Paper's pretty easy to recycle - pulp it up again, make more paper.
Aluminium can be melted down to make new items, and so can glass, which can also be ground back into sand, and sand's useful.
Gardens love compost made from food scraps and green waste, and wood chips might soon be powering hospitals.
Plastic's a bit trickier.
An article from The Atlantic notes half of all plastic that has ever existed is from the past two decades.
It's tricky - that is, expensive - to recycle some plastics, and the dizzying range of chemical compositions makes sorting it a difficult proposition.
A general, very basic rule is if you can crush the plastic and then it returns to its shape, it's probably recyclable - with some caveats, of course.
But that leaves a lot of household plastic waste that can't be put in a recycling bin, which means it's sent to landfill.
Last week, the state government announced a $300 million Recycling Victoria policy, an overhaul of the waste and recycling system in the wake of China's ban on importing waste.
While there was attention paid to headline items like a container deposit scheme, a potential fourth kerbside bin for glass, and a landfill levy increase, the aim of the policy is to reduce landfill waste by 80 per cent before 2030.
Part of that will be diverting other recyclable plastics, finding a use for them, and selling them as products people want to buy.
Enter Replas, a company which has a factory in Ballarat East.
You may have noticed bins for soft plastics, like bread bags and other packaging, at supermarkets.
Basically, Replas empties these bins and turns the plastic into useful items like street furniture and decking.
The company recently received a grant from Sustainability Victoria to expand operations in Ballarat, adding a second compacting machine.
Joint managing director Mark Jacobsen said it was state-of-the-art technology, and would lead to seven new jobs in Ballarat.
"It basically allows us to take the most problematic plastics," he explained. "At the end of the day, it's like a big mixing bowl, it puts it into a format like a pellet, then we can put it into injection moulding in Ballarat to make a recycled product."
Right now, the company can handle about 3000 tonnes of material, a mix of post-industrial and post-consumer waste.
"A lot of that goes through this machine," Mr Jacobsen said. "This system enhances our capabilities - in our mix, the soft plastic might be 20 per cent, but we want to increase that so we don't take post industrial, just post consumer, and that makes a good plastic, highly sought after."
It's that sought-after quality that will help the state government's new plan along, but Mr Jacobsen the plan doesn't go far enough.
In a media release, the state government declared Victoria soon be home to "some of Australia's most sustainable infrastructure", with more recycled and reused material to be incorporated into construction projects.
"Recycled First will build new requirements into future projects under the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority, bringing a uniform approach to the use of recycled products and driving innovation in sustainable materials," the release states.
"The program will incorporate recycled and reused materials that meet existing standards for road and rail projects - with recycled aggregates, glass, plastic, timber, steel, ballast, crushed concrete, crushed brick, crumb rubber, reclaimed asphalt pavement and organics taking precedence over brand new materials."
Examples include major roads made from crumbed rubber and crushed glass.
The City of Ballarat is also active in this space, unveiling a test patch of road made with soft plastics, ink toner residue, glass and recycled asphalt.
It's bought recycled plastic products from "a number of suppliers", according to a council spokesperson, including a jetty at Durham Point on Lake Wendouree.
"The City of Ballarat is committed to achieving an Australian-based sustainable recycling industry," the spokesperson said in a statement. "The City of Ballarat will consider the highest value use and the review of each product to achieve the best outcome. With the release, there is a focus state-wide of the procurement potential for buying recycled products such as plastics and glass."
Language like "focus" and "encouraging use" isn't strong enough, Mr Jacobsen said.
"There's a key thing to all of this, that there's a new value in a recycled plastic product," he said.
"It's not the fact that (the products are) fit for purpose and won't break for 50 years, it's if we don't find a home for it after China ban and landfill, we're finding a home for the product, and that's what the government and public want, they want homes for these raw materials - that's the circular economy."
He called for mandating spending on recycled plastic goods.
"You can put money into getting extra equipment and innovative ideas, and we've done that with Sustainability Victoria and we're thankful for that, but at the end of the day, corporations, including the state and fed governments, could possibly do more than suggest or ask for quotas, but mandate procurement, when the price is equal," he said.
"The pull through effect automatically enables two things - more recycling, and manufacturing.
"If there's a demand for products because of mandating through government, then manufacturing will start to blossom, and that will create jobs, manufacturing, and innovation."
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