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On average Australians throw away around 21 million tonnes of waste per year. This includes waste from our kitchens, bathrooms and laundries and our gardens. It also includes building waste generated from building and renovating our homes.
Although we've made great improvements in our waste disposal habits over recent years, there are still lots of ways we can do more.
The first step to reducing household waste is to rethink our assumptions about what waste is. If we shift our thinking about the lifespan of products that we use and the lifecycle of produce that we consume, we can make landfill a last resort.
The next step is to become more aware of how we create waste and the variety of ways we can reduce, re-use and recycle. Nothing is waste—until we throw it away.
By refusing excess packaging or making a decision not to purchase things brand new, we can reduce the amount of unnecessary waste sent to landfill.
Recycling and re-using products also has a big impact on reducing waste. Look for ways to recycle, or pass unwanted items onto friends or charities. One person's waste is another person's gain.
Find out about recycling in your area. Contact your local council to find out what services exist and what they do and don't collect. This will help make sure your recycling doesn't end up in landfill. You can also find recycling facilities at Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou.
Buying products that can be recycled or contain recycled materials helps to keep metals and other useful materials out of landfill. This can also reduce the demand for manufacturers to make new materials.
Whatever waste we produce should be disposed of correctly. Take advantage of your local council's garbage and recycling services. Some councils offer 'green' collection services where you can dispose of garden and lawn clippings to be recycled.
Around two thirds of waste sent to landfill is from organic material like food scraps, paper and garden waste. When organic waste decomposes in landfills, it produces a gas known as 'landfill gas' which consists of about 55 per cent methane. Methane is a much more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). It's also smelly and highly flammable.
Most major landfill sites in towns try to capture landfill gas which can be used to generate energy. Australian landfills captured 26 per cent of landfill gases in 2005-2006.
Organic material sent to landfill would be better composted at home or dropped off to your local green waste recycler. Check with your local council or Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou to find out about organic waste facilities in your area.
We use a range of chemical products in our daily lives—in our bathrooms and laundries, in the garden and in the kitchen. Chemicals provide us with many benefits, but it's important to use, store and dispose of leftover chemicals and other hazardous household waste properly to prevent health and environmental problems.
These hazardous products can't be disposed of in your regular garbage collection; you need to take them to a hazardous waste collection facility. Check with your local council or Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou for collection services available in your area.
You may be able to reduce the number of toxic products you throw out by thinking about and changing your shopping habits. You may also be able to re-use or recycle many chemical products.
Up to 40 per cent of waste that goes to landfills in Australia comes from building material waste; so actions we take to minimise building waste can have an enormous impact. When building or renovating, it's important to plan carefully, build only what you need, select your materials carefully and reuse or recycle wherever possible.
Electronic waste or e-waste includes electronic products that we no longer want such as computers, televisions, home entertainment systems, printers, faxes and mobile phones.
As Australians buy more and more electronic products, the amount of e-waste is increasing rapidly. This waste contains many parts that can and should be recycled so that the resources can be used again. E-waste also contains a range of hazardous elements such as lead and mercury which can be released into the environment if not disposed of properly.
Packaging makes up a significant part of the rubbish in landfill. If you can buy in bulk, you can save money, packaging and transport costs. If not, you could try to choose products that use less packaging.
Reducing the amount of disposable products you use makes a big difference to your overall level of waste.
Refusing plastic bags when you don't need them saves resources and energy used to manufacture the bags. You'll also reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill.
Remember to take your re-usable bags out with you so you can refuse plastic bags
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