event that was classified as a “disaster that requires an emergency and immediate response.”
For restaurants, cafés and other businesses in the food and beverage industry, it’s always a good idea to service your traps two to six times a year to prevent bad smells, risk of flooding and overspills.
Pharmaceutical waste polluting the environment
Expired, unused and contaminated medication flushed down the toilet can find its way into our waterways, impacting wildlife. A study conducted in Victorian creeks found traces of human medication in river wildlife, though the long-term effects are yet to be fully understood.
Medical waste disposal is highly regulated and should be managed by a services provider licenced to safely collect and dispose of all types of medications and pharmaceutical by-products.
Hazardous waste leaching into the environment
Hazardous waste such as fuel oils, cooking oils, disinfectants, paints and cosmetics can damage the environment, wildlife and human health.
For householders, there are drop-off events such as Detox your Home in Victoria that will accept hazardous waste. Leftover paint and its related packaging are collected and recycled through Paintback. You can also drop off leftover paint at most local transfer stations, as well as batteries, fluorescent lights and motor oil.
Businesses with difficult to manage waste should contact their waste management provider for advice. A certified “trackable” waste transporter will be able to explain how your waste is processed, including tracking and documentation on how and where your waste is recycled or disposed.
Safe, efficient and documented disposal is critical to avoiding stockpiling that can put local communities at risk. Most recently there was a major factory fire in Melbourne involving flammable solvents that resulted in two workers sustaining significant injuries along with other major community impacts including the closure of several schools and other evacuations.
Don’t take the risk
A reputable waste management service provider can go a long way to help prevent these horror stories from happening. It’s more than simply collecting your waste, but helping your business minimise waste production and maximise recovery to meet your economic, environmental and social bottom lines.
Whether its medical waste, grease trap servicing or hazardous waste collection, disposal and recycling, Cleanaway offers a total range of waste management solutions with complete waste tracking from source to disposal and full compliance with all state regulations.
Tasmania, you now have a choice.
For the first time, Cleanaway is proud to provide the people of Tasmania with the option to work with Australia’s leading waste management provider.
Container return or deposit programs are proving to be a successful way to maximise recycling and recovery.
What is a container deposit scheme?
Container deposit schemes incentivise consumers to return their beverage containers to a collection point by offering a small cash or voucher refund. They aim to encourage recycling by rewarding good recycling behaviour, which means less containers disposed in general waste or littered. Returns are made at designated collection points, which can include reverse vending machines (RVMs), over-the-counter at shops or charity organisations, or large collection depots.
Container deposit schemes work
The main driver is the financial incentive, where customers can get back between five to ten cents for every container deposited. The more containers returned equals the more money you can earn. They’re also a fundraising channel, often used by schools, clubs, teams and community groups to raise money through container or cash donations.
One of the most efficient ways to recycle is to separate materials at the point of disposal. This decreases sorting costs at the Material Recovery Facility and increases quality by removing contaminants. Because container deposit schemes create a single stream for beverage container material, they promote source separated recycling and improve recycling outputs.
Widespread awareness of the scheme’s positive benefits further encourages people to recycle their containers over general waste disposal.
South Australia was the first state to adopt the scheme back in 1977. SA currently has an overall return rate of 76.9%. Last year alone, almost 603 million containers (42,913 tonnes) were recovered by collection depots for recycling. With the refund scheme, beverage containers make up only 2.8% of litter in the state.
In January 2019, the state’s Minister for Environment and Water announced a review of the scheme to investigate ways to build on their success and further recycling and litter reduction efforts.
The Northern Territory launched their CDS in 2012, with beverage container litter dropping by 50% in the first year. By 2016, the stream had decreased to a record low of 24% litter by volume. The state also reported a significant 34.5% decline in overall litter, mainly attributed to lower volumes of takeaway packaging and beverage containers in the litter stream.
New South Wales
New South Wales introduced their Return and Earn scheme in the end of 2017. Since then, they have successfully brought down their total litter volume down by almost half, with drink containers hitting an all-time low of 37%. The state is currently well on track to reaching its goal of a 40% state-wide reduction by 2020.
As of 15 March 2019, Return and Earn announced that more than 1.5 billion containers had been returned since the scheme started.
With close to three billion beverage containers in circulation, in November 2018 the state kicked off their container refund scheme, called Containers for Change. At the time of writing over 300 million containers had been returned through the scheme.
Western Australia reported that around 47.5% of its total litter were beverage containers. WA has committed to begin a CDS in January 2020 as part of their efforts to lift the state’s low recycling rates.
How else can you make a difference?
Maximise commingled recycling
Don’t ruin good quality recycling by contaminating your commingled bin. Make sure your beverage containers are clean, dry and empty before disposing of them in the bin.
