Australians produce more rubbish per person than any nation except the US – about one tonne each a year.
Although we have one of the highest rates of recycling in the world, disposing of all this waste still creates environmental problems such as emissions of methane (a greenhouse gas) from decomposing landfill. And buying new things to replace those we throw out uses more energy and natural resources. But you can easily reduce waste by learning to “reduce, reuse, recycle”composting and avoiding overpackaging.
Recycling in Australia rose from 20 per cent of household waste in 1993 to 46 per cent in 2006. About 40 per cent of landfill waste (8.4 million tonnes a year) is food scraps and garden cuttings that could be composted.
Australian household waste
l Food and garden 47%
l Paper 23%
l Glass 7%
l Metals 5%
l Plastic 4%
l Concrete and Timber 4%
l Other 10%
Waste: key steps
1. Reduce. the best way to avoid creating waste is to buy less in the first place. $
2. Reuse plastic bags and takeaway containers, cut up old clothes for cleaning cloths, etc. $
3. Recycle. use your recycling bin. Find out what you can recycle in your local area on http://www.recyclingnearyou.com.au. Pass things on to family and friends. Give unwanted items away to charity shops or on http://www.freecycle.org/. Sell things at car boot and garage sales, in classified adverts or on http://www.ebay.com.au/.
4. Compost. Even if you have no garden, you can still use a Bokashi bin in your kitchen to reduce waste. Use the fertiliser for potted plants or give it to a friend with a garden.
5. Avoid packaging. Try to buy fewer overpackaged or disposable products. Take reusable bags with you.
Want to do more?
l Reduce paper waste by reading newspapers online, giving magazines to doctors’ waiting rooms and exchanging books at second-hand bookstores, etc.
Steam-clean carpets and get old furniture reupholstered rather than throwing them out. $ Use handkerchiefs and napkins instead of paper tissues and serviettes.
Put a no junk mail sticker on your letter box.
Carry a small day pack with reusable cup, container and cutlery for takeout food and tea/coffees, and a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water and soft drinks. $ Use rechargeable batteries. $ Half of dumped electrical goods still work or need only minor repairs so donate old computers to schools and charities and recycle mobile phones. Use biodegradable bin liners. Recycle your printer cartridges (www.planetark.com/cartridges).
Globally, more than 7.2 billion cigarette butts are discarded each year, each with up to 4,000 chemicals. Put butts in a film canister to dispose of at home