Home » Uncovering the Facts: How Much Plastic is Recycled in Australia in 2023

Uncovering the Facts: How Much Plastic is Recycled in Australia in 2023

Australian Recycling

Plastic waste has surged to the forefront of global environmental concerns, and Australia is no exception. With a recycling rate of just 13.1% for plastics and pressing environmental threats, it’s crucial for the nation to address this issue. In this blog post, we delve into the complexities of “how much plastic is recycled in Australia”, exploring the current landscape, factors affecting recycling rates, environmental impact, and the role of industry players and collaboration. Join us as we uncover the facts and discuss the future prospects of plastic recycling in the land down under.

Key Takeaways

  • Australia has a low rate of plastic recycling, generating 3.4 million tonnes of waste annually.
  • The government is enacting initiatives to reduce the current national recycling rate below 13% and improve infrastructure with $250 million allocated to the Recycling Modernisation Fund.
  • Businesses are embracing sustainable practices while organisations collaborate on successful initiatives such as National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) in order to achieve an 80% reduction in plastic waste entering Australia’s environment by 2030.

Australia’s Plastic Recycling Landscape

Despite being one of the most developed countries globally, Australia’s recycling rate for plastics remains low, with only 13.1% recovered. The country generates 74.1 million metric tonnes of waste annually, including 3.4 million tonnes of plastic. Understanding the current recycling landscape, the comparison with other waste categories, and the differences between domestic and imported plastics is key to comprehending the magnitude of this issue.

National Recycling Rate for Plastics

Australia’s national recycling rate for plastics is less than 13%, with a slight increase from 9.4% in 2018. The low recycling rate is attributable to various factors such as:

  • Reduced local reprocessing of plastic packaging
  • Inadequate source separation
  • Inconsistent plastic waste feedstock
  • Competition from virgin plastics.

To tackle these challenges, the Australian government has implemented measures like the National Plastics Plan, the expansion of the Australian Plastics Recycling Survey, and the development of the National Plastics Recycling Scheme.

Comparison with Other Waste Categories

When compared to other waste categories, plastic recycling rates in Australia are significantly lower, with aluminium having the highest recovery rate. Aluminium’s high recycling rate is attributed to its high value, ease of recycling, and well-established infrastructure and market in the country.

The complexities associated with increasing plastic recycling rates include:

  • Cost
  • Competitive risk
  • Hard-to-recycle items
  • Weak markets for recycled plastic products
  • Changes in the international market for recyclable materials

Domestic vs Imported Plastics

In Australia, 60% of used plastic is imported, while local producers supply the remaining 40%. The primary sources of imported plastic waste inputs are New Zealand, India, and the USA. Australia imports plastic waste to meet the demand for recycled plastic materials and support local industries, but also to ensure proper recycling and waste management when exporting countries have restrictions in place.

Factors Affecting Plastic Recycling Rates

A myriad of factors influence plastic recycling rates in Australia, such as consumer awareness and behaviour, recycling infrastructure, and government policies and initiatives.

Addressing the plastic waste problem and finding effective solutions requires uncovering these factors and understanding their implications.

Consumer Awareness and Behavior

With households producing 47% of plastic waste, consumer awareness and behaviour significantly influence recycling rates. However, the current state of consumer awareness regarding plastic recycling in Australia is complex. There are initiatives in place to increase awareness through campaigns and information dissemination, but obstacles and difficulties impede effective recycling practices.

Consistent information on recycling guidelines and a lack of knowledge about specific recycling processes are common issues faced by Australian households.

Recycling Infrastructure and Facilities

As Australia aims to reach a 70% recycling rate for plastic containers by 2025, improvements in recycling infrastructure and facilities are necessary to increase recycling rates. The Australian Government has allocated $250 million to the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) for the construction and upgrade of recycling infrastructure, aiming to improve waste management and recycling capabilities across the country.

While most Australians have access to municipal waste management and recycling services, kerbside collection and recycling services are not universally available.

Government Policies and Initiatives

Recycling rates and waste management practices are influenced by government policies and initiatives, including single-use plastic bans and export restrictions. The Australian government has implemented the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020, which includes a ban on the export of unsorted mixed plastics from July 2021 and unprocessed single polymer or resin plastics from July 2022.

