Australia is a beautiful place for locals, tourists and animals. We are globally linked with iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and Blue Mountains, which are home to many unique animals including everyone’s favourite – the koala. But of late we are now seeing news stories related to near nationwide bush fires destroying thousands of homes, millions of animals and temperatures hitting record highs well above 50 °C.
So how did we get here? Why are extreme weather conditions and natural disasters hitting Australia?
Well, you may be surprised to learn that Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the world. If you are passionate about protecting the many beautiful things that make us proud Australians, you need to understand the effects our rubbish is having on the environment.
If you are a visual person, the ABC series War On Waste is a must-watch and one that will no doubt make you think twice about your rubbish. But if you want to get down to the hard facts, here are some of the tough battles we are fighting.
The Plastic War
Australia uses over 10 million plastic bags a day, even though our entire population is only 25 million.
Do you know how much a tonne weighs? It is probably just an unimaginably heavy number for you, but that’s how much plastic waste Australian households throw out in 1 minute! So, by the time you get to the end of this article, a few tonnes of plastic would have been thrown away.
Where does all this plastic go? 85% of it ends up in landfill and the ocean while only 9% is recycled. Many plastic bags are currently floating in the ocean, harming vital sea creatures and destroying the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.
Not only plastic bags but plastic straws, bottles and fruit trays may look tiny but they leave an equally big mess. If we continue to use plastics as we do now, the ocean will have more plastics than fish in the near future, and you will only see dolphins and turtles in books.
Fortunately, a few great minds have already started trying to find solutions to plastics found in our oceans. Inventions and innovations to clean the ocean are currently being trialled and tested to help clean plastics and protect wildlife.
The Food War
Plastic waste is one that gets some attention at least, but most people simply have no idea how big of a problem food waste is. From production to consumption, waste is produced at every step of the way.
Today, agriculture occupies nearly 40% of global land and uses 70% of freshwater supplies. That’s a lot of our finite resources! Not only that, food production leads to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and many modern lifestyle-related chronic diseases due to people’s unsustainable preference for animal meat.
If we are clearing so much land and water to produce food, surely there is a higher demand than supply? Now get this, it is estimated that for every 5 bags of food Australians buy, 1 of them ends up wasted! Every year, an average Australian family throws out 1 tonne of food. But if just 1% of the population composted food scraps, it would save 45 million kgs of CO2.
What’s worse is that food waste just rots in landfill, where it emits even more greenhouse gases. If you think car pollution is bad, the methane let off by food waste is 25 times more!
If you are a fan of bananas, you may be interested to see with your own eyes how many bananas don’t make it to the shelf because they are slightly off shape in the first episode of The War on Waste. A shocking 20-40% of all fruits are rejected by the supermarkets for this very unnecessary reason.
The Throw-Away Culture War
Black Friday sales, EOFY sales, boxing day sales…are sales special or just the norm? Clever marketing has made Australia’s throw away culture an epidemic. Three-quarters of the clothes people purchase are thrown away and end up in landfill within 1 year! Keep in mind, it is not only the land that is wasted but also the water, cotton, energy and labour involved in the production process.
The same throw-away habit is even worse with coffee cups, bottles and cans, most of which are never recycled. The problem is simple to solve – bring your own cup or bottle or just have your drink in-store. While it takes only a split second to make the decision, it takes 400 years for plastic to break down in water.
When you are getting your next coffee, remember, Australia produces 1 billion coffee cups a year, which is enough to go around the Earth 2.5 times! Or if you are a soft drink person, we throw away enough bottles and cans to stretch across Australia in just 1 day! If you just recycle 1 aluminium can, you save it 100 years of decomposition in landfill and the energy saved can run a TV for more than 2 hours!
The Electronic War
Technology is one of the biggest buzz words in the 21st century, meaning new electronic devices like phones, computers, printers and so on update way too often. For example, there are more phones laying in people’s drawers than the number of people in Australia!
The average family produces 1.4 tonnes of electronic waste in 10 years, which could be recycled or reused for much longer. But sadly, there is no dedicated recycling program for most electronic devices, and inappropriate disposal or illegal dumping can even leak toxic heavy metals into the environment and affect the health of living beings.
Enough With The Doom & Gloom, What Can We Do To Help?
As you can see, Australia’s waste war is a tough one on so many fronts. That means every single one of us needs to join the fight and take responsibility – even if it is just a small thing that you do. Here are some ways to fight:
- Get more education through the official War On Waste website and help your family & friends understand.
- Cut down on plastic usage, including bags, bottles, straws, fruit trays.
- Bring your own grocery bags when you shop.
- Bring your own coffee cup, or use/burrow one on the go with Green Caffeen
- Eat less meat for your own and the planet’s health, start with meat-free Mondays.
- Buy quality over quantity. If you buy less in the first place, you will not waste as much!
- Take your food and garden waste to the organics only bin or make your own compost at home. Check your local council website for either free or subsidised composting equipment.
- Take time to study how to recycle responsibly: do’s and don’ts
- Donate clothes that you no longer wear.
- Deliver your phones and other electronic devices to a recycling company.
- Volunteer your time or money to help clean up with organisations like Clean Up Australia.
- Support organisations fighting the waste war at the forefront!
For the only planet that we call home, for children of the future and for our own health, take the time to learn how we can win the waste war together! The team at Cheapest Load of Rubbish can help ease the pressure by helping to remove your rubbish in an environmentally safe manner. Our experts take all sorts of rubbish from residential addresses, commercial businesses and even construction sites. Contact us today to see how we can help you.