The China National Sword Policy, implemented in 2018, closed Australia’s main market for the export of recyclable materials. It meant local collection companies, and the councils that contract them, had to find new markets for recycling. Yarra City Council saw this as an opportunity to create a local circular economy (recycling and composting locally, creating new things from waste). Their decision was prompted by a lack of available landfill space, State Government policy pressure to move away from landfilling, and the impact of landfill waste on greenhouse gas emissions and associated climate change.
However, recycling locally involved reducing contamination in kerbside bins, to make sure waste materials were of quality, and valuable to local markets. The council wanted to trial their new waste approach with 1,300 households in the suburb of Abbotsford. This waste trial would be a Victorian first; a model to potentially roll out to the rest of the council region, and potentially to the state. The challenge was that resident behaviour would need to drastically change in three months for the trial to be promptly rolled out throughout the council area.