The government aims to achieve 70% of Australia’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025, with a goal to reduce plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 80% by 2030.

The Environmental Impact of Plastic Waste

The environmental impact of plastic waste and hazardous waste in Australia cannot be ignored. With detrimental effects on marine pollution, wildlife threats, and human health risks, addressing the plastic waste problem has become a pressing concern.

Marine Pollution

Australia contributes 130,000 tonnes of plastic pollution to the marine ecosystem annually, three times the global average. The major sources of marine plastic pollution in Australia include:

  • Sewage effluent
  • Stormwater
  • Recreational activities
  • Commercial activities
  • Domestic sources

The impact of plastic waste on marine life is devastating, with 1,300 fatalities across 80 species in Australia due to plastic ingestion or entanglement.

Wildlife Threats

Plastic pollution poses a grave threat to wildlife, not only in Australia but worldwide. Species such as turtles, humpback whales, Australian pelicans, cormorants, dugongs, and seabirds are among the most adversely impacted by plastic waste. The ingestion of plastic has detrimental consequences on wildlife health and lifespan, leading to physiological and behavioural changes, increased disease susceptibility, and reduced fertility.

Human Health Risks

Human health risks associated with plastic pollution include ingestion of microplastics and plastic debris, which can be hazardous. It has been estimated that, on average, 2,000 microplastic bits are consumed per week.

As we continue to engage in plastic production, the impact of plastic bottles and soft plastics on our health and the environment becomes increasingly concerning, especially considering the plastic waste generation and the plastic waste generated.

Plastic Waste Management Strategies

Plastic waste management strategies in Australia involve a circular economy approach, single-use plastic bans, and improved recycling technologies. These strategies contribute to reducing plastic waste and promoting a more sustainable future.

Circular Economy Approach

The circular economy approach focuses on reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling to minimise environmental impact. Australia has signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, aiming to accomplish this objective.

Furthermore, the circular economy approach includes the utilisation of new technologies to recover, up-cycle, and recycle materials, thus increasing the recycled content of products and reducing the amount that would otherwise be sent to landfill.

Single-Use Plastic Bans

Single-use plastic bans are being implemented across Australia, with Queensland and South Australia leading the way. These bans include items such as:

  • Plastic straws
  • Cutlery
  • Stirrers
  • Cotton buds with plastic stems
  • Expanded polystyrene packaging

The bans have been highly effective in reducing plastic waste, with consumption of single-use plastic bags dropping by 90% since 2016-17.

Improved Recycling Technologies

Improved recycling technologies are essential for increasing recycling rates and reducing plastic waste in landfills. The Australian government is investing $250 million in new and upgraded recycling infrastructure through the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF).

These innovative technologies include advanced recycled plastics recycling, plastic waste export rules, a circular economy approach, and technology for all plastic recyclability.

Industry Players and Collaboration

Industry players and collaboration in Australia involve businesses adopting sustainable practices, organisations working together, and community engagement and education. These efforts play a crucial role in fostering an understanding of the importance of responsible waste management practices and promoting awareness of plastic recycling in Australia.

Businesses Embracing Sustainable Practices

Companies like Paul’s Rubbish Removal support recycling initiatives and provide eco-friendly waste management services. They are committed to collecting and disposing of unwanted goods in an environmentally responsible manner.

These businesses contribute to the overall reduction of plastic waste in Australia by providing sustainable waste management services.

Collaborative Efforts between Organizations

Collaborative efforts between organisations help promote recycling and waste reduction across the country. The National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project is one successful collaborative effort in Australia’s plastic recycling industry, striving to eliminate hard-to-recycle soft plastic packaging from waste streams.

Community Engagement and Education

Community engagement and education play a crucial role in raising awareness and encouraging responsible waste management practices. Initiatives such as fear-based campaigns, incentives, and humour have been effective in increasing awareness of plastic recycling in Australia.

Educating the public on proper recycling practices and sustainable behaviours promotes effective plastic recycling in Australia.

