Environment and sustainability are two big words that camouflage solutions under our noses. Simple changes, at work and at play, to everyday activities can reduce our carbon footprint. Environmental responsibility is not confined to government portfolios and lawmakers. Every one of us can make a difference. Change happens when big issues are broken into small, measurable, local steps we can all take.
Become a recycling guru
With 98% of Australians participating in some form of recycling, we still only recycle 51% of the waste we generate. Much of this shortfall is due to ignorance; we simply don’t know what we can and can’t recycle. Put your recycling bottles in a plastic bag and they will end up as landfill; 23% of people make this mistake. Aerosol cans seem to cause confusion with just one third (33%) of people identifying them as recyclable. With Australians using around 250 million aerosols each year, this means an enormous amount of recyclable steel and aluminium ends up as landfill.
Familiarity breeds contempt
Of all the products that can be recycled, paper and cardboard have almost 100% consumer awareness. Yet a lot of it still finishes up as landfill: 26% for residential waste and an alarming 55% for commercial and industrial waste according to a 2012 report by the Department of Sustainability. Paper breaks down slowly in landfill due to a lack of oxygen, resulting in the release of large amounts of methane, with a greater greenhouse gas impact than carbon dioxide.
Produced at up to three times that of normal household waste, e-waste is the fastest growing form of waste in Australia. Electronics like USBs, tapes, hard discs, printer cartridges and even mobile phones can be recycled. On the plus side, they contain valuable raw materials such as gold copper, iron, nickel and silicon. The downside is a toxic list of hazardous materials, difficult to dispose of and environmentally unfriendly.