Like death and taxes, waste is currently an inevitability of life that we all should consider. Whether it is the plastic bags we shop with, the leftover casserole that no-one seems to want to eat, our morning takeaway coffee cup, the can of soft drink taken to the beach, the old washing machine destined for landfill or the full bins on Tuesday night, it all ends up somewhere. Unfortunately somewhere is not over the rainbow, it’s in the earth’s backyard. The world generates in excess of 1.3 billion tons of waste per year, with the expectation that it will soar to four billion tons by 2100. Significantly, the plastic that has been produced since the 1950s has weighed the equivalent of one billion elephants. Most of that is now in landfill. That’s a fair herd of plastic elephants!
Why do we pay so little attention to where our waste goes after it leaves our hand?
One of the reasons is that the majority of us don’t see where it goes so we don’t think it is necessarily a problem. However, waste generated in Australia increased by 163% between 1996-97 and 2013-14. Craig Reucassel of ABC’s Chaser fame made waste the focus of his latest TV series, ‘War on Waste’. His view on Australia’s attitude on waste? “I think a lot of people either don’t think about it or don’t know how to deal with it.”
And it’s true. When I list the priorities of my daily life, how I toss out my coffee cup is pretty close to the bottom of my list, alongside stopping myself from having a second chocolate biscuit and heading to the gym in the evening. You buy a coffee and you toss it in the recycling, right? Job done.
Well, no. The plastic takeaway coffee cups that most cafes use are made of materials that cannot be recycled. Most disposable cups are lined with polyethylene, which makes them non recyclable. Some 50,000 takeaway coffee cups are thrown out every 30 seconds, all going straight to landfill. In Melbourne alone! That coffee cup spends minutes in your hand, and takes up to 100 years to break down in landfill.
Considering the alternatives, purchasing a Keep Cup (or one of a number of other alternative bio-friendly multi-use cups currently on the market) would allow you to hold all your takeaway coffees in one container that lasts about three years and is able to be recycled once you purchase a new one. On average, Australians drink 9 coffees a week. If five of those were in takeaway cups every week for an entire year, you’d be throwing out 260 non-reusable cups. By purchasing a Keep Cup, you’d therefore save 260 cups from ending up in landfill or the ocean every year. If 500,000 Melburnians committed to this change, some 130 million cups would be saved from landfill … not only that, you’d be saving money every time you visit a café linked with Responsible Cafes with your reusable cup!
Sustainability is about considering the health and welfare of our planet and its inhabitants on a social, economic and environmental scale. It is about reducing our footprint so as to ensure the growth and prosperity of our planet for a long time to come; for our grandchildren. Carbon neutrality is a step that some Australian and international businesses are taking to sustain our planet. For a company to be considered carbon neutral, it needs to take active steps to balance the amount of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere through its activities by purchasing carbon offsets in accredited emission reductions schemes, such as new wind farms, rainforest restoration projects and supporting for clean water projects in Africa.
The value of carbon neutrality can only come with buy-in from a vast array of businesses, just like reusable coffee cups, it needs everyone to get on board. It benefits the health of the planet, encourages corporate social responsibility, allows companies to save money while providing incredibly positive social and environmental outcomes and creates a cycle to lower global emissions and hopefully reduces the impact of climate change. It’s also good for business.
Future Recycling (FR) is committed to being a carbon neutral business. FR is also committed to being part of the need to consider sustainability and renewability as a global initiative. FMG is looking to be a small part of the solution to a growing problem in Victoria, in Australia and all across the globe. Like a growing number of Australian businesses, the intention of FR is to follow a sustainable model of business that focuses on the viability of our greatest resource, our natural environment.
Our commitment to offsetting our carbon emissions has seen us help install wind farms in rural villages of China, empower and protect rainforest communities in Papua New Guinea and generate clean energy in South Africa. It might seem like a small step, but like reducing waste, with community buy-in, these small steps will eventually turn into powerful strides. And how exciting it is to be part of a global initiative. But our commitment to a sustainable planet is more than just calculating our carbon footprint.
We say “recycling saves the planet” and it really can. Metal recycling is a part of the solution to save the planet. Metals can be used over and over again. Saving money on the cost of new metals, saving energy and reducing emissions, which is good for communities, our economy and our world.
Just like the measures we take at FMG, small steps can be taken within communities dotted across Australia. Small steps an individual can take that may help influence those around us to make a change. We don’t all have the time to be vocal activists but we can open up the lines of communication to ensure Australia’s environmental future includes clear water, clear air and a clear conscience.
This blog is an education tool to help Victoria better come to terms with how we can help the environment we live in, so we’d like you to let your friends know; discuss it with them. Over the following weeks we will take a look into the issues that you might be curious to learn about. What is a circular economy? How can we cut down waste? We’ll be chatting to leaders in environmental sustainability and taking a closer look at the process of recycling. We’ll assess the challenge of attempting to live a zero waste existence; creative ways to decorate your bin hire and how Melbourne cafes are getting creative with food waste – banana peel cake is a lot tastier than it sounds!
I’ll leave you with this fact.
It is expected that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. A study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that 95% of plastic packaging, worth $174 billion, is lost to the economy each year after a single use.
Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags a year. That’s over 10 million new bags being used every day. An estimated 3.76 billion bags or 20,700 tonnes of plastic are disposed of in landfill sites throughout Australia every year. Australians dump 7,150 recyclable plastic bags into landfills every minute or 429,000 bags every hour. This threatens the health of our marine life, adds to our carbon footprint and a plastic bag isn’t quite as romantic as American Beauty makes it out to be …
If there are just a few things to take away from our first blog, it might be this
Choosing to be part of the solution, you can act by:
- Think about your purchasing – don’t buy packaging if you can avoid it
- Look for more sustainable ways to package your food and avoiding one use plastic packaging
- Reuse: take a drink bottle with you, use your Keep Cup, bring a reusable bag when you shop
- Go to your local council’s recycling page to find out how you can more effectively recycle your waste
- Encouraging your local café to become a part of the Responsible Cafes initiative to save waste and money! See: www.responsiblecafes.org