Bottles, cans and cardboard were strewn across the steps of the Victorian parliament this week as part of a protest over the state's recycling issues.

Victorian councils are struggling to respond China’s decision not to take their recyclable waste, which has forced the shutdown of several recycling plants and sent tonnes to landfill.

Dozens of activists turned up for the protest this week, some dressed as bottles, cans and other refuse.

“Our recycling system has broken down,” Transform Waste campaign coordinator Anine Cummins said.

“This was not a big shock. China said they were going to stop taking our recycling more than a year ago.

“The state government has done nothing in regards to building a state-wide system we can actually rely on, which is really a failure of government.”

Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio says councils should negotiate better contracts with recycling collectors.

Environmentalists want the state to be more involved in finding a long-term solution, including options like a container deposit scheme, a plastic bag ban, or a phase-out of single-use plastics and on-shore recycling.