National Recycling Week 9 – 15 November 2015

National Recycling Week 9 – 15 November 2015

Here is a great opportunity for businesses to either re-invigorate existing recycling programs or to introduce new programs with National Recycling Week happening from 9 – 15 November 2015.

National Recycling Week was introduced by PlanetArk in 1996 to bring national focus to the environmental benefits of recycling. Now more than ever, this needs to be a focus as our landfills continue to fill to capacity.

National Recycling Week 2015

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We Take It For Granted

When I was living in Melbourne and working at Great Forest, stressing the importance of good waste practices was priority no. 1. Since returning from the UK and moving to my family farm outside of Melbourne, I’ve learned just how easily waste is taken for granted.

When living or working in the city it’s easy to not think about waste. While waste is associated with almost everything we consume, our home or workplace has a system in place to sort and remove it for us. It never becomes a problem for us, so we always take it for granted. We really should know about waste, to neglect it is expensive and it damages our environment.

The community I belong to, the towns of postcode 3551, are without this luxury and instead live in the world of transfer stations and tip runs. When I moved here there was a waste system in place, but it’s a crude one managed by my Dad and now, me. We have six 240 litre bins, which we’ve accumulated through attending clearing sales. We also have a couple of trailers for hard rubbish and metal waste.

However, our bins aren’t labelled or even colour coded and some don’t even have wheels – a real nuisance for a 240 litre bin when it’s  filled with glass (as it regularly is). Only recently have we had a ute capable of holding all six bins at one time – I’m puzzled to think how Dad was dealing with them all before that. Or more likely, he wasn’t, certainly not well or with any great efficiency. Even with the ute, it’s a pain but it’s manageable, with 2 people and a bit of hard work.

Our local council is currently rethinking and changing the way the postcode of 3551 deals with waste. This has been met with some resistance. Our local transfer stations are now being staffed and as a result, the opening hours have shortened and there is a cost for disposing landfill waste. This cost, we’re told, is covered because we don’t pay for kerbside collection in our rates, which is true but unlike kerbside collection, a bin run for us is quite a bit of work.

Because of my experience and my values, I had already attempted to set-up good waste systems and practices on the farm. Unfortunately the tip has not been  set up quite as well resulting in contamination and the dumping of rubbish. Not all has been lost as this has forced the Council to act, resulting in the new fees and rules to support good waste management practices. So now, when personally faced with a cost for landfill waste and no charge for recycling, our farm and the rest of the community need good waste practices operating today.

So with this, my learning and experience at Great Forest comes back into play and in the coming weeks we will be vastly improving our waste management systems. Both my shack and the house are well organised to sort recycling and landfill. All organic waste goes straight to the chooks so there’s no issue there.

Our focus is to avoid contamination of bins in public areas, mainly our cellar door and working areas. This, like any home or workplace, requires an effective bin system, with signage and education for contractors (who are the current contaminators). On top of that, especially now that it’s getting warmer, we have to organise and commit to a schedule that stops the farm smelling like the transfer station we take our waste to.

Without being close to and paying to remove waste yourself, it’s hard to understand and design a waste system. I’ve learnt this when I started at Great Forest and I’m learning it again now. This is definitely part of the reason that our public bins are the most contaminated. Education about waste, recognising the costs and developing good systems are what’s needed to bridge the gap between what we take for granted and what we should do. Thankfully for me and our clients, it’s something that we at Great Forest do really well.

Sustainability targets 2016

Not so black and white: Recycling grey areas

What you can and cannot recycle is sometimes far from black and white.  Yes, we agree that if it was black and white it would make things easier, but in reality there are many grey areas. Let’s look at some common ones.

  • Recycling IdentificationIf an item has a triangle recycling code on it, does that mean I can recycle it? No.  The triangle recycling code was designed to help manufacturers identify what kind of plastic an item is made from. It does not indicate that something is recyclable. For example, polystyrene trays or cups may have a recycling code 7 on them, but they are not recyclable. Also, many items that have no recycling code on them, are recyclable.Whether at home or at work, always check your recycling guide to see what is and is not recyclable.
  • Why isn’t recycling the same everywhere? Recycling programs can differ from Council to Council, and from building to building. Many factors can influence this. Recycling is a business, and the companies that sort, collect and sell recyclable material have different factors that influence their costs, markets, facilities and needs. The recycling industry is constantly changing as new technology, innovation, and funding is made available.
  • Do I need to rinse my containers before recycling? It Depends! Drink containers need to be completely empty, but not rinsed.  For food containers, empty any food/residue. Depending on what was in the container, you might want to give it a good scrape, clean or rinse. For example a tuna can is often very smelly, so give it a little rinse with cold water (or use the water at the end of your dish washing).
  • Can I recycle bottle tops and metal lids? Plastic – no. Metal – yes. Plastic lids/tops are too small for the recycling process, please remove them and place into landfill.  Place metal lids into a can of the same type and squeeze the top closed before recycling.
  • Is paper towel recyclable?  No. In the past, some recycling facilities accepted this material for recycling.  Now, in the majority of cases it is not accepted for paper recycling.  Some reasons we have been given by the recycling companies are that the fibres are not suitable for recycling, or that the quality of the fibre is not high enough to warrant recycling.
  • Can I recycle my disposable paper coffee cups?  No. This is a complex, very grey area and we advise people to put them into landfill. There are so many different types of cups, and varying responses from recycling companies, but in the majority of cases, they are not recyclable. We advise people to avoid using them in the first place and use a reusable cup. See Spencer’s blog for a full run down. Recycling signpost

There are however, some definite black and white principles you can follow when it comes to waste and recycling that will help you.

– Use less to produce less waste. Buying less and buying items that have less packaging means you reduce your waste. Recycling is the last resort. For example, buy your own re-usable water bottle and stop buying bottled water. Have your coffee in instead of taking out. One couple decided to go ‘waste free’ for a year – and they did it. It is amazing how much waste you can avoid producing if you put your mind to it. Check out their link here.

– Any hard plastic container, regardless of numbering can be recycled in a commingled (or fully commingled) recycling bin. Soft plastic, such as packaging and plastic bags cannot be recycled and should be put into your landfill bin.

– If you are in doubt about whether you can recycle something, ask. Check out your Council’s recycling guide to recycling at home. Check the recycling guide for recycling at work. Ask until you find the answers.

Take stuff home and recycle it.  If you are out and about and there are no recycling facilities, take it home with you and recycle it there.

I hope this has helped to clarify some grey areas – happy recycling and reducing!