Minimise single-use products
Reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place by avoiding single-use containers and other products wherever possible. Go reusable instead.
Buy products made from recycled material
Prevent materials from ending up in a landfill and maintain demand for recyclables while ensuring that recycling programs remain viable.
Contact us to find out how we make a sustainable future possible through our partnerships with government, industry and the community.
Recycling and good bin behaviour is easy once you’re in the right routine. That can be difficult for adults who have years of embedded habits and too many other things to think about. Young people, on the other hand, love learning new things and get a kick out of finding out how things work. So why not get them started on good sustainability behaviour early? Imagine what they’ll be able to teach us about our impact on the world!
Make sustainability part of the lesson plan
Sustainability lessons in school are a fun and easy way to start teaching recycling early. Kids are surrounded by everyday examples of waste materials and schools can set up really clear bin education that supports and reinforces correct behaviour.
“The idea is they teach mum and dad, grandparents, brothers and sisters, anyone who’ll listen and we basically try and get them to promote recycling and, sustainability,” says Cleanaway Education Officer Lisa Mansfield.
Our education officers in NSW have been running kNOw Waste™ since 2007. The program’s train-the-trainer approach means students often end up teaching their peers and family with an average reach of 2.7 people per household. Communities usually report a positive impact on kerbside recycling contamination rates after program delivery.
In WA, the ABC reported that councils that engaged the longest with Cleanaway’s education programs have the lowest rates of contamination, making it one of the most cost-effective methods of education.
Looking for fun ways to fit litter into your lesson plan? Here are five ways to get started.
Incursions can be an exciting way to get students involved and excited about recycling. We regularly visit schools across the country to discuss the importance of recycling correctly, and sustainability at home and in school. The highlight for the kids is seeing our trucks in action, especially the rear lift mechanics.
Get the basics right at home
Kids mimic our behaviours both good and bad, so it’s important that we set the right example for them at home.
This means putting the right waste in the kerbside recycling bin – clean, dry, and unbagged. Common contaminants like food waste, textiles and soft plastics should go to general waste or better yet, be recycled separately, upcycled or donated to charity.
Set up a clean recycling station at home that helps everyone sort their waste correctly. Download a bin poster here or check your council website for more local recycling advice.
Teaching kids to sort waste before it reaches the bin not only produces a higher quality stream of material for recycling into new products, but it’s also a fun activity the whole family can get involved in.
Start at the top
True sustainability starts at the point of purchase and waste production. Make the waste hierarchy a household mantra by focusing on avoiding waste production like not buying single-use packaging or eating all the food in the fridge without waste. Work down the hierarchy and come up with different ways you can be more sustainable.
Container deposit schemes in New South Wales, South Australia and most recently Queensland, are a perfect example of how incentivising kids can be an effective tool for sustainability. Under these schemes, eligible beverage containers made of plastics, glass, aluminium, steel and liquid paperboard can be returned to collection centres for a refund.
There are many examples of kids across the country embracing container deposit schemes as a fun way to do their bit for the environment and in some cases, for the benefit the community. Here are just a few:
Nine-year old Charlie Crouch from Moree returned over 5,000 containers in just three weeks and used the refunds earned to buy himself a golf cart. To set an example for other kids across the country, Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall named Charlie the state’s top container deposit recycler and encouraged others to follow his lead.
10-year-old Taran Vallentine from Queensland’s raised more than $350 collecting containers over the school holidays and he decided to donate it to a food bank to help people who don’t have enough food.
Vinnie’s Container Deposit Centre is another example of a community organisation doing it right by encouraging kids for sustainability. They rewarded young Hamish and his mom for regularly depositing around 200 containers each month.
Meet Noah, our Eco-champion
Noah has been obsessed with everything Cleanaway since he helped his aunt, Kelly Seibold during Clean Up Australia Day last year. Noah even started ‘Cleanaway Clean Up’ in his school oval to pick up rubbish. Whenever he gets the chance, Noah waits for Cleanaway trucks at home and looks out for our compactors behind major shopping centres.
Cleanaway’s Hugo Parris, Resource Recovery Manager at our Hemmant commercial recycling sorting and baling facility, took Noah for a tour of the plant, where he was thrilled to learn all about how trucks, front end loaders, conveyor belts and sorters work.
When Ian Kiernan started Clean Up Australia 30 years ago, he called out Australia’s increasing dependence on single-use items. Today, we’re seeing record numbers of single-use litter found in our streets, waterways, and bushland.
In announcing this year’s Rubbish Report, Pip Kiernan, newly announced Chairman of Clean Up Australia and daughter of Ian Kiernan said “30 years ago my dad predicted the problems that single-use plastic would pose. Since then we have seen ever increasing dependence on plastic as a throw away-item – and that needs to change. The choice is simple – take action or plastics will continue to be a problem well into the future.”
