Australia, we are in a waste crisis!
- Australia's waste is growing at TWICE the rate of its population
- Every MINUTE we produce 1 TONNE of plastic waste
- Every HOUR we throw out 36,000kg of clothes
- By 2050 there will be MORE PLASTIC in the ocean THAN FISH
Australia needs a waste system that is...
- The best possible system for all waste, for all Australians
- A clear system we have confidence in
Easy to use
- A system that makes it simple for all Australians to do the right thing
The things we throw out are not just waste, they came from somewhere and can be re-used to make something else. Plastics, batteries and textiles can all be re-made into new and useful things, but 91% of plastics, 97% of batteries and 96% of textiles end up in landfill.
Every Australian’s landfill bin is up to 40% food waste. In landfill, food waste rots and releases methane. Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas – 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Per person, Australia is the worst emitter of greenhouse gases in the world – and our waste is one of the causes.
Every minute one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped in the ocean. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. We’ve all seen the heartbreaking trauma that happens when larger animals eat this waste, but the plastics also break down into more toxic micro-plastics that are easier for the fish we eat to ingest.
Scientists recently found plastics in human poo! Also, our e-waste like mobile phones end up in Southeast Asia, where people use fire or acid baths to get to the precious metals inside. These methods release toxins into the air and the water which kills off crops and makes people sick.
This is a big problem that needs big solutions. Individual actions just aren’t enough.
A lot of was happens before the products hit the shelves.
Did you know…
Up to 40% of a crop of bananas can be binned while still on the farm?
Craig Reucassel, on the ABC TV show War on Waste, showed us just how horrifying it is for farmers who have to watch perfectly good food get trashed because they don’t fit produce standards produced by the two big supermarket chains.
We often don’t have low waste options available...
How frustrating is it to need corn or zucchini, and find that they’ve been wrapped in plastic? Or to get a delivery of food and find in addition to your straw and take away cup you have a plastic bag, a bigger plastic bag, and a large paper bag to top it off?
There are a lot of things that could be repaired or recycled, but we don't have the services in Australia…
Hands up if you’ve thrown away a perfectly good mobile? We’re a can-do culture, but how many of us have thrown away a phone or TV when it stopped working as well as we wanted? Repair shops are shutting down as people find it easier and cheaper to just go get a new version.
Only 9% of soft plastics are recycled worldwide
Our recycling system is confusing, and even when we figure it out things don’t necessarily get recycled. And how much work is it? We have to clean them out, remember to pop them in the car, go to special places, and then not be sure that they’re ever going to end up as something useful, or whether they’ll just end up in landfill. (source)https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/)
Reducing your waste in our current system can be HARD, and not available to everyone…
Sometimes it’s just not possible to be responsible for our waste. People living in apartments don’t have access to gardens for their food waste. People with disabilities need plastic straws. For many people, major supermarket chains are their only option for food shopping, which means they are buying a lot of plastic around their food.
Waste is much, much bigger than what we do as individuals
People often feel that waste is something they should feel guilty about, that we don’t do enough or could be better.
There is no way to solve this problem by fixing individual habits- change needs to come from the government and companies.
They need to carry the burden of sorting out our waste crisis. It’s important that we as a society figure out ways to really make use of the things we are done with, and also that we limit the amount of stuff (i.e. single use plastics) that enter the market in the first place.
We should be worried about Waste to Energy
Waste to Energy is seen as the solution to our waste crisis by both sides of politics, but there are reasons to be concerned. Craig Reucassel, from War on Waste, did a whole special on it for Foreign Correspondent.
This is not clean energy, and there are major health concerns- especially about burning plastic and other toxic substances. The Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health said in 2019 that “community groups have legitimate cause for concern” about health impacts, which can include cancer, plastics in the bloodstream and birth defects.
It also looks like it will block better solutions. Waste to Energy plants need a lot of stuff to burn, and they contract with us for a long time (25 years is normal). We can get in trouble if we don’t give them what they’ve contracted for: local governments in the United States have been sued for not providing enough stuff.
Why would a local government work towards better solutions when they need that food and plastic waste to go towards their waste to energy contracts? Our society relies on use of single use packaging and very low levels of recycling. Waste to Energy gives us the impression we can keep on with business as usual, but in fact we need to make massive changes in how we make, consume and re-use resources.
If you want to get involved in this fight, Zero Waste Victoria is working closely with local governments and groups directly opposing projects. Contact Kirsty at [email protected]
The fight against plastic is the new fight against fossil fuels
Plastic is a huge problem. It smothers our oceans and poisons communities, and breaks down into tiny micro plastics that are now even in our poop. But it’s also almost invisible as a product- it’s in so many things, and seen as a necessary evil. We can try to be responsible with it, but even when we recycle it, only 9% of it ends up getting re-used.
We are flooded with plastics that can’t be recycled and have no where to go- so they end up in landfill, in our environment, or burnt.
So we have a big problem – there’s way too much plastic being produced. But why? It’s important to look at where it comes from – plastic is a by-product of the fossil fuel industry. It’s a way for them to use chemicals that aren’t needed for oil. And now, as the fossil fuel industry is slowly recognising that the tide of public opinion is against them, they are turning to plastics to save their industry. Indeed, they are expanding production – a 33% increase of plastic’s chemical ingredients by 2025. They are intending to put more plastics into a world that already is trying to manage too much.
Governments seem overwhelmed by the plastics problem. The most recent report from the Victorian government barely mentions it, and seems to have no plan for managing it. The federal government is more concerned with packaging, and making sure it is re-usable, recyclable & compostable, but there’s no mention of limiting how much we’re using.
We know that people care a lot about the damage that plastics do. And we know that people care about the damage that fossil fuel industry does. Now the opportunity is here- the fight against plastics is the fight against the fossil fuel industry. The Story of Plastic is a fantastic resource, and explains in a straightforward way the links between fossil fuel companies and plastics, and the impacts they’re having all over the world. It also offers you a way to get involved yourself, via Break Free from Plastic.