A Comprehensive History of Recycling in Modern Australia

Recycling is an important part of day-to-day waste management. You probably recycle at home, at work, and even when you’re in public places. Sometimes, you might not even realise that you are recycling! While Australians are generally very good at recycling their waste, the larger systems have been exposed at times.

If we go back to 2017/18, Australians used 3.4 million tonnes of plastic products. However, only 9.4% of these products were recycled. More than half of the recycled products were processed overseas, while the rest were processed in Australia.

Exporting recycling waste, dumping paper and plastic products in landfill, and mixing general waste and recycling during bin collection are all issues that come up regularly. We have a ways to go before Australia is a truly efficient and effective recycler. But we have come a long way since the first recycling efforts appeared in Australia.

The early days of modern Australian recycling (1815 – 1920’s)

The very first recycled paper mill opened in Melbourne in 1815. This mill used old rags to create new paper. The rags were made from cotton and linen, and the process used was first patented back in 1690. This paper mill was able to reduce the amount of waste produced by these old rags and the people that used them while producing new paper products.

During these years, scrap metal recycling was becoming more and more common. Individuals and small businesses were melting down items like old bicycles and household items, particularly those made from iron. While the techniques and processes were fairly crude, this metal was able to be used once again in the manufacturing process.

In 1915, BHP was the first company to use recycled steel. At the start of the 1920s, waste paper collection for recycling was becoming widespread, starting in Melbourne.

Recycling becomes more common (1920’s – 1980’s)

During the 1920s and 1930s, Australian folk were hit hard by the Great Depression. It became incredibly hard to put food on the table, so people found new ways to create income. Many began to collect old waste items and repurpose them for other uses, often selling them. This applied to items like burlap potato sacks, which could double as dresses for children, scrap metal which could be recycled into pots and pans, and old tins for many uses.

During WW2 (1939 – 1945) and the following years, the world was hit hard by resource scarcity. The Australian government followed the actions of the US and others, enacting a number of recycling initiatives. This produced further resources for the war effort, as well as household goods. The initiatives aimed to recycle metals, paper, rubber, and even material like animal fat.

However, once the war was over, these recycling efforts faded as there was no demand or market to keep them viable.

Paper recycling was growing further during this period. More and more people were finding new ways to use old newspapers, such as the classic fish and chip shop. But paper recycling facilities were more common. These facilities were able to turn old paper into pulp once more and produce new, clean paper for a range of uses.

After the war, Australia saw an immigration boom, with many people arriving from Europe and later, South-East Asia. This contributed to the success of many large construction projects, like the Snowy River hydroelectricity project. Large construction projects like these produced plenty of excess material. Construction waste was often removed by individuals or sometimes, companies. Materials like timber, scrap metal, concrete, and more, could be repurposed or recycled and later reused for other projects.

Modern times (1980’s – present)

In the past 30 years, recycling technology has come a long way. We are now able to recycle a wide range of materials and products, in particular, plastics. The number of recycling facilities has grown (though perhaps there are not as many as we’d like) and people are more educated than ever before about the importance of recycling waste.

The federal government, state governments, and local governments are all more committed to recycling than ever before. Households and businesses have individual bins and programs available for recycling different materials. And there are now more high-quality rubbish removal companies around for tailored waste removal services.

However, more change must come from the powers that be. It’s impossible for the general public to make a meaningful difference if they put the waste in the bin, only for it to end up in landfill or exported. This is why expert Sydney rubbish removal is an important service for households and businesses across the city.

Sustainable Sydney rubbish removal

It’s incredibly important for households, commercial businesses, and even construction companies, to have access to sustainable rubbish removal services. At Sydney City Rubbish, we prioritise environmentally friendly outcomes, including recycling, above all else. As a result, we’re partnered with a number of different recycling facilities throughout Sydney. We’ll do everything we can to ensure that your waste is repurposed or recycled.

Click here for an obligation-free rubbish removal quote in Sydney.

You might also like...

Scroll to Top