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Reduce, reuse, recycle

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, every Australian contributes around two tonnes of waste each year - a mixture of household garbage and industrial waste created by things we buy or use. It's becoming more difficult and expensive to find new refuse tips for waste.

Waste disposal is a major issue for the government and the community. By minimising waste by avoiding and reducing waste, and re-using and recycling, we can cut waste by up to 50 percent-and even more if we compost.

Reducing waste also reduces litter. Remember, everything dropped can find its way to beaches, roads, waterways, bushland and parks through the stormwater system.

The three steps

Reduce
Avoid waste-look for ways to produce and use goods that stop waste being generated.
Reduce waste-choose products that can be used productively, recycled locally, and have minimal packaging.

Re-use
Re-use containers, packaging or waste products.

Recycle
Recycle waste material into useable products.

For waste that can't be avoided, reused or recycled
Treat the waste to make it less hazardous or reduce the volume of the hazardous component. Dispose of the waste safely.

Reduce

Want to help the environment? The most effective way is to reduce your waste before it becomes rubbish.

  • Become informed about the environmental impacts of products. If not satisfied, search for better alternatives
  • Bulk buy when possible, but don't buy more than can be used
  • Choose products with less packaging
  • Choose products with recyclable or reusable packaging
  • Carry reusable shopping bags or boxes
  • Say 'no' to unnecessary plastic bags and other packaging
  • Re-use plastic bags and all types of containers over and over again
  • Buy quality goods that will last
  • Encourage manufacturers to play their part.

Buy recycled goods
Recycled goods have already saved resources and raw materials and helped reduce the overall quantity of waste. Remember, `recycled' means the product is made partly or wholly from recycled materials and `recyclable' means the product is capable of being recycled. If an effort isn't made to buy recycled goods, it's not really recycling.

Reduce energy and water use
Reducing waste also means saving resources. Energy Information Centres can give information on reducing energy consumption in the home by switching to high-efficiency fluorescent light bulbs, using cold water for washing, and cooking efficiently.

Large amounts of water can be saved at home by fixing leaking taps, using dual-flush toilets, running washing machines and dishwashers only when full, turning the tap off while cleaning teeth, and using a control nozzle on the hose when washing the car or the dog. Design gardens to be water-efficient.

Re-use

  • Look for products in reusable, refillable or recyclable packaging when shopping
  • Donate unwanted clothing, furniture and white goods to charities
  • Enquire if goods can be repaired rather than replaced
  • Hold a garage sale
  • Use rechargeable batteries rather than single-use batteries and ask the local council about how to dispose of batteries properly
  • Use retreaded tyres if they are appropriate
  • Use glass bottles and jars, plastic bags, aluminium foil and take away food containers over and over again before recycling or disposing of them
  • Carry lunches in a reusable container rather than disposable wrappings
  • Re-use envelopes and use both sides of paper.

Recycle

Recycling recovers materials used in the home or in industry for further uses. Only recycle after trying to reduce and reuse.

Why recycle?
Recycling has environmental, economic and social advantages.

  • Recycling generates civic pride and environmental awareness
  • Recycling helps prevent environmental pollution
  • Recycling saves natural resources
  • Recycling conserves raw materials used in industry
  • Making products from recycled ingredients often uses much less energy than producing the same product from raw materials
  • Recycling reduces the amount of material dumped in landfill sites
  • Goods are used productively and prevented from becoming litter and garbage.

How do I recycle?
Recycling is easy. First, call the local council to find out what recycling facilities exist locally. There may be a kerbside collection system, or a community drop-off system. Kerbside collection of recyclables involves placing recyclables out on the footpath for collection on a set day-just like a normal garbage collection.

Council will provide a recycling container and will details what can and cannot be included for collection. The usual items include all glass jars and bottles, aluminium and steel cans, PET plastic soft drink bottles and HDPE plastic milk and detergent bottles. It may also be possible to include paper, light cardboard, newspapers and 'junk' mail, and milk and fruit juice cartons.

Community drop-off centres require a little more effort. Store recyclables at home and then take them to the drop-off centre. Remember to take boxes and bags home from the drop-off centre to prevent litter, and do not mix any non-recyclables with the recyclables.

  • Separate recyclables such as glass, plastic, paper and metal from other rubbish - depending on what your local council will collect
  • Do not put recyclables in the bin in a plastic bag
  • Recycle kitchen and garden scraps, which can make up almost 50 percent of garbage, as compost
  • Get involved in local school and community recycling schemes
  • Keep potentially hazardous household waste such as motor oil, batteries, pesticides and paint out of landfill sites-council will provide information about how to dispose of them safely
  • Encourage friends and family to get involved in recycling at home, at school and in the workplace

What can I recycle?
Most items can be recycled, but only when there's a market for the finished product. So, choose products that foster the recycled market.

Glass

100 percent recyclable. Household bottles and jars are made from a melted mixture of silica (sand), soda ash and limestone. Glass manufacturers can use your old glass in this process.

Multi-fill bottles such as some beer bottles can be rewashed and refilled. Single-fill containers, made of thinner glass, are separated into clear and coloured glass and broken down for cullet (used broken glass).

