Environment Department Statements

Statement from Environment Departments regarding Australia's Recycling


Queensland, and the rest of Australia, are fighting a war on waste.

The decision of China and Malaysia has revealed how exposed Australia’s waste management system is, and how reliant we are on off-shore processors and markets.

The Queensland Government is modernising waste management. We have set a path forward for Queensland to help grow the recycling and resource recovery industry.

At the moment, Queensland is generating waste faster than it is growing in population. We also only recycle about 45% of our waste.

We know this needs to change, and that is why the Government is investing in a range of measures to decrease waste and improve recycling rates.

Last year, we introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags. Since then, we have seen a 70% drop in plastic bag litter.

Last year we also implemented the container refund scheme, where Queenslanders can get a 10-cent refund for recycling their drink containers.

Since it was implemented on November 1, more than 700 million containers have been returned across Queensland, and we’ve also seen a 35% reduction of containers ending up as litter.

Last month the Queensland Government implemented a waste levy. Queensland used to be the only mainland state in Australia without a levy, and we have now been brought in line with the rest of the country.

Revenue from the levy will help fund critical infrastructure and help grow recycling and waste industries, and ultimately create a market in Queensland where we can recycle more of our waste.

There are huge economic opportunities in recycling, including the ability to create more jobs. For every 10,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill, less than three jobs are supported. But if that same waste was recycled, this would support more than nine jobs.

In July 2019 the Queensland Government released a new Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy to help Queensland move towards a “circular economy”. This Strategy has also set long-term targets, including, by 2050:

  • 25% reduction in household waste
  • 10% of all waste going to landfill
  • 75% recycling rates across all waste types

These targets are expected to create 3000 jobs in the waste and recycling industry within a decade.


The NSW Government supports COAG’s decision to develop a timetable to ban the export of waste products while building our capacity to generate high value products.

NSW is working on a 20 Year Waste Strategy and a comprehensive plan to tackle plastics which will complement the COAG work.

The NSW Government’s commitment of more than $800 million for waste and recycling initiatives under the Waste Less, Recycle More program, is the nation’s largest recycling program. It’s through this initiative that Roads and Maritime Services have completed successful trials of using recycled glass in our roads. I’m thrilled to say it’s been so successful they have now increased the allowable amount of recycled crushed glass to be used in road base, from 2.5% to 10%. Initiatives like this is how we’re developing new uses for recycled material.

The waste levy aims to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and promote recycling. Since its introduction, recycling has increased. The NSW Government apportions revenue from the waste levy across a number of public services. One third of the waste levy is used to fund environmental programs, such as the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative. The remaining two thirds fund essential government services, such as schools, hospitals and roads.

My Commonwealth and State colleagues have a target of 100% of Australian packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025.

Managing our waste is one of our major environmental challenges and the NSW Government is committed to delivering a better, cleaner environment in NSW for future generations.


The Victorian government is working closely with industry, local governments and the community to address current disruptions to recycling systems and ensure as much recycling as possible is processed.

We’re also working on a range of longer-term strategies and initiatives to increase domestic processing, ensure less contamination and reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place.

We have built a strong foundation for Victoria’s transitioning waste industry, through record funding of more than $135 million over the last four years in the waste and resource recovery sector. This includes $37 million to deliver the Recycling Industry Strategic Plan and the recently announced $34.9 million for more recycling support measures.

The Recycling Industry Strategic Plan is about the long-term transition of the sector that will help create the extra recycling capacity that Victoria needs to be ready for any future disruptions.

Victoria has led the way in modernising the waste industry, as the first Australian jurisdiction to have in place a comprehensive, long-term waste and resource recovery infrastructure planning framework.

Victoria is also developing a circular economy policy that will build on our strong record of continuously improving our waste management and resource recovery capabilities.

The policy will identify new ways for Victorian businesses and communities to use materials more efficiently and avoid waste in all stages of making, using and disposing of the products and infrastructure we rely on every day. Victoria’s infrastructure projects are already benefitting from a truly circular economy with trains travelling through Richmond are now running on railway sleepers made from recycled plastic.

