There is a recycling crisis in Australia right now. As householders we have been doing what we have been told for almost two decades – putting out our bottles, cans and paper. Rinsing off that left over tomato passata and scooping out those crusty dips we never finished ….. all to make sure those containers can be recycled. We have made an effort.
Beyond that, I never gave much thought to where the recycling from our kerbside collections ended up. Those recycled green park benches maybe, toilet paper or new glass bottles? I didn’t really think about it. I just trusted there was a system in place.
Unfortunately Australia has not developed a system to process our recyclables. Much of it was being shipped to China until in 2017 they said “sorry, we don’t want your rubbish anymore”. This means as a nation we now have a ridiculously under developed recycling industry. Until the China ban Australian governments have been paying for the problem to disappear. That has been the system.
So now we find ourselves in the situation where close to 30 Victorian councils are struggling to find somewhere to put their recyclable waste. More than 10 have confirmed that all kerbside recycling this week will be diverted to landfill.
This follows the Environmental Protection Agency banning the company contracted to recycle waste for the councils from accepting anymore waste due to dangerous stockpiles being a fire risk. We have already seen a number of dangerous fires at waste stockpile sites – the Coolaroo inferno that burned for 11 days is now the subject of a class action.
So all those yellow bins, those massive yellow bins, will be emptied into landfill this week. What a waste, what an embarrassment, and what a failure.
So while we watch every level of government blaming each other for a crisis that is getting worse by the day I feel as though we have been betrayed. In the large part the recycling system is a joke. Householders have been putting in an effort but governments (local, State and Federal) have been burying their heads in the sand. Clearly significant expenditure needs to be directed to recycling – NOW!
This situation is going to get worse before it gets better. In the meantime we need to keep as much as we can out of our recycling bins. The War on Waste has just intensified!
- compost your paper and cardboard (rip up those pizza boxes and shred or scrunch up paper – these “brown” materials are high in carbon and perfect to add to your compost bin.
- Stop buying bottled drinks. It is so easy to refill a water bottle. Try a soda stream for mixers, or brew kombucha for a delicious and healthy alternative to soft drink.
- Get your hands on some quality bottles and jars that you can use to refill your household products. Shampoo, conditioner, dishwashing liquid, washing powder and cleaning products can all be purchased at bulk suppliers such as thesourcebulkfoods.com.au
- Try your best to go package free. Refill your pantry staples at bulk suppliers, go to the local butcher instead of the supermarket so you are not left with plastic meat trays, invest in some reusable mesh bags for your fruit and veg.
- Make your own cleaning and personal care products. Once you get started you will wonder why you wasted all that money buying off the shelf at the supermarket. There are plenty of recipe ideas here.
- Get some inspiration from zero waste guru @therogueginger and low-tox trail blazer Alex Stuart @lowtoxlife.
- Cook from scratch. It means far less packaging plus you have the added bonus of it being delicious, far healthier and way cheaper.
Hopefully this recycling crisis is the low point and we will see the some big ideas and big spending directed towards this area. Until then lets all try to reduce our waste and please let your local council and State and Federal members know that this matters to you.