Could Six Bins Help Ease Victoria's Recycling Crisis Or Is It A Rubbish Idea?

If you think recycling is already confusing enough, spare a thought for Victorians who could soon be forced to divide their waste into six separate bins.

The radical idea is one of seven detailed in an interim report by Infrastructure Victoria, with the aim to solve the state's recycling crisis. It would see waste separated into organics, plastics, paper and card, glass, metals and regular waste.

Currently, there are three bins -- a general one for recycling, one for waste and one for garden material.

Infrastructure Victoria Project Director Elissa McNamara told 10 daily the current system is ineffective and outdated.

Currently there is one recycling bin in Melbourne. Image: Getty

"In Victoria, we've been putting our recycling in one big bin for 20 years... now it's time for us to get with the times."

McNamara confirmed that the plan would not involve residents wheeling out six separate bins every week. Instead, she pointed to a similar system implemented oversees which uses a collection truck to pick up waste stored in separate compartments of several bins.

"We don't necessarily need six big wheelie bins that take up space in our garage or on the kerbside," McNamara explained.

"In Wales, they use a stackable crate system on wheels which included compartments which separate the waste."

She said that there is "no doubt" an "innovative system is needed" to ensure apartments and houses are catered for.

Image: Getty

Waste is a huge issue in Victoria. The state has almost doubled the total waste generated between 2000 and 2018 to 13.4 million tonnes a year, up from 7.4 tonnes, according to the report.

Making matter worse, Victoria's recycling industry was thrown into chaos earlier this year after, SKM, the largest processor, collapsed after plants were repeatedly shut down by regulators because of stockpiles and several facility fires. It meant tonnes of clean, recyclable material was sent to landfill.

READ MORE: How The Recycling Crisis Has Become A Business Opportunity

In Australia, 31 million tonnes of waste is recycled each year, just 10 percent of that goes to landfill, mostly due to contamination

One of the biggest issues is broken glass.

"We do have to think about creating cleaner material," The Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Schmigel told 10 daily. "The reason [recycling] gets sent to landfill, stockpiled or sent overseas is it's not good quality."

Waleed Aly stands inside mountains of recycled waste. Photo: The Project.

While he agreed there needs to be more source segregation, Schmigel said that a "step by step approach starting with glass" was more appropriate than going in headfirst and creating a number of different recycling rules.

"Up to 40 percent of our new houses are flats, so how you do this source segregation is a real challenge," Schmigel said,  adding that the most important part of any change to waste distribution needs to have the backing of the public.

Infrastructure Victoria research suggests up to 90 percent of households were open to changing how they sort their waste, but just how much change residents can deal with is the question.

"We need to think about what Australians will tolerate," he said. "For example, Japan does a lot of sorting [of waste] but it's a different culture. Would Australians tolerate fines if the wrong materials were put in the wrong bin?"

Schmigel also suggested that the country establishes markets for recyclable materials.

"If the system had more valuable things coming out of it, such as making roads out of glass, then we wouldn't be having this discussion," he said. "If there is a real market, the system will fix itself."

Which bin for what? Image: Getty

Infrastructure Victoria has suggested a range of other measures, which includes more support for local councils to roll out a consistent approach to collecting and sorting waste, introducing recycling targets and developing a waste-to-energy policy which would see household rubbish burned and turned into electricity.

A container deposit scheme was also "promising". Currently, Victoria is the only state not committed to a cash-for-cans program, but the state government has ruled it out.

Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio earlier this month announced $1.6 million for research into projects to reuse waste, while other institutions would give a further $3.4 million.

Infrastructure Victoria's final report will be delivered on recycling and resource recovery infrastructure by April 2020.

With AAP