Article 20/01/2023

What is 100% Clean Recycling?

By Carol Fung

We all know the importance of recycling, but did you know there’s a significant difference between “recycling” and “100% Clean Recycling”? It doesn’t stop at the recycling bin, in fact that’s just the start.

Mixed container recycling (i.e., yellow bins) vs 100% Clean Recycling services.

Mixed container recycling (i.e., yellow bins) is amazing; it’s significantly changed how Australians recycle. But they aren’t a 100% clean solution for all bottles and cans to be recycled.

What does that mean?

Bottles and cans with a 10c refund symbol are part of the Container Deposit Scheme (CDS), a recycling scheme whereby you can return eligible containers to designated facilities and receive 10c for each one.

But, if those bottles and cans with the 10c refund symbol are put into the same collection bin as the other non-eligible containers, there is no guarantee – despite our good intentions – that they will actually be able to be recycled.

The problem is exposure to contamination from the point of disposal through to the recycling plant. Mixed container recycling (i.e., yellow bins) is up to 30% contaminated1 by incorrectly sorted items, such as foods, oils and non-recyclables, often due to consumer confusion. But, they also contain a mix of ineligible CDS containers such as wine bottles, detergents, packaging, aerosols and broken glass.

The higher the overall contamination rate and the greater the mix of containers, the less valuable the resources become and the more likely they will be discarded into landfill.

We must become more efficient at recycling.

Envirobank’s 100% Clean Recycling services are a direct path for CDS eligible containers to go from your hands to the recycler, contaminant-free. This guarantees that it gets recycled. Mixed container recycling (i.e., yellow bins) is essential for all other recyclable containers, but due to their mixed process of collection and incorrectly sorted items, they need to take an indirect path and go to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Materials that cannot be cost-effectively re-separated at the MRF will end up in landfill and only those that can be recovered will actually make it to the recycler.

100% Clean Recycling

Why does contamination occur?

Here’s an example: Let’s say you separate all your rubbish and recycling, based on traditional practices, into your mixed container recycling bin (i.e., yellow bin). Your next-door neighbour does the same, but isn’t as thorough, and some non-recyclable containers are also included. Now, three doors down, another neighbour has mixed banana peels and liquids in their mixed container recycling  bin. All of these materials (those that are correctly separated, and those that are not) are combined together within the truck during collection, increasing the rate of contamination for the whole load.

And, let’s not forget the truck itself. Even if all of your neighbours are meticulous separators, if the truck used for collection has previously carried other rubbish on a Monday and then collects recyclables on a Tuesday, the truck itself can cause contamination.


In Australia, it’s believed 6-10% of our kerbside recycling is contaminated, with contamination rates of over 30% reported in some local councils1.


The true value of bottles and cans: it’s not rubbish; it’s a resource.

We’re talking about a collective mindset shift – viewing used containers made of plastic, glass, aluminium, steel and liquid paperboard not as rubbish but as a precious resource.

Not only can your containers be reformed into new bottles and cans, but recent innovation has seen them utilised in infrastructure like concrete and railway sleepers.

These leaps in material reuse are vital pillars for creating a circular economy – an economic system based on regenerating materials produced in sustainable or environmentally friendly ways.

All these exciting and innovative possibilities are made far more efficient if we get better at how we collect our recycling. 

It’s for this reason that we need direct recycling streams that guarantee that when we go to the effort of separating, that our recycling will actually get recycled. We all need to be asking, where does my recycling go next?

Envirobank’s commitment to 100% Clean Recycling.

Our services are a direct path from your hands to the recycler, contaminant-free. It means containers are managed through an effective contaminant-free process, from a quality-controlled collection system to comprehensive processing.

It’s through this commitment that you know with 100% certainty that you’re contributing to a circular economy – an economic system based on the reuse and regeneration of materials sustainably. 

Because recycling isn’t just rubbish, it’s a resource.


100% Clean Recycling means we ensure that every container deposit scheme eligible bottle and can we receive from you actually gets recycled.


Environmental impact of Crunch members at 16 December 2022.

Which 100% Clean Recycling Service is best for you?

There are different ways you can recycle with us. What’s more, we pay you (10 cents or 15 Crunch credits) for every one of your eligible cans or bottles.

To find your nearest recycling location, use our locator tool.

Pickup services: We not only pick up your recycling, but we’ll also pay you for it. Learn more about our pickup services.

  • Pickup services for Home: Register to check your postcode.
  • Pickup services for Businesses, Organisations and Events: Become a champion for your place of work or local community. Contact us to register interest.

Drop-off Services: Bring your recycling to one of our drop-off locations, we’ll count them and add your funds to your Crunch Rewards account.

  • Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) and Super Kiosks: Deposit your bottles and cans, and get paid via Crunch Rewards!
  • Drop ‘n’ Go: In a rush? Put your containers into a bag and drop them off at one of our Drop’n’Go smart pods. As long as you’ve registered your recycling into your account, we’ll count your containers and credit your account.

Depots: Visit us in person and give us your recycling.

Ways you’re rewarded for recycling: We give you money to recycle with us. Whether cash or Crunch credits for yourself or a charitable cause, we reward you for doing good.

Learn more about Crunch Rewards.

  • Crunch Rewards: Become a Crunch Rewards member and choose between 10-cents for each eligible bottle or can you recycle or earn Crunch credits and redeem them for rewards from Coles, Velocity Frequent Flyer, adidas, Uber Eats and more.
  • Charity and Fundraising: You also have the option to donate your funds to charity! Collect for a cause and give back to the community in more ways than one.

Cash out: You can also use Crunch Rewards to keep track of your recycling efforts and cash out via PayPal.

It’s our collective responsibility to recycle

The act of recycling is not only a personal duty but a shared obligation that belongs to us all.

Whether as community leaders and businesses, we’re leading by example and rallying others, or as individuals making small changes that have a huge impact; if we work together, we can profoundly improve our environment and reduce our footprint for future generations.

Every container that’s recycled is one less in a landfill. Not only are we reducing waste, but we’re conserving natural resources by decreasing the need to produce new materials, eliminating the extraction of virgin materials.

We all have the power to make a difference. To recycle correctly is accountability and connection to the land we call home.

That’s why at Envirobank, we are committed to 100% Clean Recycling.


About Envirobank

We are Envirobank, an Indigenous-owned company committed to achieving positive environmental and social impact by incentivising bottle and can recycling. We operate in the NT and focus on remote community recycling services, and under the Return and Earn container deposit scheme in NSW and Containers for Change container deposit scheme in QLD.

We make it really easy — and financially rewarding — for people, schools, community groups and businesses to recycle beverage containers using our reverse vending machines, automated depots, smart pods and rewards platform called Crunch.


SOURCES:

1 Monash University, Monash Sustainable Development Initiative, BehaviourWorks Australia 2020, Reducing Contamination of Household Recycling, Monash University, accessed 21 December 2022.

By Carol Fung