Recognising that we need to question and act on our consumption and disposal problems is the first step to creating solutions. In Tasmania we bury 444,136 tonnes of materials per year (2010-2014 average). Of this 42% is food & green waste, 18% cardboard & paper, 13% recyclable plastics and 20% building materials (National Waste Reporting 2013). We also bury enormous amounts of concrete rubble, road pavement, glass and bricks which are not reported.
Do you ever look in the compostables, recycling and landfill bins, perched together at festivals and events and wonder why they all get filled with the same things? It's because it's downright difficult to know which item goes where.
Dare we think outside the confusing box we've got ourselves into for just one moment and dream about living in a World where:
* waste disposal is as simple as one bin, a compost bin, taken locally for processing (this would rely on legislative and behavioural change... but it needs to be the ultimate goal)
* we reuse everything
* plastics are all made from compostable materials
* deposit schemes encourage people to return their glass jars and sauce bottles, building materials, batteries, tins of paint, etc
* tax incentives exist for people to fix broken items like washing machines instead of throwing them away
* textiles are made from natural fibres like hemp, so micro plastics don't fill our oceans
* our paper and plastics are composted instead of being sent offshore for recycling (this would need some research to ascertain if composting was better than offshore recycling)
As it is, we are doing none of these things. If you want to read more about what we are doing, here is the pick of the bunch:
State of Waste 2016 – current and future Australian trends (written by MRA - pushing for a sensible approach to waste management)
Tasmanian Waste Review 2014 (more suggestions for changes that are not implemented)
National Waste Reporting 2013 (see the excel workbook for figures given above)
EPA Tasmania annual reports (it's more about what isn't included, than what is)
Ellen MacArthur Foundation The New Plastics Economy 2015 (brilliant, thorough, devastating report)