All Victorian households will soon have four wheelie bins at home and be able to recycle pizza boxes and soft plastics, as part of the state government’s $515m reform of the recycling system.
Victoria’s environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, was on Thursday joined by her federal counterpart, Tanya Plibersek, to announce the framework for the four-bin system, as well as a joint $14.3m worth of funding for recycling projects in Victoria.
“We’re the first state in Australia to roll out the same bins to every household, and the first to include soft plastics and pizza boxes in those bins,” D’Ambrosio told reporters.
She said by 2030 both items will be able to go into the yellow bin as well as plastic bags, wrappers and soiled food containers, while glass would go into a new purple bin to avoid contamination.
Food and garden organics will go in a green bin and household rubbish in a red bin.
Seven local government areas have already rolled out the new four-bin system, including the Central Goldfields, Hobsons Bay, Macedon Ranges and Whittlesea, with Frankston to introduce the service by 2023.
All of Victoria’s 79 local councils will be required to transition to the four-bin system by 2030, as part of the recycling reforms, which also include a container deposit scheme and a commitment to divert 80% of waste from landfill by that deadline.
The government first announced the overhaul in 2020, following the collapse of the state’s largest recycling company SKM a year earlier, which resulted in the thousands of tonnes of recycling being felt to landfill.
An Infrastructure Victoria report in the wake of SKM’s closure found broken glass was among the biggest contaminants in the recycling stream, while food waste made up to 35% of the rubbish sent to the tip, and called for better separation of waste.
Across the country, advice varies as to whether pizza boxes can be recycled, largely due to the greasy residue on the bottom that can contaminate the cardboard.
In Victoria, some councils advice tearing the top off pizza boxes to recycle, while putting the dirty bottom part in the general waste bin. Others suggest putting it in the food and garden waste bin.
The Zero Waste Victoria president, Kirsty Bishop-Fox, said such ambiguity was a result of councils using different waste companies.
“There’s different recycling facilities, some might have a newer, more modern technology that can do a bit more, so they’ll accept a contaminated pizza box, but others won’t. It is great to see there will be some uniformity across the state when it comes to this and other materials,” Bishop-Fox said.
“But ultimately my advice is if you’re getting a really greasy pizza, you should probably change where you get your pizza from.”
Bishop-Fox stressed Victorians continue to follow their local council’s rules until told otherwise.
“It would also be great if people try to avoid recycling in the first place: before you recycle a perfectly good glass jar, have a think about whether you can use it for something else,” she said.
Included in the $14.3m in new funding is seven organic recycling projects and $1m for a new facility to turn hard-to-recycle materials like beverage cartons and coffee cups into sustainable building products.
Another $175,000 will go to a facility to process oversized green waste into organic, carbon rich soil additives for the farming industry.
The funding will give another life to 150,000 tonnes of Victoria’s food and garden waste and 30,000 tonnes of soft plastics, the state and federal governments said.