Over the past four years, the Victorian Government has been delivering a comprehensive suite of waste and resource recovery initiatives to develop and grow a sustainable resource recovery network for all Victorians and build the state’s capacity to respond to the shifting global trends including:

In addition, the Victorian Government is identifying opportunities to incorporate recycled content into its procurement activity, which will further drive demand and build domestic markets for recycled materials.

These strategies have established Victoria as a national leader in building markets for recovered resources, fast tracking the state’s shift to a more circular economy.

Circular economy

  • Victoria is leading the way in developing a circular economy policy that will build on our strong record of continuously improving our waste management and resource recovery capabilities.
  • We are working with experts from across industry and engaging with local governments and communities across the state.
  • This is about investing in ways to turn waste and recycled products into valuable materials, and we’re making sure we get it right.
  • This means taking a ‘borrow-use-return’ approach, where things are re-used, repaired or recycled rather than going to landfill.
  • The circular economy will deliver better environmental, social and economic results for Victoria.

Recycling infrastructure

  • We are supporting the Victorian recycling sector so we can make more from our recycling.
  • The Victorian Government has provided $19.1 million to 60 infrastructure projects in metropolitan and regional Victoria through the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund since 2017.
  • These projects are expected to create more than 400 jobs in Victoria’s waste and resource recovery sector and divert at least 900,000 tonnes of material from landfill each year.

Kerbside overhaul

  • Victoria is getting on with transforming the state’s recycling industry, working with local government on a major overhaul of kerbside collection, that will seek innovative and cost-effective designs that could include additional household bins to reduce waste contamination.
  • This may include extra bins for households to improve the separation of waste, making it easier to recycle materials.
  • Everyone has a role to play in reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill, including businesses and householders.

Domestic processing

  • We’re investing in recycling infrastructure to create a more stable and productive recycling industry.
  • Victoria is now home to a new state-of-the-art plastics recycling plant in Melbourne’s north that is set to process 70,000 tonnes of plastic each year - equivalent to almost half of all plastics currently recovered across the state. This project was supported by the $26.1 million Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.

Using recycled material in major projects

  • Victoria’s Big Build is utilising recovered materials.
  • For every kilometre of railway track installed with sleepers which are made from 85% plastic waste, 64 tonnes of plastic waste that would have otherwise gone to landfill is recycled.
  • Four million glass bottles per day are processed into 800 tonnes of construction sand to be used in Big Build construction projects.
  • For every 300 metres of recycled green roads, we use 530,000 plastic bags, 168 glass bottles 12,500 used printer cartridges and 134 tonnes of reclaimed road asphalt.

Organic waste

  • The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) has led and continues to deliver the organics network that processes Melbourne’s green and, increasingly, food waste. The capacity of the organics processing network now exceeds the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Implementation Plan 2021 target by 120,000 tonnes.
  • In 2014, Moira Shire introduced a kerbside food and green waste collection service. The strength of the partnership between the council, the regional waste and resource recovery group, the collection contractor and the organics processor has seen the service achieve one of the lowest contamination rates in the state, at less than 0.3 per cent.

E-waste ban

  • We have banned e-waste from Victoria’s landfill
  • To support the rollout of the ban we have invested $16.5 million to upgrade e-waste collection and storage facilities across the state, and develop an e-waste education and awareness campaign.
  • The e-waste ban reduces the need to extract raw materials from the earth.


Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030

  • A consistent three bin kerbside collection system, which includes separation of food organics and garden organics from other waste categories, to be provided by all local governments in the Perth and Peel region by 2025 and supported by State Government through the application of financial mechanisms.
  • Implement local government waste plans, which align local government waste planning processes with the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030.
  • Implement sustainable government procurement practices that encourage greater use of recycled products and support local market development.
  • Provide funding to promote the recovery of more value and resources from waste with an emphasis on focus materials.
  • Review the scope and application of the waste levy to ensure it meets the objectives of Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 and establish a schedule of future waste levy rates with the initial schedule providing a minimum five year horizon.
  • Develop state-wide communications to support consistent messaging on waste avoidance, resource recovery and appropriate waste disposal behaviours.
  • Review and update data collection and reporting systems to allow waste generation, recovery and disposal performance to be assessed in a timely manner.
  • Undertake a strategic review of Western Australia’s waste infrastructure (including landfills) by 2020 to guide future infrastructure development.


