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.
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.
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