'Home reuse' option needed to boost Australia's recycling stats

When it comes to statistics, the tabloid pages with which you line the budgie's cage, and the larger broadsheet ones used to light the fire and catch paint spills are becoming more important in the recycling order of things.

Presenting last year's Australian recycling figures, Tony Wilkins says he believes the 7.7 per cent of newspapers "reused around the home" should be included as part of the total recycling rate.

Dr Wilkins, who is NewsMediaWorks's executive director environment, says even with a reduction in offshore recycling options, the "proportional national recovery rate" for newsprint was 68.2 per cent, down only six per cent on 2018 and one of the best rates of recycling in the world.

It was beaten only by Germany's municipal paper recycling rate of 68 per cent, and the US recycling rate of 68.1 per cent.

Dr Wilkins admits recovery of newsprint continues to be "ever more complex and fragmented" with recycling markets subject to significant upheaval. "Significant fires and disposals to landfill also reduced the recycling rate. In this context, the recovery rate reflects both the importance of the fibre, and the efforts of industry."

Further upheaval this year - with the pandemic, hundreds of print newspapers ceasing publication this year, and with the sale of the recycling-focussed Albury mill - is not discussed, though presumably with it, the proportion sidelined to birdcages and firelighting could become statistically more important.

Dr Wilkins points out that were the "home reuse" proportion added to this year's total, it would have reached 76 per cent.

He also urges consideration of the 'waste to energy' option - where materials that would otherwise end up in landfill are used to produce power - and improving the standard of recycling so that export markets are again accessed.

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