It’s important not to over-simplify what China’s National Sword Policy is and does. China still accept (and actually pay a premium for) processed and sorted plastic waste. What China did was to stop accepting mixed materials, or materials that were considered too dirty to be easily reprocessed. That’s not the same as China just not taking any materials back. Often the outcome is the same interstate where the sorting and recovery process is not as advanced as it is in South Australia. In South Australia, beverage containers have a ten cent deposit on them. SA has had this for 42 years, since 1977. This means SA has deeply ingrained cultural behaviours the rest of the country just doesn’t have when it comes to recycling and recovery. We also have deeply embedded infrastructure: All South Aussies know where the local ‘bottle depot’ is in their neighbourhood. These are institutions in SA as are the characters who work at them. At these depots plastic and glass is sorted into various colour streams: clear, green, and amber. This is a very important distinction because that simple process of sorting our waste makes the material much, much more valuable and easier to sell. Amber glass can’t be made ‘clear’. So the wine industry here – which consumes almost all the recycled glass – pays a premium for pre-sorted glass.

The same is true of plastics: with black plastic being the least sought after because it can’t be tinted or coloured back into another colour like white or clear. But since China’s National Sword Policy, South Australia has invested considerably in better, smarter, and faster systems to not only sort waste plastic, but to process it into a raw material (plastic ‘pellets’) that China actually pay a premium for. This is effectively a way in SA to move to a more circular economy and turn what was a waste product into a raw material or resource – one that China will happily accept.

Local processors Recycled Plastics Australia (RPA) received a loan from the South Australian Government to ‘tool up’ and fit out a factory with state of the art kit to turn not just South Australia’s waste plastic, but waste plastic from around the country into an export quality raw material (pelletised plastic). The main market for this material is China. So It’s important to understand that SA has pivoted quickly to respond to the challenge. Funding from the South Australian Government to address the impact of the National Sword policy in SA has been in place since May 2018. So while we welcome recent announcements by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on plans to stop exporting any recyclable materials or waste, it’s something SA has been heading towards well ahead of the rest of the country – as usual.

When funding was announced in 2018 by the South Australian Government to invest 12m in responding to National Sword, one of the most important aspects of this funding was to spend time and effort on researching householder attitudes towards recycling to understand barriers, challenges and values around how and why people recycle, and to develop a single, consistent statewide message on recycling. This led to the creation of the Which Bin campaign (, and These commercials were the first time that SA had seen prime time advertising on how and why to recycle. Including a print media campaign, outdoor advertising, social media support and a dedicated Which Bin hotline, The South Australian Government is on the front foot in showing its commitment to improving the quality of recycling and to diverting as much as possible from landfill. No other state has yet adopted the ‘Which Bin? Just Ask Vin’ messaging, or committed to a prime time, traditional TV advertising campaign to get into people’s homes, and their hearts and minds to improve their bin behaviour and increase recycling knowledge and know-how at the kerbside level.

South Australia diverts 83.6 % of all waste from landfill. This is a world leading result. But ‘waste’ production is on the increase. Make no mistake – we are all creating more waste. Through consumption, packaging and our general attitude towards disposable, single use or short term consumer items, waste is on the increase, not the decline. In one respect this makes SA’s result all the more impressive, because even with more waste being generated, we still managed a slight reduction from landfill last year.

Questions about how much waste and what we recycle are all quickly available in the SA Recycling Activity report here:

Businesses in SA are also actively seeking to move towards a more circular economy to not only avoid waste but to develop new markets for recycled content product. We strongly recommend watching some of these videos that showcase just how diverse and world leading some of the ideas out of South Australia – they are eye openers to most people:

Advanced Plastic Recycling:

Turning waste plastic and waste timber into valuable products for export

HollaFresh Herbs:

A prime example of the circular economy in action in South Australia. Local company Bio Gro provides wood residue to Holla-Fresh at no cost, for use as a heating fuel. Afterwards, Bio Gro take away the biochar that is produced:

Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority:

Stateof the art recycling facility in SA’s Northern suburbs:

BioBags: compostable plastics means big business for South Australia


Responsible and cost effective waste management on buildings sites

The story for SA is:

We have a long track record of recycling, and it’s part of the DNA in SA

We responded faster and more strategically through grants, funding, advocacy and education campaigns

SA remains rightly proud of its commitment: The first state to introduce ten cent deposits (1977), the first state to introduce a plastic bag ban (2009), the first state to commit to a single statewide education and advertising message on recycling (2018) and the first state to kick off a multi-region Plastic Free Places trial, which includes three major retail and shopping areas (The Parade, Norwood, The Adelaide Central Markets, Jetty Road Brighton) and in a world first, all 21 Surf Life Saving clubs have joined together to trial going ‘single-use plastic free’.



