Recycling occurs when materials from waste streams are broken down into raw materials and reprocessed either into the same product(closed loop) or a new product (open loop). The term covers a wide range of activities required to turn used materials into new products. These activities include collection, sorting, reprocessing and manufacture (Waste Management Board, 2004). There are many materials that are capable of being recycled, and technology is advancing to allow the recycling of more materials. It is rare for a product to be made of 100% recycled material because of health concerns, production and technical restraints and the fact that most materials have a limit on the number of times they can be recycled.
The benefits of recycling do not lie solely in diversion of waste away from disposal but, more importantly, in the reduction of the amount of virgin resources that need to be harvested and processed for the manufacture of new products. A recent national study into kerbside recycling has shown that the avoided environmental cost of production generated by kerbside recycling is 20 times greater than the environmental cost of collection and disposal of the material (NPCC, 2001), refuting the claim that recycling is more harmful to the environment than the extraction of virgin resources and production of materials from them.
Categories of recyclables
In Western Australia the main categories of recyclables are: paper, PET and HDPE plastics, liquid paperboard, aluminium and steel cans, and glass bottles and food containers. Waste oil and car batteries are also recycled in many communities. There are many more materials that are recyclable than materials that are actually recycled. The reason for this is that quite often the recycled product has no established market or the market is not viable due to low commodity prices, and it is therefore not economically viable for these products to be recycled, examples of this are that some types of plastic and crushed glass. Distance to market is another restriction to recycling in Western Australian communities as transportation costs may eliminate the economic viability and environmental benefit of the program.
Recycling In Western Australia
100% of Local Governments in the Perth metropolitan area provide residents with a kerbside recycling service. Many of the larger regional centres also provide kerbside recycling programs. Drop off centres, where centralised collection bins are provided for the public to drop off recyclable materials, are common throughout the State. 134,250 tonnes of waste is recycled annually in Western Australia, of which 72,350 tonnes is non green waste material and 60,875 tonnes is green waste.
- Waste Management Board, 2004, Strategic Direction for Waste Management in Western Australia.
- Independent Assessment of Kerbside Recycling, 2001, National Packaging Covenant Council.
- State Recycling Blueprint, 1993, Western Australian Department of Environmental Protection.
- Waste Reduction and Recyling Policy - Draft, 1997, Western Australian Department of Environmental Protection.
- State Recycling Education and Promotion Program for Western Australia, 2000, Western Australian Department of Environmental Protection.
- Life Cycle Assessment of Packaging Waste Management in Victoria, 1999, EcoRecycle Victoria.
- Guide to Preferred Service Standards for Kerbside Recycling, 2000, EcoRecycle Victoria.