Did you know that the average Australian contributes around 2,100kg of waste each year?
Not only that, about 20 million tonnes of rubbish makes its way to hundreds of landfill sites each year – most of which are clustered around our capital cities.
We all know that recycling is good for the environment – it helps conserve our precious natural resources, saves energy, reduces air and water pollution, and decreases the amount of rubbish sent to landfill.
Despite our best intentions, our household rubbish bins often end up containing items that could have been recycled. And non-recyclable items sometimes find their way into our recycling bins, which end up causing problems during sorting.
Here are some tips to help reduce, reuse and recycle your waste more effectively.
- Reduce the incoming tide of plastic/packaging:
Reduce your household waste before it turns into rubbish. This means being mindful of the amount of packaging and plastic that enters your household. You can do this by:
- Choosing products with less packaging when you are shopping.
- Choosing products with recyclable or reusable packaging.
- Bulk buying when possible (but making sure you don’t buy more than you can use!)
- Taking reusable bags or boxes when grocery shopping.
- Re-using any plastic bags you do end up with (and all types of containers) over and over again.
- Re-use whatever you can:
Save the environment, and your hip pocket, by re-using items instead of throwing them away. For example:
- Buy products that come in reusable, refillable or recyclable packaging when you go shopping.
- Find out if goods can be repaired, rather than thrown away and replaced.
- Use rechargeable batteries rather than single-use batteries.
- Use glass bottles and jars, plastic bags, aluminium foil and take away food containers over and over again before recycling or disposing of them.
- Take your lunch to work in a reusable container rather than in a disposable wrapping.
- Donate the things you no longer need:
Waste not, want not. Donate your unwanted (but still decent and usable) clothing, furniture and white goods to charities.
For more entrepreneurial-types, you might want to hold a garage sale or try selling your good-quality second-hand items online.
Upcycling is all the rage these days. There are trendy cafes now serving smoothies in old jam jars. There are even bars that serve cocktails in old beakers and test tubes! Can you think of a quirky new function for any of your old items? Maybe you could tinker around and create something completely new. Old-school TVs, for example, have been successfully converted into funky fish tanks. Old doors have been fashioned into unique table and bench tops. Get creative and find new ways to upcycle your old items.
- Hire a skip bin:
If you are moving house or having a major clean out, make sure you look into skip bins for hire from an environmentally aware company that recycles most of the waste it collects.
- Use your faithful curbside recycling bin:
Here is a quick refresher on what items can go in your home recycling bin.
- Aerosol cans (including deodorant)
- Aluminium foil – this is recyclable when scrunched in a ball larger than a golf ball.
- Baby formula tins
- Cooking oil tins
- Food and drink cans
- Pet food cans
Paper and Cardboard:
- Butcher / Deli paper
- Cartons (Milk, juice etc)
- Cereal boxes
- Long life cartons
- Junk mail, newspapers and magazines
- Paper plates
- Phone books
- Pizza boxes
- Toilet rolls
- Wrapping paper
- Washing powder boxes
- Bottles and jars (food, drink, vitamins and medicine)
- Cake and biscuit trays*
- Cleaning product bottles
- Deodorant (roll on)*
- Drink bottles (juice, milk)
- Punnets (berry)
- Shampoo, conditioner and soap bottles (including pumps)
- Sports drink bottles (reusable)*
- Take away food containers*
- Yoghurt containers
* Accepted in most areas – check with your local council.
Do not put the following items into your curbside recycling bin:
- Garden waste – contact your local council for more information on green waste collection.
- Plastic bags – if you put your recycling in plastic bags it may end up in landfill because it can’t be sorted and recycled.
- Ceramic and glass waste – broken cups, crockery, drinking glasses, Pyrex glass, ovenware, window glass and mirrors – these items should be wrapped and placed in your garbage bin.
- Take-away coffee cups – in most areas of Victoria, the hard plastic lid can be recycled but the coffee cup itself should be put in the rubbish bin. Most cups are a mix of plastic and paper and only a few councils in Victoria can currently collect them for recycling. Check with your local council, or better still, take a reusable cup with you!
Recyclable at other sites:
The following items cannot be placed in your curbside recycling bin, but they can be recycled at designated drop off sites.
- Soft plastic packaging (cling wrap, frozen vegetable bags, lolly wrappers)
Any soft plastic that can be scrunched into a ball can be recycled along with your plastic bags in the supermarket collection bins mentioned above.
Waste from obsolete electronic goods (computers, TVs, mobile phones) is one of the fastest growing types of waste, and is only recyclable in some councils. Check with your local council to find out more.
Over 90% of plastics and metals in mobile phones can be reused in new products. You can recycle your phone for free through the Mobile Muster program.
- Timber, concrete, bricks and rubble
To find out where you can drop off items, contact your local council.
- Household goods and furniture
Many councils operate resource recovery centres where you can dispose of unwanted goods and furniture. To find out where you can drop off items, contact your local council. Some of these centres also have “tip shops” that accept good quality household goods and furniture.
To find out where you can drop off scrap metal items, contact your local council.