By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Last week was Planet Ark’s 25th annual National Recycling Week. Recycling is something that is close to our hearts at IMPACT, and it’s important we continue the conversation to help not only our environment, but future generations who will be affected by our efforts in this space.
This year’s theme, “Recovery – A future beyond the bin”, encourages Australians to stop and think before their items reach the trash can. It urges people to consider what items they are throwing away and question how those items could be repurposed. I also interpret the theme as a tool we can use when doing our grocery shop. Consciously choosing packaging that is more eco-friendly or can be reused or recycled is where I see this journey truly beginning. Consumers have a voice in their buying power and to spark change, we must start with our own actions.
While this is an ideal situation, we must also better understand what can be recycled and what ends up in landfill. The Material Recycling Facility (MRF) on University Drive, Bundaberg West is a council owned facility that is run by IMPACT Community Services on a contract basis. At the MRF we have 23 supported employees with a disability that hand-sort the community’s recycled items from their yellow-top bins.
Our employees are dedicated, valued and respected workers who too often sift through nappies, food scraps, and even needles to process the community’s recycling. Thankfully they are well trained and protected with personal protection equipment, but the unnecessary danger is there and we must be mindful that the contents of every yellow bin passes through the hands of our employees. Other simple recycling tips include washing out containers that have held food, making sure bottles are emptied of any liquids and the lids have been taken off, and ensuring items are not placed in a bin liner. In either event, our staff cannot safely determine the substance or contents, and the items will end up in landfill.
Food waste is another item that can be far better recycled. When food scraps go into landfill it produces methane and, if not captured, releases a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has huge implications on the environment. Planet Ark suggest sticking to a meal plan or freezing leftovers for later to avoid meals going off in the fridge. You could also consider composting your vegetable waste, setting up a worm farm or donating your food scraps to a community garden. Composting is really quite a simple practice that provides an effective vehicle to break down compostable waste safely. At the end of the day, it’s much better off in the garden than under the ground.