What is 100% Clean Recycling?
This is recycling bottles & cans contaminant-free
100% Clean Recycling is making sure that every eligible bottle and can actually gets recycled. Direct recycling streams guarantee that when we go to the effort of sorting containers, they will actually get a chance at a new life as another bottle or can. We all need to be asking, where does my recycling go next? Creating 100% clean recycling streams ensures quality recycling material and reusable resources.
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.
Let’s take a look at direct vs indirect recycling, and how the lifecycle of bottles and cans differs in Australia.
Recycling isn’t waste, it’s a resource!
This is 100% Clean Recycling
Bottles and cans
Eligible bottles and cans get collected via our Pickup or Drop-off services, contaminant-free.
Direct recycling stream
Whether you’re dropping off, or we’re picking up, you know your recycling is in good hands (ours!).
Your containers are efficiently separated into clean material streams at one of our high-speed depots, are baled and now ready to start a new life.
This is not...
Your yellow bin can be up to 30% contaminated*, due to consumer confusion or apathy.
After the garbage truck picks up the recycling, it goes to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where it is assessed for quality and contamination.
Risk of landfill
The higher the contamination rate, the less valuable the resources become and the more likely they will be discarded into landfill.
Yellow bin vs 100% Clean Recycling
Council recycling bins are amazing, but they aren’t a 100% clean solution for all bottles and cans to be recycled. Even if you do right by your yellow bin, your recycling can still end up in landfill. All it takes is a passer-by’s banana peel to contaminate the whole truckload! Mixed container recycling (i.e., yellow bins) can be up to 30% contaminated according to this recent report.
The most common contaminants include soft plastics, polystyrene, containers with food residue and the odd dreaded nappy! Contaminants can also be a mix of non-recyclables such as certain packaging, partially full aerosols and broken glass. Consumer confusion also results in incorrectly sorted items making their way into the truck; although as you probably know (or didn’t know) – what can go in the yellow bin changes from council to council, so it’s pretty easy to get mixed up.
In Australia, 6-10% of our kerbside recycling is contaminated, with contamination rates of over 30% reported in some local councils*.
Contamination = more emissions
It’s a bit of a dirty word
In the best-case scenario, once the council collection truck makes its way to the waste company’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), mixed recycling needs to be separated and sorted. What is recyclable here, non-recyclables there, plastic here, cardboard there, contaminated over there, etc. The materials, once separated and baled, are then transported to different companies all across Australia and even overseas, or taken to landfill.
You can see why we call this the indirect approach. It adds time, money and extra emissions.
Contamination can make its way into the recycling stream at any point along the truck’s route, so even if one street recycles right, the next street over might add undesirable items into the mix. Contamination doesn’t just pollute, it also lowers the quality of the recycling material and means it will need extra processing before it is clean enough to use.
That means being trucked to different facilities, which again is time, money and yep, you guessed it. More emissions.
The higher the contamination rate the less valuable the resources are for reuse. Some councils put extra effort into recovering materials, but in others, contaminated loads go straight to landfill. In fact, this recent article found that any load with more than 25% contamination went straight to landfill.
Re-use it, don't lose it
The sad fact of the matter is, bottles and cans that should and could have been recycled, end up in landfill. Another unfortunate circumstance of plastics and other lightweight recyclables like aluminium, is that they can get blown or washed away in poor weather, lost during transport, and or displaced at the landfill site, where they end up in oceans and waterways. Globally 85% of plastic beverage containers end up in landfills*. The estimated annual loss in the value of plastic packaging waste during sorting and processing alone is US$80-120m. This means only 5% of the value of the material is retained for reuse.
Australians buy almost 15 billion plastic bottles every year and many of these end up in landfill or in our waterways. We also spend plenty of time and money scraping our waterways for bottles and cans, when these could just be recycled efficiently in the first place; just take a look at the efforts the CSIRO go to, just to clean Sydney Harbour.
The latest National Waste Report found that in the period from 2020–21, the recovery rate for plastics was about 13%. Landfills receive an estimated 87% of plastic waste, and yet our resource recovery rate hasn’t improved since the last report.
Let’s change this.
Our services are a direct path from your hands to the recycler. 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 – a system based on the reuse and regeneration of high quality materials.
Recycling isn’t just rubbish, it’s a resource.
Let’s keep it in the loop
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, but we need collective change.
Are you ready?
Which 100% Clean Recycling service is right for you?
We’ll pick it up and pay you for it
Create an Envirobank account to book a pickup for your 10¢ recycling. You’ll get the $ and the sustainability stats in your account within two working days of pickup.
Visit one of our high-speed depots
Whether you’ve collected 1 or 100,000 eligible containers, Envirobank has high-speed depots, RVMs and Drop’n’Go services around the country. Find your nearest drop-off location.
For further reading, please refer to the listed sources:
- ‘Eco-friendly alternatives to plastic water bottles’, Sustainability.vic.gov, August 2nd, 2023
- ‘Is this the end of the yellow all-in-one recycling bin?,’ Naaman Zhou, July 4th, 2018
- ‘Reducing Contamination of Household Recycling’, Monash University, December 21st, 2022
- National Waste Report 2022, Blue Environment Pty Ltd, The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, December 16th, 2022
- ‘Reducing litter in Sydney Harbour’, CSIRO News, March 6th 2023