When recycling glass:

  • recycle all glass containers, not just bottles
  • rinse containers
  • remove contaminants such as lids, corks and caps - labels can remain
  • sort glass into refillable and recyclable (check message on bottles to see which type they are)
  • find out if local schools or community groups collect glass for fundraising
  • take glass to collection points or support kerbside schemes
  • place only glass in bins-contaminants such as ceramics china plates and cups can ruin a batch of glass because they melt at a different rate to glass and can weaken the recycled glass.

Plastic

More than 60 types. New plastics and uses, constantly being developed.

Different types of plastic must generally be kept separate for recycling. The Plastics Industry Association has introduced a voluntary system of product coding to help recyclers and the public.

  1. PET Polyethylene Terephthalate
  2. HDPE High Density Polyethylene
  3. UPVC Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride
    PPVC Plasticised Polyvinyl Chloride
  4. LDPE Low Density Polyethylene
  5. PP Polypropylene
  6. PS Polystyrene
    EPS Expanded Polystyrene
  7. Includes all other resins and multi materials (eg laminates)

The two types of plastic most commonly recycled in Queensland are PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high density polyethylene). PET is commonly used for soft drink packaging (the rocket bottom bottle) and HDPE is used to make plastic milk and detergent bottles. Other types of plastic can be recycled, but are not recycled in the same quantities.

When recycling plastic:

  • first, re-use plastic containers and bags
  • sort plastic into different types-follow the instructions at the drop-off centre or the instructions provided for kerbside collection
  • rinse containers and remove lids (lids are often a different type of plastic)
  • ask the supermarket to recycle plastic bags
  • look for the code number on any plastic item and try to choose those which can be recycled in local recycling programs.

Aluminium

Can be recycled over and over again.

Much energy is used to produce primary aluminium from bauxite. Once in metallic form, aluminium can be recycled indefinitely.

Recycling aluminium uses only five percent of the energy needed to produce new aluminium. This saves coal in energy production in power stations and reduces emissions to the atmosphere.

Around Queensland, sell cans at 'Cash for Cans' and 'Cash-a-Can' centres or put them in kerbside collections or drop-off centres. Find out if local schools collect cans for fund raising.

Currently, the industry recycles 55 per cent of the steel cans Australians use every year.

When you recycle aluminium:

  • place aluminium cans in a recycling bin, not the wheelie bin
  • encourage schools or workplaces to recycle aluminium cans
  • remove foreign objects (e.g. straws) that could ruin new aluminium.

Other metals

Metal recycling has been around for centuries.

Salvaging and reusing metals such as lead, copper and steel makes economic sense.

Metal recycling also makes environmental sense. Processed metals and many alloys require less energy to recycle than to mine and process. This conserves our raw material resources for the future.

Lead can be recycled from old car batteries. Service stations and car battery retail outlets will generally accept car batteries for trade-in, or take them to a metal recycler for recycling. Do not empty out battery acid before delivering the batteries to a collector.

Don't throw away copper from hot water systems, copper pipes or old car radiators-take them to a scrap metal dealer. Electric cabling and wiring contains copper and aluminium, which can be recycled. The plastic coating found on some wiring can be removed by metal recyclers in a process called 'granulation'. Using this process, the plastic is removed and the copper, aluminium and any steel present are separated magnetically for recycling.

Brass retrieved from old household fittings can be restored for use in old houses.

Steel and iron can be reclaimed from car bodies and engines, disused household or industrial equipment and building materials. Most household steel scrap is in the form of human and pet food cans. Scrap metal dealers may take clean, de-labelled cans but may not be able to offer payment for them. Steel cans, including aerosol, are accepted in many kerbside recycling programs.

When you recycle metal:

  • take it to a scrap metal dealer or local drop-off centre
  • ask if money is paid for for returned metal goods
  • remember that old car bodies and old fridges and freezers look better in a scrap metal yard than dumped in bushland
  • don't include fire extinguishers, gas bottles, or shock absorbers-they have the potential to explode.

Paper

Plantation timber, not native forests, is the source of most paper-making pulp. Stronger, better quality paper is made from hardwoods. Softwoods produce shorter fibres suitable for paper such as newsprint.

Good quality paper is in demand with recyclers to produce a variety of recycled paper products such as printing and writing paper, office supplies such as envelopes, toilet paper and tissues. Lower grade paper is usually used to make products such as cardboard and insulation.

Demand for old newspapers can fluctuate. The short fibres in newsprint make it unsuitable for recycling uses other than packaging material, insulation material or being recycled back into newsprint.

When recycling paper:

  • make two-sided copies, use the blank side of used paper for notepaper before recycling, and re-use envelopes
  • set up an office paper recovery scheme to separate good quality office paper for further uses in areas where local markets or collection services exist
  • use recycled paper where possible.

Your role

At home:

  • check that purchased products are the best choice for the environment (for example, does it save energy, conserve water, does it have recyclable content?)
  • reject unnecessary packaging
  • re-use packaging
  • sort rubbish
  • use local recycling depots or kerbside services
  • compost kitchen and garden waste
  • choose recycled goods whenever possible.

At school:

  • educate children to be responsible consumers and recyclers
  • promote litter control
  • educate parents and teachers
  • support or initiate school recycling schemes.

At work:

  • press for more efficient use of resources such as energy and office paper
  • become informed about the potential for waste minimisation and recycling in workplaces
  • publicise issues through staff newsletter
  • initiate a recycling scheme.
Last updated
2 April 2012