Australia’s recycling crisis: are the solutions looking us right in the eye?

Australia’s recycling crisis: are the solutions looking us right in the eye?


Whether it’s news to you or not, Australia is in the midst of a major recycling crisis. In March, China imposed a new set of import restrictions disabling 99 per cent of the recyclables that Australia previously sold to the country.

It comes as part of China’s new Blue Sky program (an offshoot from the previously imposed National Sword initiative) which aims to progressively tighten inspection efforts to reduce the amount of contaminated materials entering the country. China has been attempting to cleanse their backlog of waste for a while but only now is the agony of the Chinese burn rearing its head.

Yes, our reliance on China has encumbered us again and now we’re banking up. We only have so much accommodation for recycled waste and it appears the ‘no vacancy’ light at our factories is flickering like a laser in the night sky.

The blueprint of the regulation is extensive but what is of upmost importance to Australia is Blue Sky’s limitations on paper and plastics — contamination thresholds now sit at a mere 0.5 per cent. It’s now near impossible to process household wastes such as plastic.

Pessimists will scorn but optimists will cheer. Maybe this is the kick up the backside Australia’s been needing, maybe it’s time we started taking responsibility for our own waste surplus.

Melbourne’s Hume City Council just took a huge step in the right direction, laying one of the first recycled roads. The 300-metre Rayfield Avenue parchment in Craigieburn has melded 530,000 plastic bags, more than 12,000 recycled printer cartridges and 168,000 glass bottles in combination with asphalt.

It’s the exemplification of recycling — roads are used over and over again and according to the company behind the initiative, Close the Loop, the results have startled.

“The great thing about it is not only is it competitive, but it is a more flexible road surface, it’s more durable, it’s longer lasting and it’s a great use of product that would otherwise go to landfill,” company chairman Craig Devlin told ABC.

So, is this the lightbulb that kickstarts a movement? Woolworths and Coles have begun rolling out a ban on plastic bags in their supermarkets while the notion of processing recycled material onshore is thought to be a sustainable solution.

Onshore processing means there will be no need to export our recyclables — the Waste Management Association of Australia are pushing for a $150 million action plan for greater infrastructure and improvements in recycled quality.

As Australia’s politicians fumble for a solution at the top, there’s nothing stopping citizen’s commencing their own crusade. There are hundreds of ways you can impose intellectual knowhow on today’s recycling crisis, and many of them are as simple as reusing a KeepCup for your morning coffee.

Five creative ways you can assist the recycling crisis

You don’t need a pot, you’ve got a milk bottle

Milk cartons are just as malicious to the environment as they are versatile in the home and they can go a lot further than sitting despondent at the bottom of your recycling bin. The pipedream of growing your own herbs and spices can become a reality, with the use of your leftover four litre. Cut off the top, fill it with soil and Bob’s your uncle.

Use your old credit card as a guitar pick

Sounds stupid, but have you ever noticed how similar the rigidity of a credit card is to a guitar pick? Whether you’ve had your card skimmed and need to destroy that bad boy or whether the expiration date is looking you clear in the face, cut the card up and start strumming. The corners are perfectly rounded for the cause.

That fluorescent globe is a candle too

“Damnit! The light’s out again. Should we ring the landlord or just change it ourselves? ”If you opt to change it yourself, before disposing of the exhausted glow-generator, consider the value of the globe’s flawlessly circular shape. It’s proven it won’t droop at high temperatures so whack a candle in that bad boy and there’s your next date night sorted.

There’s a reason your ketchup bottle can squeeze over and over again

When you buy tomato sauce from the supermarket, you probably don’t consider the bottle’s recyclability. When the container has voiced its last words atop your lunchtime Four’n Twenty, clean it out and use it again. What other food items are of the same consistency as tomato sauce? Pancake mix, homemade jam, what about mum’s pumpkin soup? Yeah, not my best.

Jars are a chef’s best friend

The storage capability of a jar is unmatched. The last drip of your Cottee’s raspberry jam jar has announced itself and now you’ve got to devil’s advocate at your ear — do I kill the world or sustain it? You’ve cooked up a nice homemade relish from those tomatoes from the veggie patch. Enter Trevor, the jam jar. Those long passata bottles from the supermarket are even more ingenious.