Despite the best of intentions, we don’t always make the grade when it comes to recycling. And when it comes to recycling, the smallest of extra effort can combine for huge results. Enter the ‘Think Recycle Campaign’, a fantastic local initiative you’re likely to hear a lot more about in coming months. To find out more, we got in touch with Darby Munro, a Waste Education Officer, Waste Services: “The Think Recycle Campaign was developed as a result of research that revealed that around 20 per cent of recyclable items were being placed in the garbage bin,” he begins. “As a consequence, this meant that valuable recycling material was being buried rather than being reused.”
Australia has a long history with recycling. The first Australian paper mill to use recycled material was built 200 years ago in 1815. BHP first started recycling scrap metal in 1915. In the 1920s, Henry Ford recycled his Model T Fords in order to save costs and resources. Skip ahead to 1977, and South Australia introduced container deposit legislation in an attempt to encourage the return of containers for recycling. The early 1980s and ’90s saw Sydney introduce kerbside recycling schemes, a move which soon spread. However, while Australia may be internationally recognised for its recycling services, we are also guilty of being one of the biggest per capita producers of waste.
The research showed that items most likely to be disposed of as garbage included pet food, soup and tuna cans. Aerosol cans, too, are high on the offender list. These include deodorants, hairsprays, oils, insect sprays and deodorisers. All these products are 100 per cent recyclable. Perhaps surprisingly, wine and beer bottles are also often dispensed as garage rather than as recyclables. As glass can add significant weight to the garbage bin, the cost of disposal will increase as councils are charged by weight for the disposal of garbage at landfills.
Another thing to bear in mind is the disposal of plastic bags. These need to be kept out of recycling bins. “This is sometimes confusing for residents as plastic bags are recyclable, but not through the yellow lid recycling,” Darby informs us. “To recycle plastic bags, they need to be dropped off at specially marked bins at Coles or Woolworths supermarkets.”
In order to bring focus to the environmental benefits of recycling, Planet Ark, the Australian not-for-profit environmental organisation founded in 1992, founded National Recycling Week in November of ’96. Research commissioned by Planet Ark last year found that over half of Australians believe aerosols cannot be placed in the recycling bin. When you consider more than 240 million aerosol cans are purchased in Australia each year, the number of aerosol cans potentially being disposed of incorrectly is staggering. Further reading can be found through planetark.org.
It’s not all doom and gloom. In the past year, recycling from Barwon region households saved over 100,000 cubic metres of landfill space, enough to fill over 40 Olympic pools and reduce gas emissions by over 23,000 tonnes. This is equivalent to removing 5547 cars from the road. Still, there’s always room for improvement. And as is often the case, education is the key.
Taking action, the Think Recycle Campaign is a joint recycling initiative whose partners include the City of Greater Geelong, the Borough of Queenscliffe, the Surf Coast Shire Council, the Colac Otway Shire Council and the Golden Plains Shire Council. “The key messages will be presented through a variety of channels, allowing the campaign to reach its target market, says Darby. “These include press and magazine advertisements, back of bus signage and a comprehensive online component. The campaign is expected to run over the next 18 months.”
“Think Recycle is about reclaiming recycling from the garbage bin. The other side of the recycling challenge is improving the quality that gets collected each week. This is another project where surrounding councils again work together. This ensures that the message is consistent from Queenscliff to Colac.”
Further information on the initiative can be found through thinkrecycle.com.au. There you will find plenty of tips, as well as a beaut little game that will boost your knowledge in no time.
By Alexander Lightfoot