New research on Australians’ recycling behaviour shows confusion remains

By Liam Taylor 27 April 2021

Australia’s largest waste management company Cleanaway recently released new research showing just 25 per cent of Aussies are separating waste correctly at home.

The findings of the 2021 Cleanaway Recycling Behaviours Report shows there remains significant confusion amongst the general public about how to sort waste and recycling, leading to up to 35 per cent of recycling needlessly going to landfill. This is primarily due to human error, showing the need for additional consumer education on what can and can’t go into one’s kerbside recycling bins.

Key issue areas identified by the report include:

  • 47% incorrectly believe soft plastics can be put in the kerbside recycling bins

  • 21% don’t realise you need to remove lids from plastic bottles before recycling

  • 53% of Aussies wrongly think a pizza box with greasy stains can be recycled or composted

  • 26% don’t know that food containers don’t need to be rinsed before going into recycling

  • 17% wrongly think recycling can be sealed in a plastic bag in the kerbside bin

These results are not news to Planet Ark as our own previous research for National Recycling Week has shown similar trends in kerbside recycling habits. Perhaps even more concerning is that our research shows a downward trend in the understanding of what can be recycled in recent years due both inconsistencies between jurisdictions and the rise of mistrust in recycling in general.

The good news is that an overwhelming 89 per cent of Australians were found to believe recycling is important. Again, this figure echoes reflects previous Planet Ark research, which found over 90% of Australians are already taking action to reduce their waste generation. Cleanaway also found 56% of Australians say they look for the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL) most or every time they are at the bin to see where an item should be recycled before disposing of it, further confirmation of its importance as an effective recycling education tool.

The Recycling Behaviours Report was launched to support the Cleanaway’s Greenius online education platform, which has been designed to help consumers get recycling right. The platform works much like RecyclingNearYou in providing up-to-date waste and recycling information based on what is accepted for recycling by your local council.

Liam Taylor
Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.