Shifts in global resource markets, such as the bans on waste imports under China’s “National Sword” policy are having an impact both across Australia and the globe. It is an area that needs ongoing attention, however the effects in the ACT have been limited.

The ACT Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Hume is operated by Re.Group. Apart from contamination, which is sent to landfill, the MRF operator advises that all recyclable materials are sold to market as part of their standard business model. This depends on market demand at the time, although the bulk of the material processed at the MRF (over 95%) is sold on the domestic market and consists of:

  • Around 45-55% of material (by weight) is paper and cardboard. This is sent to a paper mill at Tumut in NSW.
  • Around 30-35% is glass, which is turned into sand and sold locally.
  • Other materials (ie plastic, aluminium and steel) are sold to a variety of end users based on market demand.

The ACT has a high overall resource recovery rate of around 70% for the last decade. The ACT Government’s Waste Feasibility Study in May 2018 provided a set of recommendations and a roadmap aimed at diverting and additional 170,000 tonnes of waste from landfill to head towards an 87% overall resource recovery rate in the ACT.

We have already implemented a number of these recommendations, including the Container Deposit Scheme, which as at 25 August 2019 has also seen over 33 million containers returned since the scheme began in June 2018. The government is also investigating options for increased food organics recycling and has consulted the community on developing a policy on using waste to generate energy. The government also completed a review of the development code for waste management to improve recycling outcomes in new apartment complexes. The Government has also consulted on a discussion paper on phasing out unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics.

We are now focusing on:

  • Developing a detailed feasibility study into maximising diversion of organic waste from landfill, including through the delivery of a food and garden organics process site and facility, products and markets.
  • Development of a pilot education campaign on food waste avoidance.
  • Examining options to phase-out avoidable single-use plastics in the ACT.
  • Further developing the ACT waste levy to discourage landfill and make recycling more attractive.

We also have a significant ongoing community awareness and engagement program, including:

  • Our Recycling Discovery Hub and outreach program, reaching around 6,000 residents every year.
  • Education campaigns such as the ‘#RecycleRight’ campaign.
  • Participating in initiatives such as National Recycling Week, which will be held 11-17 November 2019.
  • Designing behaviour change interventions for better recycling outcomes in multi-unit developments.
  • A new and improved ‘Recyclopaedia’, where residents can go to find out if hundreds of everyday items can be reused, repurposed or recycled.

The ACT Government continues to work with our local, state and federal counterparts, with an agreement at the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting to establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand, and establish an agreed set of actions under the National Waste Policy.


  • All Territorians have responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle its waste, including plastics.
  • The NT is supportive of developing a national approach to banning exports of waste from Australia whilst maintaining trade in recyclables.
  • Recovering, reuse and recycling waste should be viewed as an opportunity to develop new commodities and markets.
  • Governments have a role in supporting industry in recovery, reuse and recycling of materials.
  • In April 2018, Environment Ministers from all states and territories committed that all Australian packaging must be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier. The National Waste Policy More Resources, Less Waste 2018 outlines the key strategies to deliver on this target. Industry and governments across Australia are actively implementing actions to deliver this commitment. This includes better understanding the plastics and other wastes generated across Australia, potential markets for reuse and recycling, identifying barriers and opportunities for a circular economy for waste and exploration of options for material re-design.
  • The NT is part of the national working group developing the national action plan for consideration at the Meeting of Environment Ministers (MEM) at its next meeting.
  • The NT generates approximately 347 kilo-tonnes of waste per annual (less than 1% of Australia’s total waste).
  • The recycling rate in the NT is approximately 11%.
  • Construction and Demolition waste and Commercial and Industrial waste makes up approximately 75% of the NT’s waste.