All recycling goes to landfill

The most common recycling myth as nominated by councils is that all recycling goes to landfill.1 In addition, Planet Ark commissioned research shows 36% of the population believe most of our recycling goes to landfill.2 No doubt the waste import policies of China and other countries have made it harder to find a home for our recyclables. The shutdown of recycling facilities, especially in Victoria, has led to a small number of councils having to send some recyclables to landfill until new markets are found. However, the vast majority of recycling collected by Australian councils is still getting recycled.

  • Data shows 84 - 96% of kerbside recycling is recycled, and the remaining 4 - 16% that goes to landfill is primarily a result of the wrong thing going in the wrong bin.3 A small amount may currently also be disposed to landfill whilst waste facilities are transitioning to new markets for recyclables.
  • The recycling process recovers and diverts over 37 million tonnes of materials such as aluminium, steel, glass, paper and cardboard and plastic away from landfills per year (only 12% of that is exported).4 Whilst there have been issues exporting plastic waste to Indonesia and Malaysia this represents a tiny proportion of the total amount of recycling. In Australia, we recycle 55% of all the waste collected from households, businesses and construction and demolition.5
  • There are around 100 Material Recovery Facilities operating in Australia which separate out the different materials for recycling. If it all went to landfill, running these facilities would be pointless.
  • Products made from recycled materials include plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans, cardboard, paper, construction materials and roads.
  • It doesn’t make economic sense to send recyclable materials to landfill. State landfill levies provide a financial incentive to recycle, ranging from $33 to $141 per tonne in VIC, WA, SA, QLD and NSW, which means it may cost more to dump waste in landfill.

1Planet Ark Council Survey 2019
2Planet Ark commissioned research by Pollinate 2019
National Waste Report 2018

4Blue Environment (2019) Data on exports of Australian wastes
5National Waste Report 2018

Mythbusters Ep 2 | Myth 1 All recycling goes to landfill

Recycle right


  • Reuse glass jars to store ingredients.
  • Remember your shopping bags (put them in your work bag or car).
  • Buy secondhand or upcycled.


  • Avoid over packaged products and single-use items.
  • Buy naked fruit and vegetables.
  • BYO container and buy in bulk.