Australia’s Recycling Crisis

Recycling in Australia has stopped! Instead of being processed or shipped overseas, all of our recyclable materials are being stored in warehouses or thrown into a landfill. I know it’s hard to believe, but Australia is incapable of recycling its own waste and we need to find ways of dealing with this national crisis now.

Australia doesn’t have the infrastructure to recycle its own materials, and in the past, we have avoided the issue by shipping much of our recycling overseas to China. However, the beginning of 2018 saw China banning the import of foreign waste, and as a result, Australia’s recycling has been piling up throughout the country.

A temporary solution has been to fill up several warehouses with our recyclables, storing them away to be dealt with in the future. How they will be dealt with is still uncertain. Many communities around Australia have already given up their recycling programs and started discarding all waste into landfill, claiming that the cost of collecting, sorting and storing the recycling is no longer worth the effort. It’s not a great solution, but apparently, there was no backup plan for our waste management once China stopped taking it off our hands.

One of the reasons China stopped accepting our recycling is because of high contamination levels. If there is non-recyclable material mixed in with recycling it can prevent other recyclable materials from being processed. Greasy pizza boxes, mouldy milk bottles, soiled nappies, these things cannot be recycled, yet Australians everywhere will throw them in with their normal recycling, unaware that they are contaminating everything within that bin, dooming it all to landfill. In order to improve recycling and reduce contamination, better education around waste management and recycling is needed to inform more people how to dispose of their waste in a sustainable way.

Here are a few key tips to improve your recycling

1-Shop smarter: Try to reduce the amount of waste you purchase by finding alternative products that use little or no packaging. Visit local markets, and think critically about what you buy regularly.

2-Rinse Recyclables: Cans, bottles, hard plastics, whatever you’re recycling, make sure it is clean. If it isn’t, give it a rinse to reduce contamination. If you can’t rinse it, don’t recycle it.

3-Prohibit Plastic: Plastic bags, soft plastic packaging, glad wrap, stop using these things, as they are not sustainable. Use paper bags, and try to avoid using soft plastics in general.

4-Curb Coffee: Take away coffee cups are not recyclable, and coffee pods from your kitchen aren’t much better. Use a Keep Cup or make yourself an instant coffee to reduce that daily coffee waste.

5-Make the Change: Implement simple changes like these in your everyday life and share them with your friends and family. If we want to keep recycling and protecting the environment in Australia, we need to start making changes to how we manage our waste today!

Australia needs to invest in building onshore recycling facilities in order to remedy this country-wide buildup of recyclable materials. This would also reduce the need for shipping our waste overseas to foreign nations or dumping it into landfill. However, this is a long-term solution that could take many years to organise, and we have waste building up at an alarming rate.

How much longer can this continue? Will we be the generation that depleted our resources and doomed the planet to a plastic apocalypse? Or will we be the heroes that found a sustainable solution to this mess?


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