Bright ideas for managing waste
A new exhibition showcases inspiring ideas for solving Victoria’s waste problem.
While Victorians have generally embraced recycling, dutifully sorting our bottles and boxes from the rest of our rubbish in the happy expectation that they will be whisked away and remade into new bottles and boxes – and, who knows, perhaps even garden furniture – in recent years the uncomfortable truth has emerged that we are producing more waste than we can effectively recycle.
According to Sustainability Victoria, in 2019-20 almost two thirds of what Victorians put in their recycling bins – a massive 390,000 tonnes of recyclables – was dumped into landfill. That was almost four times the 2014-15 level.
What to do with the tsunami of waste generated by our throwaway society is one of the great challenges of our times.
The full scale of our waste problem broke into the public consciousness in July 2017 when a massive stockpile of contaminated plastic waste caught fire at the SKM Recycling plant in Coolaroo. The blaze burned for 11 days, covering Melbourne’s northern suburbs with acrid smoke and causing 100 homes to be evacuated.
But things were about to get worse when, in early 2018, China announced a ban on importing low-grade recyclables from Australia. The ban meant thousands more tonnes of waste that would previously have been shipped overseas for recycling now ended up in local landfill, or worse, in highly flammable, illegal stockpiles. Just this month, investigators found a huge stockpile of dangerous e-waste, including discarded batteries and explosive airbag detonators, at an unlicensed recycling facility in Ringwood.
What to do with the tsunami of waste generated by our throwaway society – whether it be food, clothing, electronics or plastics – is one of the great challenges of our time. There are no easy answers, but many believe our best shot at a solution lies in the concept of a circular economy. Simply put, a circular economy replaces the current model of make-use-dispose with a new paradigm where resources are reused, repurposed and recycled in order to reduce consumption of new materials and eliminate waste.
It’s not just a feel-good theory. Last year, a CSIRO-commissioned report by KPMG estimated that if a circular economy were to be implemented in the food, transport and built environment sectors, by 2025 the material savings would add $23 billion to Australia’s GDP.
The idea of a circular economy is to preserve natural resources that would otherwise be dumped into landfill.
Grow food anywhere with Biofilta’s Foodcubes. Image: Facebook.
The future of sustainable textiles is bright with these upcycled socks from award-winning sustainable retailer Upparel. Photo: Facebook.
Do your bit for the planet and for charity by shopping for recycled items using the Charity Bay app. Photo: Unsplash