Recycling knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of Victorians

Last updated: 7 July 2021

Comparative research conducted in: June 2018, April 2019, September 2019, August 2020, October 2020 and May 2021

Victorians are great recyclers and they’re proud of this. But while most Victorians agree that recycling is important, they’re not correctly sorting their recycling at home.

Five rounds of research were conducted to understand the recycling knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of Victorians at different times (June 2018, April 2019, September 2019, August 2020, October 2020 and May 2021) to assess any changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours.

Key findings

Recycling attitudes

  • Positive attitudes towards recycling continue.
  • 83% of Victorians agree it is the responsibility of every individual to put the right items in the recycling bin.
  • However 42% believe that it is hard to know what goes in their recycling.

Recycling knowledge

  • Respondents were asked what items can and cannot be put in the recycling bin against a list of both recyclable and non-recyclable items. No significant shifts were seen in knowledge of incorrect recycling over time.
  • Victorians most commonly perceive that CD cases, broken glass (such as that from windows), steel pots and pans, and waxed cardboard boxes can be recycled, even though these items cannot be recycled using current systems in the state.
  • 68% report some incorrect knowledge about what can and can’t be recycled.
  • 19% of Victorians incorrectly believe soft plastics can go in the recycling bin.
  • Over the campaign period, there has also been an improvement in recycling knowledge. In May 2021, 68% of Victorians had incorrect recycling knowledge, a decrease from the high of 73% in October 2020.

Recycling behaviours

  • Over the campaign period, there has been a statistically significant improvement in recycling behaviours. In May 2021, 46% of Victorians suggested they had put a non-recyclable item in the recycling bin, a decrease from 51% of Victorians in June 2018.
  • The rates of incorrect recycling are higher for:
    • metropolitan versus regional areas (50% versus 38%)
    • younger Victorians versus older (59% versus 42%)
    • people who speak other languages at home versus English speakers (66% versus 45%)
    • those living in multi-unit dwellings versus those in detached homes (63% versus 43%).
  • The items that are most commonly recycled incorrectly are: waxed cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and glass from broken windows.

Download the research report