According to the 2018 Rubbish Report, litter directly associated with single-use packaging is the number one source of rubbish reported by volunteers. In 2018, it was as high as 88% of all reported items. Of this, food packaging represented just under 19%, non-food packaging over 26%, beverage containers 18%, beverage rubbish 11.8%, chip and confectionery wrappers recorded 7% and plastic bags 4.5%.
Is plastic itself the problem?
Plastic is a lightweight, durable and versatile material, and is less resource-intensive to produce than paper. Plastic is recyclable when properly separated and disposed of correctly. Hard plastic can be recycled when processed with commingled recycling or through container return schemes. Soft plastic can be recycled if collected and taken to major supermarkets through their soft plastics recycling service. Businesses may also be able to choose a soft plastic recycling service from Cleanaway.
Unfortunately though, when plastic is carelessly discarded it litters our streets, waterways and oceans, causing serious harm to wildlife and this is where the problem lies.
What is being done to keep packaging out of the environment?
Tangible packaging waste targets set
Regulators are working with industry to reduce the amount of packaging waste produced while increasing options for recycling. Last year, the Meeting of Environment Ministers endorsed a target of 100% of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.
This meeting resulted in the 2025 National Packaging Waste Target, which aims to:
Make 100% of all Australia’s packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 or earlier
Make 70% of Australia’s plastic packaging recyclable or compostable by 2025
Include an average of 30 recycled content across all packaging by 2025
Phase out problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through design, innovation or introduction of alternatives
The Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) is supporting the initiative through its representation of over 900 leading companies such as Aldi, ALGA, Close the Loop, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coles, Nestlé, Planet Ark, REDcycle, Unilever and Woolworths.
Improvements in resource recovery infrastructure and planning
The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) recently released a 10-point plan for results-based recycling, which has been submitted to regulators for consultation. Recommendations outlined in the plan include:
Standardising recycling methods
Optimising container deposit schemes to promote domestic recycling
A national recycling infrastructure audit
Development of new metrics for waste, recycling and resource recovery activity
$1.5 billion investment of waste disposal levy funds into recycling
Cleanaway has been investing in Australia’s resource recovery infrastructure to support communities in managing their growing waste. We call it our Footprint 2025 roadmap – state-of-art facilities designed to maximise diversion such as the Eastern Creek Container Sorting Facility that processes containers collected through the NSW Container Deposit Scheme.
Read more about our recent investments in Australia’s future here.
Stewardship by leading companies
Nestlé has set its own global goals to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, and to send zero waste to landfill by 2020. The initiatives include EcodEx, a packaging eco-design tool designed to measure the environmental performance of a packed food product, which it uses in new product development.
At a local level, the multinational company is using its online Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) to assess the recyclability of its packaging and assist in building design for recycling up front in new product development processes.
What can you do to play your part?
For the individual, the everyday decisions we make about consumption can make a huge impact on sustainability.
Participate in Clean Up Australia
Out of sight, out of mind. Actually seeing the amount of litter up around us is one of the best ways to highlight our dependence on single-use plastic and packaging. Initiatives like Clean Up Australia and Plastic Free July aim to inspire people to reduce plastic waste by casting a spotlight on its impact on our environment.
Let the waste hierarchy guide you
While recycling is essential in reducing the number of packaging waste sent to landfill, avoiding non-essential packaging in the first place is the best way to start. The waste hierarchy can be used as a guideline where disposal is considered the last option for an item at the end of its useful life.
Take up the Nude Food challenge
A great way to reduce packaging waste, the nude food challenge helps avoid unnecessary packaging for your food. This accomplishes three goals: you and your family get to eat and live well, packaging waste can be reduced without being sent to landfill and cost savings are made possible in the long run.
Visit your nearest REDCycle
The REDcycle Program makes it easy to divert plastic bags and packaging waste away from landfill. Find REDCycle points closest to you before dropping off eligible food and non-food packaging such as:
Biscuit packets (wrappers only)
Paper goods packaging
Pasta and rice bags
Frozen food and veggie bags
Old green bags
Cereal box liners
Partner with us and learn more about our bespoke waste management solutions if you want your packaging waste recycled, not sent to landfill.
We know from our experience working with schools and communities around Australia that great recyclers start young. School is a fantastic place to learn good habits with waste and recycling, that kids can take home and teach the whole family. Here’s a few ideas on how you can help kids become wiser on waste and make litter prevention the new standard.
1. Host Nude Food days. The Nude Food movement has been an enormous success in Australia and is a great way to promote healthy eating and rubbish free living. Let parents know about Nude Food day, week or month and suggest ideas for packing lunches without the disposable packaging. Encourage students to pack their own lunches and it’ll be easy to see just how much plastic is being used daily.
