Sustainable Living

Great estate: North Melbourne the latest to start public housing recycling

Most public housing estates across Victoria don’t have recycling services. Built largely in the post-war years, the tall tower blocks have one central chute for rubbish, hundreds of households have no choice but to throw everything out to landfill and figuring out how to start recycling has been a tough challenge.

But several innovative local Councils are working with the Department of Human Services, who manage Victoria’s public housing, to trial various recycling methods. Environment Victoria was invited to partner on some of these projects, providing expertise in community engagement.

We worked on a recycling pilot project in the Flemington public housing estate. We also added recycling outreach activities to the Carlton Eco Neighbourhood project, where recycling was built into the new environmentally sustainable buildings but the residents weren’t used to using it.

Environment Victoria also worked on public housing recycling in North Melbourne. Working in partnership with the City of Melbourne we ran the Recycle Now trial from November 2012 to July 2013.


Recycle Now involved recycling bins being installed by City of Melbourne in selected buildings on the North Melbourne estate, and us working together to add the human element – recruiting, training and mentoring local residents to help spread the word and encourage their neighbours to start recycling.

In the Recycle Now trial, a group of 18 locals and students of the North Melbourne Language and Learning Centre, on the estate, completed a training course by Environment Victoria and became Recycle Champions. From diverse backgrounds, the Recycle Champions reflect the cultural and demographic profile of the North Melbourne estate. The Champions spoke Arabic, Amharic, Somali, Oromo, Tigrinya, Chinese, Vietnamese and English. They made new friends and chose partners to work with, door-knocking all 210 households involved in the trial, to deliver a recycling crate and to motivate them to take part. They’re still active and have also delivered community BBQs, attended visits to recycling factories (see photos here) and helped us monitor the new bins.

“I believe I must do it, for me. I believe I must do this job; it’s for our country, our society. It’s good to recycle.”

(North Melbourne Recycle Champion)

The trial kicked off to a great start. City of Melbourne installed 18 new 240L recycling bins in the trial buildings and residents embraced the opportunity to start recycling – to the degree they actually generated more recycling than the bins could hold. As a result the City of Melbourne provided additional bin collections. The Recycle Now trial resulted in residents of two buildings producing enough recycling to save more than 50 tonnes of material from landfill each year, a fantastic outcome.


In 2013, two groups of North Melbourne residents, including some of our Recycle Now Recycle Champions, were taken to SKM Recycling in Coolaroo to learn more about what happens after we put our household recycling products into the recycling bin.

Read all about it here.