Here are 10 facts about recycling in Australia, plus tips for how you can proactively seize control of your own recycling habits to make sure you’re doing the best you can for our environment.
Fact # 1 – 8.2 Million Tonnes Of Australia’s Food Waste Ends Up In Landfill
Did you know that Australians produce 400 kilograms of waste per person each year? This gives us one of the highest per capita volumes of waste in the world. The sad news: A large portion of this household waste — 8.2 million tonnes — is food waste that ends up as landfill, enough to fill more than 10,000 Olympic swimming pools. Only about 5% of our household food waste is diverted from landfill.
Why It’s Important To Recycle Food Waste
Once in landfill, rotting food waste breaks down and produces methane (CH4) – a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2. This is the equivalent of 6.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or putting an extra one million five hundred thousand cars on the road.
How You Can Recycle Food Waste
Avoid buying excess food you don’t need (kind to both your wallet and the environment!)
Make a simple compost with biodegradable waste to fertilise your garden. Simply fill a container with waste that can break down naturally – think fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, bread, unbleached paper napkins, coffee filters, eggshells, meats and newspapers. Leave the compost out in a sunny location to hasten the composting process. Mix the biodegradable waste with brown and green plant matter, taking care to turn the pile once every 1-2 weeks and keep the compost moist.
Fact 2 – Recycling Just One Tonne Of Paper Saves 13 Trees
Recycling just one tonne of paper saves 13 trees, 26,500 litres of water, 2.5 barrels of oil and 4,100 kilowatts per hour of electricity. Paper can typically be recycled five to seven times before getting discarded. This is a pretty compelling call to action, since every year, each Australian consumes about 230 kilograms of paper products that go unrecycled.
Why Paper Recycling Is Worth It
Let’s have a closer look at the stats: Australian homes and offices use approximately 2.4 million tonnes of paper each year for printing, writing and reading. That’s about thirty-one million two hundred thousand trees whose cellulose pulp could be recycled five to seven times!
Recycling paper actually cuts the greenhouse gas produced in rubbish tips by one kilogram, so there are CO2 savings there too. Recycling one tonne of newspapers conserves about three cubic metres of landfill space.
How You Can Recycle Paper
Make sure your paper and cardboard are completely free of grease or food before placing them in your yellow recycling bin. Putting food-contaminated paper in a recycling bin will compromise the rest of the recycling bin and mean that the recyclable waste will be redirected to landfill instead of a recycling facility.
If your paper is contaminated with food, place it in your red or green bin instead. Make sure to cut around the greasy part of the paper or cardboard to salvage what you can of the untarnished paper. Place the clean paper in its rightful place in the yellow recycling bin.
Always buy recycled paper to close the loop.
Fact 3: Aluminium Products Are 100% Recyclable
An aluminium can that is discarded will still be there 500 years from now. The bright side? Aluminium is 100% recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely without losing quality. In fact, nearly 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. Aluminum is one of the only materials in the consumer disposal stream that more than pays for the cost of its own collection. The average person has the opportunity to recycle more than 25,000 cans in their lifetime.
Why Aluminium Recycling Is Great
Recycling aluminium costs only five percent of the energy to make a new aluminium product. And the electricity saved from recycling just one aluminium can is surprisingly enough energy to power a TV for three hours.
Aluminium is quick to recycle. An aluminum can – can be recycled, filled and back on a grocery store shelf as a brand new can in just 60 days.
How You Can Recycle Aluminium
Make sure your aluminium can is rinsed and empty. Do not put an aluminium can inside another can or a different container.
Always recycle aluminium foil.
Recycle all aluminium packaging in your yellow household recycling bin.
Fact 4: Reducing Our Plastic Consumption Is Critical To Reducing Plastic Pollution
Australians throw away 3.5 million tonnes of plastic each year, but currently, only about 9.4 percent makes its way to a recycling facility.
This is unfortunate, as the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris littering our oceans kills about 1 million sea creatures (including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles and birds) each year. This translates to about 150 bags per year for every person on earth. If you joined these plastic bags together, they would circumnavigate the globe 4,200 times.
Australians dump 36,700 tonnes of plastic bags into our landfill every year. That equates to 4,000 bags a minute or 230,000 per hour.
Each plastic bag has the potential to kill multiple creatures because it takes between 20 and a thousand years for the plastic bag to disintegrate into smaller pieces, which contain polymers and toxic chemicals.
