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Confusion equals contamination

By Narelle Anderson - posted Friday, 27 February 2009

In 2005 Planet Ark commissioned a recycling report that revealed 48.1 per cent of people were confused about what they can and can’t recycle - and not much has changed since.

An estimated 116,000 tonnes of recyclable material gets rejected from recycling plants each year because it is contaminated by non-recyclable material and ultimately ends up land-fill.

Many of us will be hitting our favourite beaches and parks this weekend to “Clean-Up Australia” - but doing the “right thing” and ensuring that recyclables aren’t contaminated should be high on the agenda everyday and not just for special events.


Ninety-nine per cent of Australians recycle on a regular basis says the Australian Bureau of statistics - so why is recyclable material still ending up as land-fill?

When it comes to public place recycling many venues and locations don’t have the facilities to handle recyclable material effectively. A large part of the problem however is education - people simply don’t know or understand the recycling process and it’s not hard to see why.

Cans, plastic, paper, cardboard, glass and food are all recyclable but lumped together they equal land-fill.

There are different types of recyclable material too. For example, of the 850,000 tonnes of glass Australians consume each year only 350,0000 or 1.4 billion bottles are actually recyclable. Knowing what can be recycled and through which bin or collection service isn’t always made easy for consumers.

The other half of the problem is motivation. Trying to work out which coloured bin to put your empty coke can into can be hassle and without an incentive many people simply think why bother when they’re out and on the move.

In the past few weeks several calls have been made to re-introduce the much loved and highly successful 1970’s cash-for-cans initiatives by green leaders like Clean-Up Australia Day founder, Ian Kiernan.


South Australia for example, has approved container deposit legislation (CDL) and enjoys recovery rates for beverage containers of close to 90 per cent - showing that small rewards can have a big impact on our environment. The rest of Australia lags behind with only a 38 per cent drink container recovery rate.

Governments and packaging companies, however, are stalling on discussions and still acting out of self-interest. Their refusal to come to an agreement however has resulted in the introduction of Envirobank reverse vending machines to Australia.

Envirobank reverse vending machines have been successfully tried in the US and Sweden and their introduction to public places in Australia will help to cut out the confusion for recyclers and reward people at the same time.

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About the Author

Narelle Anderson is managing director of Envirobank. She is reviving Australia's passion for the environment and recycling by combining her business acumen with Envirobank’s reverse vending technology for a modern day cash-for-cans initiative. She has extensive experience in waste management and continues to bring innovative solutions that enable Australians to care for their environment.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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