Wake up to waste

The impact of the Chinese ban on contaminated recyclables is beginning to rear its head, demonstrating the importance of responsible waste management.
With some councils left to shoulder additional costs associated with dealing with waste, Australian ratepayers may soon find the international crisis hitting their own hip pockets.
Recyclables are a commodity that can be used to create anything from polar fleece to road surfaces.
But, as demonstrated through the Chinese ban, they can quickly become a burden when the cost of collecting and processing them exceeds the benefit gained.
The State Government has responded to the Chinese ban by introducing a support package including money to promote local remanufacturing of recyclables.
But dealing with our waste requires a multi-layered response to a problem for which we must all take responsibility.
Increasing our local capacity to deal with and reuse our own recyclables may be a long-term solution, giving our nation more control over its recycling process.
But manufacturers and consumers also have a role to play.
Every year about eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, while only an estimated 10% of plastic is recycled worldwide.
Reducing the amount of waste we create and improving the way we deal with it are two key measures that must be addressed as we change strategy.
It may be time for the Government to consider enforcing restrictions on packaging or for Australian manufacturers to take the lead to reduce unnecessary packaging.
But perhaps the greatest power is in the hands of the consumer. With the true cost of waste management becoming clearer it is time we upped our waste game.
Information about how to recycle and the impacts of irresponsible waste management is widely available, but still many people take the easy road, sending our recyclables to landfill or leaving them too contaminated to be of much good.
Ongoing education is important but perhaps it will be the financial pain we will be forced to pay that will have the greatest impact on changing people’s attitudes towards responsible product purchasing and the resulting recycling which flows from that purchase.