Case Study: Paul’s Rubbish Removal

Paul’s Rubbish Removal is an example of a company contributing to sustainable waste management in Australia. With over 15 years of experience, they offer a range of services, including recycling and waste disposal, and support recycling initiatives such as Clean Up Australia and the Australian Organics Recycling Association.

Company Background and Services

Operating for over 15 years in Sydney, Blue Mountains, and Central Coast regions, Paul’s Rubbish Removal offers a comprehensive range of waste disposal and recycling services, including:

  • Removal of heavy trash and large amounts of hard rubbish
  • Providing multiple trucks for efficient removal
  • Ensuring that rubbish and junk are recycled whenever possible

Paul’s Rubbish Removal is certified and approved for waste management, compliant with EPA regulations, and licensed as rubbish removalists.

Recycling Initiatives and Partnerships

Paul’s Rubbish Removal offers the following services:

  • Participating in Clean Up Australia Day and encouraging their customers and the local community to join in the effort of cleaning up and conserving the environment
  • Providing services for household clean-ups, making it more convenient for residents to discard items that cannot be placed in regular bins
  • Establishing partnerships with recycling partners who can repurpose waste into valuable materials

Impact on Local Communities

Paul’s Rubbish Removal positively impacts local communities by providing sustainable and ethical rubbish disposal services. They contribute to local employment by providing job opportunities for individuals in the community.

Paul’s Rubbish Removal generates employment opportunities and supports the local economy by providing these services.

Future Prospects for Plastic Recycling in Australia

The future prospects for plastic recycling in Australia are promising, with projected recycling rate improvements, emerging technologies, and ongoing policy developments. These factors will play a crucial role in shaping the future of plastic recycling and waste management in the country.

Projected Recycling Rates and Goals

Australia aims to increase its plastic recycling capacity to 420,000 tonnes by 2025, focusing on domestic recycling due to export restrictions.

Increasing the capacity for plastic reprocessing and ensuring a higher percentage of total plastic waste is recycled or composted will assist in reaching the goal of 420,000 tonnes by 2025, with a focus on domestic recycling.

Emerging Technologies and Innovations

Emerging technologies and innovations will play a significant role in improving recycling rates and waste management practices. The Australian government is investing $250 million in new and upgraded recycling infrastructure through the Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF).

These innovative technologies include advanced plastic recycling, plastic waste export rules, a circular economy approach, and technology for all plastic recyclability.

Ongoing Policy Developments

Ongoing policy developments, such as single-use plastic bans and export restrictions, will continue to shape the future of plastic recycling in Australia. The Australian government has implemented the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020, which includes a ban on the export of unsorted mixed plastics from July 2021 and unprocessed single polymer or resin plastics from July 2022.

The government aims to achieve 70% of Australia’s plastic packaging to be recycled or composted by 2025, with a goal to reduce plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 80% by 2030.


In conclusion, plastic recycling in Australia is a complex and multifaceted issue that requires the concerted efforts of individuals, businesses, and governments. By understanding the current landscape, factors affecting recycling rates, and the environmental impact of plastic waste, we can work together to develop effective waste management strategies and promote a more sustainable future. With ongoing policy developments, emerging technologies, and collaboration among industry players, there is hope for a brighter, cleaner tomorrow.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much plastic is recycled in Australia 2023?

By April 2023, Australia had only recycled 18% of plastic packaging, significantly lower than its 70% target by 2025. According to the OECD, only 9% of global plastic waste is recycled each year.

What percentage of plastic bottles are recycled in Australia?

Around 13% of plastic in Australia is recycled and only 18% of plastic packaging is recycled, with only 36% of plastic drink bottles being recycled. Unfortunately, the majority of plastic bottles end up in landfill where they can take up to 1000 years to break down.

What is the recycling rate in Australia 2023?

Australia’s average recycling rate is currently well below two-thirds at 63%, demonstrating the need for improved waste reduction and recycling efforts to meet the 2023 target.

What are the main factors affecting plastic recycling rates in Australia?

Consumer awareness, behaviour and infrastructure, combined with government policies and initiatives, are the primary factors impacting plastic recycling rates in Australia.

What is the environmental impact of plastic waste in Australia?

The environmental impact of plastic waste in Australia is significant, with marine pollution, threats to wildlife, and potential risks to human health all being significant issues.

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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