Thanks to the ABC documentary television series War On Waste, there’s has been a much needed shift of the public’s attention towards the issue of waste in Australia. While some were already focused on the issue, the TV series propelled the progress of the waste debate. The first episode aired in May 2017, the show now also available as a podcast. The TV series had a direct impact on consumer’s choices regarding waste in Australia. We’re taking a look at Newcastle’s War on Waste to determine if people were swept up in the hype and popularity of the show, or if now, a year after the first episode aired, they’re still striving towards minimising their waste.
There are an overwhelming amount of free resources available for education on waste, recycling and sustainable living. All of the information you need is out there, it’s up to you to digest it, learn it and implement it into your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint and ensure a brighter future for the environment.
In Australia, more than 4.5million plastic bags are being used every year, nearly a billion disposable coffee cups end up in landfill, and households are throwing away too much food.
The program’s discussion about disposable coffee cups and the fact that they’re not really recyclable because they are lined with plastic captured the public’s attention. A lot of people were shocked, telling everyone they knew about the newly discovered information. Some people admitted that they’ve always been confused about which bin to dispose of their coffee cup in.
After the discussion of takeaway coffee cups on War On Waste, sales of reusable coffee cups are up 78%. Suddenly, cafes are offering discounted coffee if you bring your own reusable cup. This was advertised in many cafés for Plastic Free July, however the discounts didn’t end at the end of July.
Plastic Bag Ban
The major supermarkets – Woolworths and later Coles – surprised Australians by announcing they would phase out single-use plastic bags. The ban affects stores only in states that have not passed legislation banning single-use bags: New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
After receiving an overwhelming response from customers in supporting the #BanTheBag movement in 2017, Harris Farm Markets became the first major grocery retailer to remove plastic bags at registers entirely.
Co-CEOs Angus, Luke and Tristan Harris say, “we are all in this together and believe that we can make a huge impact as we continue to drive change within our stores and nationwide”.
Harris Farm no longer have any single-use plastic bags as an option for customers, instead, they’re now encouraging all consumers to #BYOBAG or take a recycled box.
Planet Ark spokeswoman Sarah Thompson says a blanket ban on plastics would do more to help the environment than only focusing on single-use bags.
“Plastic bags are just one thing, straws are a huge concern for the environment as they can cause a lot of damage to marine life,” she said.
“Australia needs to step up and join the other countries that are already doing it.”
Dr Thornton, an expert in hazardous materials management admits plastic bag bans can be effective, but warns there could be significant consequences if they are rushed through.
Dr Thornton held the view that NSW might be better to watch and wait on the bag issue before joining the rest of Australia in the pledge.
Take-away Coffee Cups
Responsible Cafés is a website that gives the location of cafés near you that offer a discount for reusable cups. Bolton St Pantry, Sprocket Roasters, Bluedoor, One Picket Fence, Welsh Blacks and The Empire Coffee Co are some of the many Newcastle cafés that offer a discount for Keep Cups.
The uptake of reusable cups in Newcastle has taken off so much that some local suppliers were at times running out of stock.
In ABC’s War On Waste, presenter Craig Reucassel filled a Melbourne tram with 50,000 cups – the number sent to the tip every half-hour in Australia. This caught the attention of Australians nationwide as the video was shared on ABC iView and the ABC’s social media channels.
Speaking with baristas around Newcastle, they have all noticed a spike in the use of reusable coffee cups since the airing of the War On Waste episode.
Britt King, a barista at MJs on Honeysuckle says “There was probably about 10 people using them in the cafe when I started 12 months ago, and now we have about 60”.
Return and Earn
The New South Wales Government introduced the Return and Earn Scheme to reduce drink container litter. The scheme commenced on 1st December 2017 and while this is a NSW Government Scheme and Council is not directly involved, Newcastle City Council encourages residents to use the scheme to recycle drink containers away from home and help reduce litter in the environment.
About 160 million drink containers were littered in NSW in 2014-15, costing the people of NSW millions of dollars to clean up.
