A Sustainable Life: The War on Waste

Did you get the opportunity to watch the three-part series called ‘War on Waste’ on the ABC recently? For someone who has been writing, educating and campaigning in this space, it was the best TV I’ve watch in a while.

Craig Reucassel did a sterling job exposing the fundamental issues caused by our consuming, disposable lifestyle. Australia has a dreadful footprint which was highlighted with frightening statistics like the one billion disposable coffee cups we use per year, and our consumption of ‘fast fashion’ is resulting in 6000 kilograms of clothing waste being produced every 10 minutes. We really need to take a hard look at ourselves.

Craig didn’t just go about startling viewers with these facts and figures; he demonstrated how we could all take action and be part of the solution instead of the problem.

The top six calls to action were:

1.   Contact your local MP and the Premier to lobby for ‘ban the plastic bag’ legislation. We use five billion bags a year, using them on average for 12 minutes. They end up in either landfill or as litter, polluting our waterways. You can email Daniel Andrews at daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au.

2.      Get a reusable coffee cup. Better still, why not sit in the café and drink it instead of racing around coffee in hand.

3.      Take your own reusable bags shopping with you instead of reaching for plastic bags. In Daylesford we have set up Boomerang Bag boxes at both Coles and Tonnas, so if you forget your bags you can borrow some from the box and return them next time you go shopping.

4.      Educate yourself on what is recyclable and make sure your waste goes into the right bin. For waste that can’t go into our curbside bins, venture to our Transfer Station in Daylesford. They have introduced so many recycling streams for the community. This means our waste can be diverted from landfill and reused. Taking recyclable waste there is FREE.

5.      Instead of throwing out broken items learn how to fix them, or get someone else to. This has the effect of diverting waste from landfill and saves you money.

6.      Consider setting up a compost bin or a worm farm (both are available at a subsidised cost through the council) to manage your food waste. The benefits of doing this is that once this waste has broken down and then added to the soil, all the worms and healthy microbes will produce healthy plants and food.

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE: Local recycling centres now take a large amount of different materials for recycling and in Daylesford it will cost you nothing.

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE: Local recycling centres now take a large amount of different materials for recycling and in Daylesford it will cost you nothing.

We really can’t afford to put our heads in the sand on this one. The ‘convenience’ of our throw-away society is taking a serious toll on our environment, social fabric and the economy. How so you ask?

This is how:

·         Environment – we extract so many resources from the ground impacting our forests, oceans and land that we are losing trees at rapid rates and poisoning our waterways. All the waste we produce ends up in landfills and as litter. All this activity is creating vast amounts of carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere causing global warming.

·         Social – there are so many social issues arising from our disposable lifestyle, but to give a really simple example, the disposable coffee cup nails it. The fact that we have created a culture that accepts you to race around with a coffee cup in one hand and a mobile phone in the other is odd in itself. We have forgotten the importance of connecting with one another. It is so much more enjoyable to have coffee in a lovely café with good friends.

·         Economical – Capitalism drives our economy and there is a small proportion of our population that is extremely wealthy as a result of making lots of ‘stuff’ for us to consume. But there is a massive cost in clean up – that is the waste, the social implications around mental health and the regeneration of devastated environment.

Take action. Start with one thing and help end the war on waste.

Michelle Stephenson is a consultant specialising in sustainability with BE Designs. Visit her blog at www.bedesigns.com.au/blog