Is your recycling efforts going to the landfill?

Whether you are operating a business that regularly hire skip bins to remove rubbish or you are an individual who hires a bin once in a while, you may have wondered just what is happening to the rubbish once it has been collected.

The disposal of skip bin waste in Sydney is conducted away from the public gaze and unless you work in the industry, you may have no idea what exactly happens after its being picked up.

What happened to all the waste?

An environmentally responsible skip bin company in Sydney like Tangoskip Bin Hire will usually send the collected waste to a licensed material recovery facility (MRF) where the waste is sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable waste.

If you are believer in recycling, you will want to only use a skip bin hire company that practices ethical disposal of waste.  Less reputable bin hire companies or individuals running a gig business may throw the rubbish in illegal dumpsites that can potentially harm humans, animals and the environment.

Here’s what happened after your skip has been collected

The material recovery facility (MRF)

At the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) the materials are loaded onto conveyors.

First recycling is sorted manually – people at the start of the process will remove any contamination such as plastic bags, chip packets and other non-recyclable items.

The recyclables then move along the conveyor to a large cylindrical rotating sieve called a trommel. Paper and cardboard travel through the trommel while the other items fall through the holes onto conveyor belt.

Manual sorters then separate the paper from the cardboard, bale them up and send them off to the paper mills to begin the paper and cardboard recycling process.

Steel cans are removed on the next conveyor using a very strong overhead electro magnet and are dropped into a hopper. They are then compacted and baled ready to be sent to the steel recycler for the steel recycling process.

Aluminium cans are pulled of the conveyor belt using an ‘eddy current’ which works like a reverse magnet. The aluminium cans are compacted and baled in a similar fashion to the steel cans and are then ready to undergo the aluminium recycling process at the aluminium smelter.

Plastics are identified and removed either through an optical (automated) or manual sorting process. The plastics are then manually baled up depending on the type (as per the numbered code on the item) and sent to the plastics recycler to begin the plastics recycling process.

The remaining glass is dropped off the end of the conveyor into a large container. From here it is taken to the glass recycler ready to start the glass recycling process.

It’s good idea to become familiar with what can and cannot be recycled.  This prevents you from accidentally putting non-recyclable items inside your yellow bin and contaminating the rest of the contents.

The landfill

Landfills are on land storage facility for rubbish that cannot be recycled.   Landfill – carefully designed structure built into or on top of the ground in which trash is isolated from the surrounding environment (groundwater, air, rain).

There are two types of landfills:

Dump – an open hole in the ground where trash is buried and that has various animals (rats, mice, birds) swarming around. (This is most people’s idea of a landfill!)

Landfill – carefully designed structure built into or on top of the ground in which trash is isolated from the surrounding environment (groundwater, air, rain). This isolation is accomplished with a bottom liner and daily covering of soil. A sanitary landfill uses a clay liner to isolate the trash from the environment. A municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill uses a synthetic (plastic) liner to isolate the trash from the environment

The purpose of a landfill is to bury the trash in such a way that it will be isolated from groundwater, will be kept dry and will not be in contact with air. Under these conditions, trash will not decompose much. A landfill is not like a compost pile, where the purpose is to bury trash in such a way that it will decompose quickly.

Do you know what happens to most of the waste we throw?

If you ask someone this question the answer you are likely to get is that they do not know.  What really happens to the waste we throw out every week is a mystery because the waste companies operate covertly.

You have bins with designated colours.  You put your rubbish in them and the truck comes and collect it.  It is simple.  It is convenient.  And you don’t have to know anymore beyond that.

Here’s a scary fact:  Most of it just ends up in the landfill.

About 6.7 million tonnes of rubbish is organic waste like food and garden waste, which creates methane-rich greenhouse gases as it decomposes.  Climate scientists have shown that methane emissions is one of the major contributors to global warming.

Only 2 per cent of our waste is converted to renewable energy, a much lower rate than some European countries.

And it’s estimated about 130,000 tonnes of Australian plastic ends up in waterways and oceans each year.  How did they get there?  Littering, wet wipes flushed down toilets and plastic flying out of landfill.    According to WWF, plastic kills marine life and bird life.  100,000 marine life die each year from plastic poisoning – either through ingestion or by entanglement.  1 million sea birds a year are killed by plastic.  The compounds in plastic are hardy.  It take up to 5 years to disintegrate.

So how did the recycling ended up in the landfill?

Even after our waste has been placed in the appropriate recycle bins, not all of will be recycled.  A lot of it is contaminated and cannot be recycled.  According to a report by ABC News, nearly all metal waste (90%) are recycled.  This is followed by mansory waste (72%), cardboard & paper (60%), glass (57%) and organic waste (52%).

Plastic, on the other hand, usually ends up in the landfill with only 12% recycled.  Things like broken glass, plastic-lined paper or cardboard cannot be recycled.  The problem is that packaging has become more sophisticated and the new compounds used in manufacturing them are difficult to break down.

A 2017 Four Corners investigation found hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass — which at the time was expensive to recycle — was sitting in New South Wales warehouses because there was “no viable market” for it.

Two years ago, China introduced a new law that prohibited 24 types of solid waste.  1.3 million collected recyclable waste from Australia (approximately 4% of our nation’s total waste) was affected.  Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia also began to impose waste ban.  Australian recycling facility had no place to send the waste they have collected.   The collapse of SKM Recycling in Victoria, quickly became a catastrophic event when 780 rubbish truck worth of recyclables were sent to the landfill in a single week.

How you can help


Turn your waste to compost.  So can organic waste like vegetable scraps, fruit peel, egg shells and stale bread.

Set up a little compost bin by your kitchen sink and put all the scraps in the next time you are preparing a meal or making a cup of tea.

Transfer everything to your compost bin. Donate to a neighbour with a compost bin if you do not have one in the garden.

Did you know old newspapers can be torn and used in compost bins and worm farms to aid decomposition?  They also make good liners in garden beds to prevent weed growth.

Share a Skip Bin

Skip Bin Companies like Tangoskip recycle our waste.  Where possible we will work with a recycling facility to ethically dispose of the waste we collect.

A clever idea to use more skip bin services is to share the cost with neighbours.  For example, in summer when you are working on the garden, you could arrange with a neighbour (who is also gardening) to share the cost of hiring a skip bin to have the green waste removed.

Donate, don’t throw

If you old appliances or computer that are in good working order, don’t throw it out with the trash.  Donate it to charity.  Someone else will be able to enjoy what you no longer want.

Sort carefully

Before you put an item into the recycle bin, consider if it can be recycled first.  Look at the label in the packaging.  Check if it is contaminated.  Check if it has plastic coating.

Need a skip bin for disposing your rubbish?  Call Tangoskip today.

Tangoskip is Sydney’s leading skip bin hire.  We have a wide range of skip bins for hire from small 2 cubic metre bins to large 10 cubic metre bins.  To book a bin, call us on 0422 222 468 or email us:

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