Australians produce over 18 million tonnes of waste per year. That's the equivalent of three million Cleanaway trucks full of compacted rubbish! And of all this waste each Australian family would contribute enough rubbish to completely fill a three bedroom house from floor to ceiling.
Our current patterns of production and consumption are not ecologically, socially or environmentally sustainable. By far the most desirable objective is to avoid waste at all costs before it becomes an environmental or human health problem. There are many benefits for us and our environment through reducing the amount of waste we produce:
1. It conserves valuable resources
|MINERALS|| used to make many materials, e.g. bauxite is used to make aluminium
|ENERGY||used in mining, harvesting, manufacturing and transporting|
|NATIVE FORESTS||used to make some types of paper and wood products|
|PETROLEUM||used to make some plastics and machinery|
|LANDFILL SITES||the life of existing tips is extended|
2. It saves money
Cutting waste can save you money in many ways, e.g. if you waste less you get more out of what you buy. Council waste disposal costs are lower so rates may stay lower. Businesses become more efficient, and household budgets stretch further.
3. It reduces environmental impact
Fewer areas are affected by resource extraction (e.g. mining), harvesting or solid waste disposal. Less fossil fuel is burnt during production and transport so greenhouse gas emissions and pollution levels are reduced.
The waste hierarchy
The waste management hierarchy outlines the actions that governments and communities must prioritise and follow in order to achieve a more sustainable future regarding our waste.
Avoiding, reducing, reusing and recycling are the simple actions that we need to follow for waste minimisation. Please note the following waste hierarchy actions to assist you to minimise your waste:
Avoiding waste altogether is the place to start. Ask yourself - do I really need this item? - and thinking about the waste that it will produce as a result. Avoidance is also about choosing an item that has the least packaging and impact on the environment over one that has more.
The most important of the four actions is reducing. Reduce means to live more carefully, so that you have less waste-producing items and habits in the first place. Consuming products with less waste by-products is the most effective means of minimising waste. Buy recyclable or reusable packaging where you can, and always make a choice to purchase the product that has the least amount of packaging possible.
Reusing means to find a second use for an item so you save buying a new one and save the energy and resources that would have been used to make a new product. It also saves the reused item from ending up at landfill. A lot of our single use household items can be used again for a second function. Repairing is also an important component of reusing. Electrical equipment, books, toys and clothing can often be repaired and reused by the owner, sold, or given to a charity or a second-hand market. Householders can reuse food scraps, garden clippings and leaves in their own backyards by composting or worm farming.
Recycling involves collecting and sorting discarded goods so that they can be returned to the manufacturer to be reprocessed. Some materials require a lot of energy and valuable natural resources to produce. Recycling means that these materials can be remade into products with much less impact on the environment than when making them from raw materials. The recyclables collected in each council area are different, depending on local markets and packaging trends, and the companies who will buy and actually recycle the material collected. It is important to check with your local council to find out what may be put in your recycling bin or taken to the landfill to be recycled.