Recycling crisis: An insider’s insights

Mik AidtNews

Keynote speaker at the Geelong Sustainability’s Green Drinks event on 28 March 2018 was Ken Dickens, managing director of Corio Waste Management. Ken Dickens had decided to tell us like it really is: The truth about what happens with the material we put in our recycling bins. It was a very interesting presentation, without good news in the short term. However these challenges provide a watershed opportunity for positive change!

Listen to Ken Dickens’ presentation: 36 minutes plus 7 minutes of questions and answers

“It is going to take some time to get recycling right – at least five years – and during this time it is going to be tough. It’s a perfect storm,” Dickens told his audience at Beav’s Bar.

  • When container ships were returning to China empty, it suited them to fill them with out recycled paper and plastics. They were reprocessed the materials into new products to sell to us again. But now, they no longer want our poorly sorted rubbish. They are trying to develop their own recycling industry.
  • China’s National Sword Policy is affecting many countries in Europe as well as Australia. Last year they returned 18,000 containers to the UK because the material was too contaminated. Over recent years, the acceptable contamination rates have fallen from 20% to 10% to 5% to 1% and are now 0.5% – this is unachievable presently.  However they still want our recycled paper and cardboard.
  • In Australia, landfill sites are struggling to cope with increasing volumes from urban growth. The EPA has cracked down and won’t let processors stockpile – least we have another fire like at Coolaroo. There is no virtually no market for recycled glass especially coloured glass with the exception of milk bottles. Dickens showed us mountains of glass going nowhere. Waste to energy plants will take years to commission and business would want 20 year contracts to justify the investment. So there’s no easy fix and waste charges on our rates will have to rise.
  • So now it’s more important than ever to recycle correctly and try to reduce what goes into both your red-lidded rubbish (ie. landfill) bin and your yellow-lidded recycling bin.

Building demolition ‘recycler’ in Lara. Warning to residents: rubble contains asbestos

Dickens showed this photo of a building waste site at Lara, which he described as a health time bomb as it contains asbestos.

» The slides for Dickens’ presentation

About Corio Waste Management

In 2017, Corio Waste Management won Geelong Business Excellence Award for best Health Promoting Workplace.

Corio Waste Management was established in Geelong in 1996 by the Dickens family. The company has over 60 employees and a fleet of 50 vehicles, doing 10,000 waste and recycling collections each week in the Surf Coast, Corio Bay and Melbourne’s western and South-eastern suburbs. Depots in Geelong, Altona and Dandenong.

» More information on the company’s home page:

Katie Traill: Towards Zero Waste Geelong

Let’s work towards a Zero Waste Geelong!

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Vivienne Burke explains – assisted by Vicki Perrett (left)

The TerraCycle program

TerraCycle collects items that cannot be recycled through the Geelong kerbside yellow bins.  

Plastic bottles and pump packs from bathroom, kitchen and laundry go in the yellow bin, but no tubes from bathroom, laundry or kitchen can go in the yellow bin.

Oral care
• toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads
• dental product tubes
• dental floss products

Beauty products
• all cosmetics – eyeshadow, mascara, lipsticks, lip balm, eyeliners, foundation, blusher, bronzer, etc, etc
• tubes of all types – sunscreen, hand cream, foundation, scrubs, shampoos, conditioners, prescription creams, etc
• any tubes from bathroom and laundry or from kitchen, provided they are not food related.

Tubes should be empty of remaining product.

» More information on

Image credit: Zero Waste Victoria (Australia)

War on Waste Geelong action group

The status quo cannot continue. Following up on Ken Dickens’ presentation, Geelong Sustainability will be brainstorming ideas for our new War on Waste Geelong action group.

We urge you to get involved and help us lead our region towards zero waste.

• Examining the problems and issues for consumers, households and the municipality
• Identifying relevant national campaigns, key stakeholders and partners
• Mapping out a campaign strategy filled with regional events, projects and advocacy work

Be part of the solution: Get in touch!

One Planet Living principles

This event aligned with the One Planet Living principles of:

Zero waste – Reducing consumption, reusing and recycling to achieve zero waste and zero pollution
Materials & products – Using materials from sustainable sources and promoting products which help people reduce consumption
Land and nature – Protecting and restoring land for the benefit of people and wildlife.

» More information about Green Drinks