Recycling. It's something that nearly all of us do in Australia, and have done for quite some time. Most of us feel pretty good about it too, we're doing our bit for the planet. However, it'd be fair to ask the question, why, what's the point?
You see, we've recently discovered that our local councils that organise the recycling service, have contracted it to large companies that compact the recycling into large bricks that then get sent off to China. There it has been used for a range of manufacturing processes. Note the past tense there 'has'.
You see, China is now saying, no, we don't want your rubbish, and since its been so easy to ship it all off to China and let them worry about it, there is no re-manufacturing industry here to absorb such vast volumes. So currently it's being stock piled, and following a large fire that burned for 11 days (yes eleven) in one of the storage facilities in 2017, the EPA has since banned the stock piling.
So the contractors can no longer take the recycling, so where is it going?.....to landfill. Yep, all that plastic that will last 1000's of years, just goes straight into landfill. Brilliant. And what is landfill? A piece of land we sacrifice, by filling it with our unwanted goods and garbage. This happens the world over, it's part of the true cost of our consumption.
What makes the situation some what disturbing is the rampant finger pointing that is taking place. The Government is blaming Councils, the Councils are blaming the Government. But let's be frank, this is everyone's problem. It is borne out of an addiction to convenience. The volume of rubbish produced by the average household is quite simply, ridiculous. But we don't know any different so nothing seems out of place, until of course you stop to think it through.
According to the 'Australian National Waste Report 2016', in 2014-15 Australians produced 2.7 tonne of waste per capita. 64 millions tonnes in total. I'd love to say that's a shed load of waste, but it's not, it's a shit load of waste. 64 million tonnes. I can't even get my head around what that would look like. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1996-97, Australians generated approximately 1,200kg of waste per person. That's a staggering increase, are our lives any better for it?
So where to from here? We can't turn this around overnight but we need to start doing something, anything! In our household my wife was purchasing Almond Milk (yes, yes, I know, Almond milk, ewww, but the kids like it) in the 1 litre long life containers. After several weeks the rubbish this produced was, significant. I mentioned this to her and days later she is making it from scratch using bulk almonds and rice. No more rubbish, plus it's cheaper and......even I quite like it. Oh shut up.
Over the past few years we've purchased much of our food through an organic cooperative. Through better household management and de-cluttering we now purchase many items in bulk. One good example is our oats which our girls love to use for breakfast. We used to buy the 750g packs that come in plastic. We now buy 25kg bulk packs that come in a strong paper bag. When finished it goes straight into the compost to become soil. So for each bulk bag we are avoiding 33.33 plastic packs going into landfill.
Of course these sort of actions take more effort than buying product conveniently off the shelf, but that's just it. We need to make an 'effort' to turn this thing around. We are headed for disaster and we need to start changing our habits anyway we can. Do you buy take away coffee? Get a reusable cup. Have coffee at home? Don't use the single use pods. Thirsty? Don't purchase a single use bottle.
There is a multitude of ways we can reduce our contribution to this problem. Both simple and complex, at the very least, start with the simple stuff. If you can, go even harder. It'll not just reduce your impact but it'll inspire others.
Many inspired people have gone as far as starting companies or community groups to help solve this problem. This is good news as heaven knows we can't wait for Governments to do it. Our habits and conveniences need to change, that is for certain.
1. Australian National Waste Report 2016
2. 2,700kg of waste per capita