Where your waste goes

Ever wondered what happens to your rubbish and recyclables once they are picked up from your kerb?

Red Bin Waste

As our landfill space is becoming less and less available, there has been a push from the NSW Government to identify alternative ways to sustainably dispose of our waste. As of July 2017, Council’s kerbside red-lid bin waste, including food waste, has been processed through a Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) facility, which has significantly reduced residual waste going to landfill by about 30%.

Council continues to investigate best-practice, optimal service arrangements for all waste and recycling collected from Waverley households. This includes research around opportunities for food waste diversion from landfill to align with the NSW Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041This external link will open in a new window target of halving organic waste sent to landfill by 2030. To that end, Waverley Council will be trialling a Food Organics, Garden Organics (FOGO) collection service in 2024. Council Officers are currently working through a number of key factors, including procurement and contractual matters, which need to be finalised prior to the commencement of a trial to ensure the collected materials can be processed. Procurement of bins, workforce planning and the development of community education programs on how to use the service also needs to be developed.

The timeframe for the roll-out of a FOGO service for all Waverley households will be depend on trial results and availability of suitable processing arrangements for the collected materials.

Learn more about all of our initiatives to reduce landfill waste and increase resource recovery in our Sustainable Waste StrategyThis external link will open in a new window.

How Does MBT Work?

The red bin waste is collected at the kerbside by Waverley Council and transferred to VeoliaThis external link will open in a new window’s Woodlawn location. The waste is then loaded into the MBT, which is an enclosed system where various recyclable items mistakenly placed in the red bin and other contaminants are separated out. The remaining material is turned and air and water are added. Any methane gas produced in this stage is harvested and sent via pipes to create energy for 10,000 homes.

Once the material leaves the MBT process, it is piled into a large warehouse to age and ferment. This process creates a mixed waste organic material similar to compost that is used to rehabilitate an old mine site. Any residual waste that is not compostable is sent to landfill.

The MBT technology is new to Australia and is still being tested. It is not a perfect system, therefore it is most important to separate recyclables and place them in the recycling bins.

MBT Progress to Date

On the 26th October 2018, the NSW EPA announced a regulatory change that has suspended the practice of applying processed mixed waste organic outputs (MWOO) to land for mine site rehabilitation until further controls can be considered.

Following the announcement by the NSW EPA, Council staff has been working closely with its contractors and the NSW EPA to confirm processing arrangements for general waste to ensure that contract requirements continue to be met and the principles of responsible, best practice waste management are applied.

Council’s waste and recycling collection services will continue as usual. However, waste diversion from landfill will be affected by the change in regulation.

Presently the mixed waste organic output is being used as a landfill cover instead of virgin materials such as sand and other fines, which is a good outcome

The EPA continues to assess options for using MWOO on a case by case basis and Council continues to work with its contractor to achieve the best outcome for our community.

To find out more about the NSW EPA’s regulatory changes pertaining to the mixed waste organic output contact the EPA Environment Line on 131 555 or visit Mixed Waste Organic Material - NSW EPAThis external link will open in a new window

Yellow and Blue Bin Waste (until it’s Recycled)

Waverley Council collects glass, plastic containers, steel cans, paper and cardboard for recycling purposes.

Containers are collected in the yellow bin and paper is collected in the blue bin. If you are a school or a commercial business you may have a comingled recycling service which includes the collection of both containers and paper together.

The contents of our yellow bins are transported to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF), operated by VISY at their Smithfield location, where they are sorted, separated into different streams of products, and squashed into large bales to be resold through global commodity markets.

A plastic bottle placed in your yellow bin may end up as a sleeping bag, a plastic chair or even a pen! Buying items that are made of recycled content helps to support material reuse and recovery.

The paper collected in the blue bin is directly transported to the paper mill at the Smithfield location, where it enters a process (without any sorting) and is made into new paper.

Why is the media talking about a recycling crisis?

Since early 2018, off-shore markets including China, Malaysia and India have tightened the requirements for what they will accept as recyclable imports from overseas markets, including Australia. China now requires a cleaner and more processed version of recyclables. This does not stop recycling altogether but has impacted how much recycling Australia can send overseas.

Where does my recycling go?

After your bins have been emptied, the contents are taken to the Visy Material Recovery Facility where they are sorted into the various recycling streams. Visy can process high-quality plastics and paper/cardboard in their processing plants in Sydney. Other materials from the kerbside recycling bin are exported to countries that have facilities to process these materials. In general, the overseas processor pays to buy our recyclables, however, prices for mixed paper and plastic (unsorted) have plummeted due to the more stringent quality restrictions.

It is important to note that the majority of Australian recycling is processed within Australia; only 10% was sent offshore in 2016-17 according to National Waste Report 2018This external link will open in a new window.

What can I do to make sure my recycling efforts are worth it?

The ideal choice is to reduce the amount of packaging you purchase in the first place.

With the packaging you can’t avoid, the bottom line is that for recycling to be processed into raw materials for new uses, either in Australia or offshore, the materials need to be separated and uncontaminated.

Currently, between 10 and 15 per cent of kerbside recycling cannot be recycled because it is contaminated with non-recyclable items such as soft plastics, or newspapers still in their plastic bags.

If every household contributes to this process, then the maximum amount of plastic, glass, paper and metal will be recovered and recycled. You can make a difference!


Contamination occurs when there are items placed in the recycling bins that are not meant to be there. Common contaminants include nappies, plastic bags and other soft plastics, textiles, food scraps, and e-waste.

These materials can cause issues for workers and machinery at the MRF and can also impact the fees that Council pays for waste disposal. The MRF cannot effectively separate all types of contaminants. In cases where there is high contamination, the entire recycling load may have to be sent to landfill.

Plastic bags or other soft plastics can cause issues with the MRF sorting equipment and should never be placed in your yellow or blue bins. All recyclables should be loose inside the bins.

Green Bin Waste

Our garden organics are delivered to the VeoliaThis external link will open in a new window Port Botany Transfer Station and from there, the organics are transferred to Australian Native LandscapesThis external link will open in a new window and used in fertiliser/soil conditioners.

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