Anyone who returns an eligible container to an approved NSW collection point will receive a 10 cent refund per container. There will eventually be over 500 collection points across NSW. Collection points in the Newcastle local government area currently include the supermarket carparks of Mayfield Woolworths (corner Maitland Road and Valencia Street) and Jesmond Woolworths (28 Bluegum Road).
Over the next 20 years, the NSW State Government anticipates that the Scheme will result in:
- 6 billion fewer beverage containers being littered
- Almost 11 billion fewer beverage containers ending up in landfill
- 6 billion more beverage containers being recycled.
If you’d like to learn more information on the Return and Earn Scheme, including which drink containers are eligible and where your nearest collection point it, head to their website.
The Newcastle City Council Waste & Recycling page has a lot of useful information regarding kerbside collection, bulk waste services, problem wastes, waste management centres, illegal dumping, waste education for schools and an A-Z of waste and recycling. It informs you of common waste items and how you should dispose of them. Remember that each council has different agreements with waste management facilities, so while an item may be accepted in recycling in another council area, it might not be accepted in Newcastle and vice versa.
The War On Waste is a complex issue with many layers. You can’t choose one issue to tackle and blindly ignore the others, thinking you’re doing your part for the environment. In order to really fight the war on waste, you need to understand all areas of waste that have an impact on the environment and try and implement small changes into your daily life to live less out of habit and more out of intent.
A large amount of waste that goes to landfill is organic. This represents a wasted resource that fills limited landfill space. Organic matter in landfill breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, whilst producing liquid waste known as leachate that can impact on the environment. (NSW EPA).
Organic Waste is anything that was or is living. It includes:
- Garden waste: leaves, grass clippings, branches, hay, flowers, sawdust, woodchips and bark.
- Food waste: fruit, vegetables, tea, bread, cereals, eggshells, grains, meat, dairy products.
- Other: paper, animal hair, faeces, vacuum cleaner dust, hair, wool, wood ash
There are environmental benefits to separating organic waste from landfill.
Composting or worm farming organic materials at home, or using council collection services can:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill
- reduced leachate production in landfills
The use of compost in gardening, landscaping, horticulture and in agriculture can:
- reduce the amount of watering required
- reduce the amount of synthetic fertilisers needed
- improve the structure, fertility and health of soils
- help to repair soils suffering from poor management
Newcastle City Council have announced a $12.8 million organic waste recycling plant at Summerhill Waste Management Centre, expected to open in 2020 or 2021.
The council currently shreds organic waste at Summerhill and sends it to Muswellbrook for processing. The waste is processed into mulch and is then used for landscaping and rehabilitation works off-site. The new plant will accept only garden waste initially, turning about 19,000 tonnes into 11,000 tonnes of organic products in its first year. The plant will accept food waste about three or four years later.
NCC has no immediate plans to change kerbside bin pick-ups.
So You Think You Can Recycle?
Education on waste, recycling and sustainable living is crucial in understanding how you as an individual can make a positive impact by reducing your carbon footprint and protect the environment from pollution. It’s difficult to break habits, however there are many bad habits when it comes to waste that need to be broken. A lot of it stems from confusion on what can and can’t be recycled, or the belief that one person’s waste habits won’t make a difference to the world.
When one person influences a few others, there are two major effects:
- A ripple effect that, over time, can actually impact thousands over generations.
- A broadening effect since one person influences many, like multiplying tree branches (CBS news).
It’s time to live less out of habit, and more out of intent. Once you’re aware of the importance of managing waste and recycling correctly, you can implement small changes in your daily life that will make a big difference in the long run. We know what is bad for the environment, so wipe your conscious clean and start living sustainably. The world depends on it. The world depends on you.
Newcastle has taken steps in the right direction, however there’s more that can be done. If you’re wanting to learn more about waste, recycling and sustainable living, we’ve included links to helpful resources below.
Return and Earn Scheme: Website
Recycling Near You: Website
Plastic Free July: Website
Responsible Cafes: Website
Newcastle Vegan Guide War On Waste: Website
War On Waste ABC TV: Website