Hand scrunching plastic

Changes to international recycling markets mean it’s more important than ever for Victorians to recycle correctly.

The Victorian Government, local councils and the recycling industry are working hard to ensure changes to global markets, prompted by China's new trade measures, have limited impact on our recycling system – but we need your help.

Victorians have a great record when it comes to recycling. Since 2001, the amount of recyclable household material diverted from landfill has increased by 64 per cent. It is important we maintain this momentum and build on these strengths to meet the current challenge.

All Victorians are urged to continue to carefully separate recyclable from non-recyclable materials and place them in the correct bin.

Putting the wrong items in the wrong bins can result in problems once your recycling has been collected.

It's also important to note that recycling services differ from council to council.

You can remind yourself what can and can’t be recycled by visiting the Sustainability Victoria website or checking with your local council.

China's new trade measures

At the beginning of this year, China introduced new trade measures that limit the import of low quality mixed recyclables, including paper and plastic. This policy change has had an impact globally, as many countries have relied on China as a major part of their markets for recycled materials.

China has not completely banned the import of all recycled plastic and paper, but now requires a cleaner and more processed version of these materials.

Many Victorian recyclers are currently taking steps to respond to these changes, including upgrading their recycling infrastructure so that they are capable of meeting China’s new standards, and finding new markets. However, some of these changes will take time.

In the meantime, the recycling industry and local councils are considering how to manage recyclable materials that would otherwise have been exported while longer term solutions are put in place.

Woman using the recycling green bin

How is the Victorian Government responding?

The Victorian Government has responded with a short-term assistance package, funded from the Sustainability Fund, to help councils and industry respond to changed market conditions.

More information on the Victorian Government assistance package for councils.

The Government is also investing at record levels in programs to develop markets for recovered resources, facilitate private investment in resource recovery infrastructure, and educate households and businesses about how to better manage waste.

The 2017-18 state budget invested $30.4 million over four years to improve management of waste and recover more resources. This is the largest single allocation of waste and resource recovery funding ever by a Victorian Government. Read about the investment in the Fact Sheet: Waste and Resource Recovery (PDF, 285 KB)

Temporary Relief Funding Arrangements for Local Governments

All Victorian local governments are eligible to apply for grant funding to cover a portion of price rises directly associated with kerbside recycling services.

The total funding available of $12 million is offered to all councils on a non-competitive basis at a fixed flat rate per tonne of collected recyclable materials for the period 1 March - 30 June 2018. The final $ rate per tonne will be determined after tonnage forecasts are received.  

The Victorian Government will also provide commercial or legal advice assistance if required by councils to assist in contract renegotiation.

The specific terms and conditions of the funding arrangements are provided in the Application Guidelines available here (PDF, 65.2 KB).

An expression of interest is being sought from councils who wish to access the grant funding.  The expression of interest template is available here (DOCX, 126.5 KB) and must be returned to local.government@delwp.vic.gov.au

The expression of interest process is now open and will close on 16 March 2018.

Short Term Industry Relief Package

A $1 million funding package is available to Victoria’s recycling industry to assist the transition to new market conditions, following China’s decision to stop the import of low quality mixed recyclables.

Funding will be available to Victorian recycling business that recover, handle and process household comingled recycling.

This funding will help fast-track development of new infrastructure that improves the quality of recovered paper, cardboard and plastic.

Grants of up to $500,000 will be available through this funding with works to be to be complete by 30 December, 2018.

If you would like to know more about this funding, please contact Shannon Smyth, Acting Director, Resource Recovery, Sustainability Victoria, on 03 8626 8765.

Frequently Asked Questions

What else can I do?

Victorians are great recyclers and we’ve worked hard to build our recycling system.

But we can all do more to reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place – whether it is recyclable or otherwise. Using reusable drink bottles and coffee cups is a great start.

We can also help to close the recycling loop within Victoria by buying recycled products, such as Australian-made recycled office paper and 100 per cent recycled toilet tissue.

How does recycling work?

It takes a coordinated effort between local councils, recycling and processing facilities, waste management groups, as well as the companies that turn raw recycled materials into new products.

You can read more about the process:

What will happen in the short term to paper and plastic that was previously being exported?

Some companies may store materials as an interim measure while they implement longer term measures, including infrastructure upgrades and new markets.

The Victorian Government is committed to ensuring any storage of recyclable material is done safely. 

The Resource Recovery Facilities Audit Taskforce will continue its work in ensuring these stockpiles are managed in a way that is compliant with the interim Waste Management Policy (Resource Recovery Facilities).

Did you know?

  • Victoria recycles most of its waste locally.
  • Of the 12.7 million tonnes of waste generated by Victorians in 2015-16, 8.5 million tonnes (67%) was diverted from landfill for recycling and 7.3 million tonnes of that stayed in Victoria.
  • The materials affected by China’s new trade measures – paper and plastic – make up a relatively small share of this total. 
  • In 2015‑16, the Victorian waste industry exported 33% of all paper (511,000 tonnes) and 14% of all plastic recovered in Victoria (21,000 tonnes) to China.