With National Recycling Week in its 17th year, we should ask whether the Recycling Revolution has led to lasting changes in our personal, community and professional lives?
It seems that in the last 17 years we have definitely improved the Australian environment by introducing and upgrading kerbside, industrial and commercial recycling programs. Generally, our cities are cleaner and greener and people are more environmentally aware than they were, resulting in the quantity of waste going to landfill dramatically reducing.
We all worry about rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the affects they may have on our earth’s climate, animals, sea levels, living and health standards. So it’s good to remember that making products from recycled materials produces less pollution (including greenhouse gases), than not recycling.
For instance, did you know that making recycled paper uses 50% less energy and 90% less water than making it from trees? Recycling plastic bottles saves 84% more energy than making them from scratch and aluminum cans recycled save 95% more energy than making them from the raw materials. The energy saved from one recycled drink can is capable of powering your TV for three hours. Incredible but true!
There are economic benefits galore, too. Recycling extends the life of landfill sites and creates jobs in the collection, sorting and reprocessing areas as recyclables are bundled, processed or packaged for sale to major specialist recyclers. Not only that, it costs money to take large bulky recyclables to your local tip, instead of recycling them yourself by reusing, re-homing or keeping old things for spare parts.
Even gardens can be built and friendships form with recycled materials. Check out this story about the Green Community Garden in Tuncurry, NSW, built next to a resource recovery centre. http://www.greatlakesadvocate.com.au/story/1888401/be-yourself-at-community-garden/
The Australian Council of Recyclers estimates that recycling in Australia annually contributes in excess of $3.5 billion of eco-services to Australian society and recovers $912 million of commodity value and 68,400 giga-Watt hours (GWh) of embodied energy. This is not an insignificant figure.
So, between now and Christmas, what can you do to recycle any unwanted goods and benefit yourself and the community?
- Get together with friends, neighbours or workmates to hold a garage sale or swap meet.
- Form a craft group of friends to make Christmas gifts or decorations from waste paper, foil, magazines, wood or wool.
- Swap unwanted Christmas gifts you received last year at a small party (but be careful who you invite to your swap session!).
- Take your useful recyclables to the local council tip shop for re-selling. You generally won’t be charged.
- Donate unwanted goods to a charity shop like Vinnies, Lifeline or other organisations that help people out with clothes and household goods.
What most people don’t realise is that you have the power to ultimately change business behaviour with your purchasing decisions. Avoid non-environmentally friendly products by weighing up product packaging, longevity, functionality and ability to recycle? Choose instead, minimal or no packaging, biodegradable packaging, long lasting products or items that can be re-filled and are not throwaway. If enough people reject wasteful products manufacturers will eventually have to change.
Around the office there’s lots you can do to improve your recycling efforts. The National Recycling Week Workplace Activity Guide at http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/documents/doc-1099-nrw-workplace-guide.pdf is full of great ideas for employees and community organisations. Astoundingly, businesses across Australia spend $1.4 billion on sending waste to landfill every year. A full resource on recycling for businesses is available at http://businessrecycling.com.au/
You can also do a few team building exercises, like testing your knowledge of recycling at http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/quiz/quiz.cfm
So, get into the spirit of National Recycling Week. For the latest news of what’s happening in your local area go to http://www.recyclingnearyou.com.au/index.cfm and enter your state, suburb, council name and postcode. You can find out about things like tours of materials recovery facilities and free household and chemical clean up services happening soon.
And, of course, be sure to read and share this blog online so others will do their bit to keep our country in shape. Do you have any great idea you want to share that work for you or your workplace? Put them up on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TAFEnow