When a turtle chokes and dies from eating a plastic bag mistaken for a jellyfish, the bag will survive, creating a risk that a second animal will make the same mistake. Seabirds can get caught in drifting plastic, and whales can starve because their stomachs are so full of plastic debris they’ve consumed.
Only 10% of Australians take their plastic bags for recycling. If each Australian family used 1 less plastic bag each week, that would be 253 million bags less per year.
What You Can Do About Plastic
Reduce your plastic consumption. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and wash them often!
Polyethylene Terephthalate — the kind of plastic found in plastic drink bottles and food packaging —- should always be recycled. Always clean this plastic and remove any plastic lids and cut the plastic ring around the top of the bottle before placing them in your recycling bin.
High-Density Polyethylene should always be recycled.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or vinyl cannot be recycled. Avoid buying PVC as the phthalates in vinyl are harmful to both your health and the environment.
Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is usually found in soft plastics like shopping bags, squeezable bottles, frozen food, and bread bags. While this plastic-type is typically not accepted in local council collections for homes and businesses, it is accepted in many soft plastics recycling programmes.
Polypropylene (PP) plastic, commonly found in carpets, nylon fabrics, plastic straws, condiment bottles, bottle caps and beauty products, is not recyclable and should be avoided.
Polystyrene is typically found in carry-out containers, meat trays and takeaway cups. It is typically not recyclable through council collection programmes.
Fact 5: Glass Bottles Can Take 4000 to One Million Years To Decompose
Aussies consume 1.36 million tonnes of glass packaging per year. If you don’t recycle your glass bottle but dump it instead, it can take up to 4000 to one million years for that glass to completely disintegrate. The good news: Glass is 100 percent recyclable, and can be recycled and reprocessed an infinite amount of times without wearing out.
Recycling glass not only eliminates glass objects in landfills that threaten the environment but also cuts down air and water pollution. The electricity saved from recycling a single glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.
How To Recycle Glass
Glass bottles and jars can be recycled and should be placed in your yellow recycling bin.
Microwave turntables, ovenware, crystal glass, mirrors and light bulbs cannot be recycled.
<H2>Fact 6: Bottled Water Production Generates More Than 60,000 Tonnes of Greenhouse Gas Emissions</H2>
Australia’s annual use of bottled water generates more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – the same amount that 13,000 cars generate over the course of a year. Australia recycles only 36% of the 582.9 million plastic bottles we consume each year. Unfortunately, producing and delivering a litre of bottles water emits hundreds of times more greenhouse gases than a litre of tap water.
Recycling just one tonne of plastic bottles saves the equivalent electricity use of a two-person household for one year.
What Can You Do About Plastic Bottles
Avoid purchasing bottled water and instead, fill up a reusable bottle.
Fact 7: Cardboard Can Be Recycled Up To Eight Times
Cardboard recycling is a simple yet effective way to make a difference to our environment. Why? When cardboard breaks down in landfill, it creates methane, a major greenhouse gas with the global warming capacity 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Making cardboard from recycled material, rather than brand new fibre, saves not only trees, but also large amounts of water (up to 99% less) and energy (up to 50% less). One tonne of recycled cardboard saves almost 175 litres of oil and up to 250 cubic feet of landfill space.
How To Recycle Cardboard
Gather your cardboard into piles. Remove any paper, plastic or decals that may be on or inside the cardboard.
Flatten the cardboard if they are boxes.
Place your cardboard inside your yellow recycling bin.
Waxed, wet, and soiled cardboard is not recyclable. However, they can be composted at a commercial composting facility.
Whenever you can, commit to buying recycled paper and cardboard products.
Fact 8: E-Waste Is Responsible For 70% of The Toxic Chemicals Found in Landfill
E-waste is responsible for 70% of the toxic chemicals, including lead, cadmium and mercury, that ends up in landfill.
Currently, Australia generates 700,000 tonnes of e-waste per year, with households producing about 73 kilograms each. Approximately 88% of the 4 million computers and 3 million TVs purchased in Australia are destined to end up in landfill, with fewer than 1% of TVs and 10% of PCs and laptops recycled Australia-wide.
How To Recycle E-Waste
TVs, computers, laptops, washing machines are dishwashers can be safely recycled by placing them inside a skip bin.
Batteries need to be recycled differently to recover the valuable magnesium and zinc inside while reducing the impact of the toxic materials (nickel, cadmium, mercury and lead) on the environment.
Alkaline and rechargeable batteries are best delivered to a recycling centre or disposal point, such as Battery World.
Avoid battery waste by choosing rechargeable batteries over disposable batteries whenever possible.