From the Editor
The last few months have seen a tremendous amount of environmental news. Donald Trump has left the Paris Climate Agreement. Coles and Woolworths have announced their decision to stop using plastic bags. Bali will be plastic-bag-free by next year. We continue to hope that our generation will think it's normal to have a passion for saving the planet, and recognise how important it is to conserve our beautiful earth and its resources.
Trashed: The Dirty Truth About Your Rubbish
ABC’s Four Corners, hosted by Caro Meldrum-Hanna
Every year, every single person in Australia produces the equivalent in weight of two fully-grown polar bears of rubbish. That’s two tonnes of rubbish! A lot of it goes to landfill. Some of it can be composted. But most of it is perfectly good, recyclable material. Some of us sort our rubbish carefully. Some of us put it all in the same bin. But the ideal of ‘Zero Waste’ is much further from reality than most of us might have hoped.
The ABC FourCorners report Trashed reveals that only half of what goes into the yellow-lid bins actually gets recycled. And all the while, we’ve been trusting our councils and the big recycling companies to do their job and actually recycle the 50 million tonnes of waste we produce each year! Instead, Four Corners revealed, they either landfill it, stock-pile it in ware-houses or worse still, dump it illegally or burn it, releasing toxic smoke into the atmosphere.
One third of all waste produced in Australia is glass. So why isn't all the glass being recycled? Apparently the glass recycling industry has ‘collapsed’. It is very expensive to sort it, crush it, melt it, make it into glass objects again, not to mention transporting it all over Australia. Currently, a large proportion of the glass we discard piles up with no where to go.
The crisis in glass recycling is just one of the disturbing revelations in Trashed. We also hear of the unintended consequence of the levies charged in NSW for landfill. It’s meant to encourage recycling, but to avoid paying $138 per tonne companies have been trucking their waste to Queensland where levies are not imposed. The reporters in Trashed also went to a lot of trouble to uncover illegal\ dumping by some of the major waste management companies as well as alleged corruption in the councils who employ them on our behalf.
Good News from Country New South Wales
The small rural town of Lismore has found an innovative way to deal with their glass waste. They used to send it to Queensland but found that 80% of it was going to landfill. So in 2013, as part of the 3.65 million dollar Lismore Materials Recovery Facility, they built a new glass processing plant which is now turning 6,000 tonnes of glass into a sand-like construction material every year. The council even won the Civil Contractors Federation NSW Earth Award in June for using the recycled glass in an infrastructure project.
They’re also doing trials with the university looking at using the glass sand in concrete and blending it with other materials.
Doing a clean-up with a friend is a lot more fun than doing it all by yourself! It was extremely enjoyable to share the task with my friend Ishara, and to see how much easier it is to clean up a slipway with two pairs of hands instead of one! Hopefully this will be but the first of many beach-clean-ups with friends. It is a very eye-opening experience to see all the rubbish on the beach, right in front of your eyes! Some of the most common items were wrappers, styrofoam, straws, bottles and cigarette butts.
This is a new segment designed to draw attention to the harm we might be doing to the environment every day without knowing it, and what we can do about it. This time, we’re focusing on micro plastics. Did you know that, in recent years, companies around the world have been adding small plastic particles to some of their products as exfoliants? Facial or body scrubs are the main culprits, as they require some sort of abrasion to help rub off dead skin. But also, microbeads have been included in some toothpastes to assist in teeth whitening. Plastic microbeads were once displayed proudly on the front of cosmetics packets, but now companies are reluctant to admit that they use them at all.
In 2015 the American Congress passed a new law, the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which ‘prohibits the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of rinse-off cosmetics containing plastic microbeads’. The law covers “rinse-off” cosmetics, including toothpaste, that contain intentionally added microbeads and are intended to exfoliate or cleanse the body.
In Australia, Coles and Woolworths have agreed to voluntarily phase out the use of micro plastics in their own-brand products and encourage their suppliers to do the same. While that’s a good start we don't think it’s good enough.
What you can do
Avoid face/body scrubs as they're most likely to contain microbeads. Not all products list all their ingredients but here are some to look out for:
• Polyethylene (PE)
• Polypropylene (PP)
• Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
• Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
• Nylon (PA)
The website www.Beatthemicrobead.org has a list of products known to contain micro plastics. Become more informed and spread the word! Here are some links to really interesting articles for further reading:
The Duck Rescue - With contributions by Michelle Hiscock and Erin Stapleton
Some time ago my mum was involved in an animal rescue. Here is her account of what happened:
"On a visit to Australian Galleries in Paddington, where I was about to have an exhibition, I encountered a duck quacking loudly and pacing up and down in front of a drain near where I had parked my car. She was so good at communicating her distress that I felt compelled to investigate.
"As I drew closer, I could hear a lot of peeping coming from the drain. The bottom was a long way down and the grate over the drain couldn't be removed, but I could see a number of ducklings. Distressingly, I could also hear more ducklings at another entrance, and I worried they might get lost in the maze of underground passages. The other concern was that the mother duck might give up and fly away. I wasn't able to stay and wait for help, but I knew Erin, the manager of the gallery, would think of something. As I left, the mother duck flew around in a big circle and landed right in the middle of the road at the other end of the street. She stood there, blocking my way, as if to say: 'where are you going? How can you leave me in this situation!'"
"I worried they might get lost in the maze of underground passages." Michelle Hiscock
Erin, the manager of the gallery tells us the rest of the story:
"When I was walking down the gallery from the train station I noticed a duck quacking loudly but didn’t think anything of it so I walked straight past her. Michelle told me that the mother was upset because her ducklings had fallen down the drain, and as she had another appointment to get to, I assured her that my colleague Lauren and I would see what we could do.
"The first challenge was opening the drain so we called Woollahra Council and they sent a council worker who had the appropriate tools to remove the grate on the drain. He then jumped down into the drain but unfortunately the ducklings then ran further down the drain pipe as they were scared. I then called WIRES (Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation) and they had two volunteers that lived down the road. They showed up with nets to catch the ducklings. These two lovely volunteers worked with the council worker for around an hour trying to catch the ducklings, the mother stayed this whole time waiting. They successfully caught all the ducklings and released them to their mother. I managed to get a photo of them all before they walked away up the bush path reunited."
We have since found out they were the Australian native species: the Pacific Black Duck. We were all so pleased they could be saved!
People making a difference
This week we discovered the YouTube channel: Greenversal. It's a weekly roundup of environmental news produced by Megan He since June 2016. She also has a website greenversal.org. It's well researched with a good coverage of both local and global issues. Great work Megan! Get inspired and check it out!
Origami Newspaper bin-liner
It's great news that single use plastic bags are starting to be phased out around Australia, but many of us reuse them as bin liners. In 2012, a review of South Australia’s bag ban found just 15 per cent of consumers purchased bin liners before the ban, compared with 80 per cent after. So it's time to look at a different solution because the whole idea is to reduce the amount of plastic in our environment.
First of all, it’s a good idea to look at what doesn't need to be in your bin. Of course, any food or compostable items should go in the compost, and recyclables should go in the recycling and people who can manage this well probably don't need a bin liner. But sometimes the bin gets pretty yucky so here is a great idea you can try: the newspaper origami bin liner!
In the YouTube video Organic Origami: How to Make a Liner for your Kitchen Container from GreenbinOttawa.ca, we see a 6 year old girl demonstrating how to do it. We thought it was a fantastic idea, and have been doing it ever since. Give it a go and tell us what you think!
Here is the link: https://youtu.be/BfEX85V9n8w