Lifecycle assessment of kerbside recycling

Close-up of a bottle being placed in a glass-recycling bag

Sustainability Victoria commissioned RMIT University to undertake a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of kerbside recycling in Victoria. LCA is a scientific method that measures environmental impacts over the life cycle of a product, service or system.

The purpose of the study was to demonstrate the environmental benefits and impacts of kerbside recycling to help local government, business and households understand the importance of recycling not just in the use of materials but also in other environmental areas such as greenhouse gas reductions and water savings.

The project produced a calculator and a report – more information on each is below.

Calculator: kerbside recycling in Victoria

This is the first time in Victoria that an LCA kerbside recycling calculator is available for the public to use. The calculator is an interactive tool that can determine the environmental benefits of recycling in terms of greenhouse gases, energy and water savings.

How to use the calculator?

The 'kerbside' version requires users (e.g. local government) to enter material streams (e.g. aluminium cans) in tonnages and the 'household' version requires users (e.g. individuals) to enter materials used on a weekly basis (e.g. newspapers) and calculates an annual environmental benefit derived from recycling the products you put into your recycling bin. The calculator computes the environmental benefits for greenhouse gases, water and energy savings.

Why use the calculator?

The kerbside calculator can assist councils and business to estimate the full environmental benefits of recycling. The calculations can also inform your own communications and reporting about kerbside collection services and the environmental benefits in an easily understandable way.

For householders the calculator demonstrates the benefits of recycling and enables you to see what is achievable through simple recycling habits.

Image of part of the life cycle assessment calculator

Open the kerbside calculator

Report: Kerbside Recycling in Victoria

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Kerbside Recycling in Victoria Report was completed in 2013.

The report outlines the benefit of kerbside recycling by material streams e.g. glass, plastic, paper, metals and aluminium. Overall, the report confirms that kerbside recycling in Victoria achieves beneficial environmental outcomes.

In addition to quantifying the impacts of the recycling system, the report:

  • identifies processing impacts and constraints (barriers) within the recycling supply chains
  • identifies environmental impacts of transport
  • better informs the establishment of waste metrics.

It is anticipated that the study may be used to inform waste policy in the future and will be useful for waste planning authorities, local governments and the reprocessing industry.

How regularly is this report produced?

The last LCA of Kerbside Recycling in Victoria Report was produced in 1999. According to RMIT University, it was the most sighted reference for LCA kerbside recycling in the world.

The management of waste across the state has changed substantially in the last 10 years. For instance recyclables are now generally collected in comingled form, whereas they were mainly collected in separate streams in 2001. Also reprocessing used to be largely undertaken locally in Victoria, whereas now a considerable fraction of reprocessing is undertaken internationally. As such, a new LCA was identified as necessary in order to better reflect current environmental impacts and benefits of kerbside recycling in Victoria.

Download the LCA

Logo for Sustainability Victoria with the words, fact sheet

Lifecycle assessment (LCA) of kerbside recycling

The LCA assesses the environmental benefits or burdens of recycling activity in Victoria.