Lesson: Lots of food comes in its own packaging from nature. Unnecessary plastic packaging ends up contributing to landfill or even worse, as litter. By considering packaging choices and its impact on the environment, kids learn about the need to reduce, reuse and recycle while having fun creating delicious and healthy meals. Nude food makes for a healthy body and healthier planet!
2. Start a compost heap. Set aside an old garbage bin with holes punched in the side and bottom for aeration or an old wooden box, to collect “green” and “brown” waste. Compost is nutrient-rich, extremely beneficial for soil and is a great way to put waste to good use. Read our guide on how to make your own compost heap.
Lesson: Almost half the waste we throw away each week is organic material, like food and garden waste. Organic matter in landfill emits nasty toxins as it breaks down, but when plants, fruits and vegetables decompose in the earth, the nutrients contained are recycled back into the soil, to be used by other living organisms.
3. Transform rubbish into art. Host an upcycling artwork competition just like this one. Reward students by handing out prizes in different categories and by displaying their works of art for parents to see.
Lesson: Finding resource in rubbish is a fun and engaging way to show that materials destined for the landfill can actually have a new lease on life.
4. Organise an exchange sale. Buy, sell and trade toys, books, stationery, and outgrown clothing, including school uniforms. Make this a yearly event and get parents involved as well.
Lesson: There is a second life to many of our unwanted personal items. Instead of sending them to the bin or hoarding them at home, share them with others.
5. Schedule a waste audit. A plan can be made for reducing, reusing, and recycling waste in your school. Find out which areas need more attention and how best to start a waste education program tailored for your school.
If you would like to arrange a waste education session for your school or university, please contact us for more information.
The warm days and longer daylight hours make summer a perfect time to get outdoors, catch up with friends and family or work on home improvement projects. Find out how you can use the waste hierarchy to keep your summer activities sustainable during outdoor excursions, when hosting a gathering or cleaning up around the house.
The easiest way to reduce waste is to avoid it. Whenever we shop, we should be mindful that what we buy may ultimately become our rubbish. The best way to avoid being wasteful is to plan ahead. Before heading to the shops, draw up a list of needed items – whether it’s groceries, clothes, camping supplies or hardware. Making a list helps identify what you really need, while avoiding guesswork and impulse buys. You’ll probably save a bit of money too.
Here are our tips for avoiding waste:
Don’t buy what you’ve already got – check the cupboards, pantry or garage to make sure you’re not buying what you don’t need.
Avoid single-use plastic full-stop – straws and plastic bags are two items that can be easily replaced with reusable options.
Borrow, rent or hire camping equipment, party supplies and household tools to avoid buying new and one-time only items.
After avoiding creating new waste, the next step is to reduce the amount of waste. Instead of relying on single-use or single-purpose items, look around you and see what you can use as a replacement or ways to reduce wastage. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creativity like:
Get camping equipment and party supplies made from quality materials that are designed to last and store them well. This can reduce the need to purchase new items in the future.
Plan meals and party menu ahead, catering for the right amount of people and make the most of leftovers to reduce food waste.
Where possible, repair broken appliances and furniture instead of throwing them out. If you can’t repair it yourself, look for a repair café or business in your area.
Purchase goods made from recycled products to reduce waste and encourage a circular economy.
The next step is to reuse. Whenever possible, switch to items that have multiple purposes or a long lifespan. This can include getting your own reusable coffee cup and water bottle, painting or recovering furniture instead of replacing them and repurposing party supplies and decorations.
Make the most of Christmas packaging by saving wrapping paper, ribbons and boxes for gifts throughout the year.
Store shopping bags collected over Christmas in the car or your handbag, ready for unexpected shopping trips.
Hold a garage sale or swap – your rubbish could be someone else’s treasure.
Recycling uses fewer resources to produce new items compared to raw materials. Taking the time to recycle instead of throwing in general waste can make a huge difference.
Households without an organics kerbside collection service can start a compost bin – there are options even for apartments with tiny spaces. Businesses can recycle food and garden waste with an organics waste service.
E-waste such as old mobile phones, hard drives and printers can be recycled – visit E-waste Finder to learn more.
Household chemicals like paint and old cleaner products are also recyclable. Paint can be dropped off at Paintback locations nationwide and check with council for household chemical drop-off locations.
Keep a dedicated recycling box nearby when cleaning up the house to collect recyclable items like old papers and magazines.
Disposal should be the last option. Reducing waste starts with planning and conscientious buying so that as little as possible is disposed as general waste and sent to landfill.
Whether it’s sustainability tips and tricks for the home or total waste management solutions for businesses, contact us today to find out how we’re making a sustainable future possible for our communities.