Are we going to drown in waste or plan for the future?

Over the last three decades the bin with the yellow lid has become a common sight in the streets of our towns and suburbs. After the introduction of kerbside recycling in the 80’s and 90’s, it took some training but Australian households have become pretty good at separating trash from recoverable materials.

According to the latest national waste report, we generated 64 million tonnes of waste in 2014-15, that’s 2.7 tonnes each! But we did recycle 60% of that.

That means waste streams such as paper, various types of plastic, glass, aluminium and steel aren’t ending up in landfill and recycling produces less greenhouse gas emissions and uses less raw resources.

With the decline of manufacturing and reprocessing industries in Australia, we have been relying more and more on exporting our recyclable material overseas.

Up until last year China was the world’s largest importer of recyclable material, and for the last 10-15 years we have been shipping our recyclable waste there for sorting and reprocessing. In mid 2017 China announced a ban on 24 categories of solid waste to protect their environment and public health.

This has had major repercussions for the recycling industry globally, with prices paid for recyclable material greatly reduced and access to markets diminished. Cheap prices for virgin plastics and metals have also shrunk the margin out of recycling and reprocessing, with the cost of obtaining recyclables often more expensive than buying virgin materials. Some waste streams are even being stockpiled as they are currently unsaleable.

With China no longer buying our reusable material, picking up recycling bins from the roadside is no longer the profitable business it once was.

At this stage there’s no sign of the yellow lidded bin disappearing from our kerbsides but the Australian recycling industry is certainly facing some challenges. But there is also an opportunity here, not only to close the recycling loop by establishing new onshore recycling facilities and developing novel, innovative uses for these waste streams but also to have a national discussion about the waste we generate and how we deal with it.

For more information on what your council does with your recycling and how they plan to limit the landfill visit

What helps the environment, saves money and feeds the soil at the same time?

Did you know that each year, Australian households generate around 13 million tonnes of organic waste and that about half of that ends up in landfill?

May 7 to 13 marks International Compost Awareness Week in Australia. This is a week during which Australians are invited to pay closer attention to what they put in their rubbish bin and consider that often about half of that could be put to better use.

Compost is not only a valuable organic resource (plants love it and it helps to build healthy soils) but also it reduces the volume of material going to landfill, the associated detrimental environmental effects and makes economic sense too.

Diverting organic materials from landfill and properly composing them can help in the effort to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing methane emissions and contributing to soil carbon storage.

Organic materials such as food scraps and garden waste breakdown to methane when decomposing without air in landfill conditions. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide so reducing its emissions is an important factor in combating climate change.

Using compost as a fertiliser or soil conditioner returns carbon into the soil, where it can be locked up or utilised for plant growth, rather than being emitted into the atmosphere.

Landfill is the most expensive form of waste management and while it’s free to drop your rubbish off at the Mid-Western Regional Council waste stations, don’t be fooled – as ratepayers we fund the operation and maintenance of these facilities.

The existing landfill cell at the Mudgee Waste Depot will reach capacity within 10 years. As space runs out and alternatives need to be sought, costs are likely to increase. So reducing the amount of organic waste going in will prolong the life of the existing landfill site and reduce the costs long term.

Composting reuses food waste and nutrients are recycled into fertiliser. By applying compost to gardens, farms and other land uses, nutrients are returned to the soil to feed diverse soil life. The bacteria, fungi, insects and worms in compost support healthy plant growth, rather than letting organic waste rot away in landfills.

So start a compost heap (or worm farm or get a few chooks to take care of the scraps), reduce waste and your carbon footprint. Happy composting!