This process – of using up the Earth’s natural resources to make products and throwing them away shortly after – is not sustainable. Our consumption levels directly impact the kind of world we’ll leave for future generations. And as consumers, we can think about how we can get more out less. We can also consider how we can make products that last longer and how we can use our waste for other things rather than throwing it away.
Waste is a valuable resource.
Our growing population, economy and demand for resources has brought prosperity and wellbeing to many Australians. It has also resulted, however, in a lot of waste being created.
Sustainability Victoria has surveyed Victorian councils about their waste and recycling services since the year 2000. For the financial year 2013-14, the amount of garbage, recyclables and green organics collected by local government in Victoria was 2.1 million tonnes. That was equivalent to 363kg per person.
That figure includes recycling and green organic waste diverted from landfill. But it still leaves 194kg per person of rubbish! And that’s three percent more than the previous financial year.
While rates of recycling and composting have increased over the decades, we still send too much material to landfill. Read about the problem with landfill here.
Almost 99 percent of everything we buy becomes waste within six weeks of purchase. Every wheelie bin of waste we produce from our home, equates to 70 wheelie bins of waste from the mining, manufacture, production and sale of the materials in that bin.
Even if we become much more efficient at reducing, reusing and recycling our waste, there will be a lot more people creating it. In 2014, the Victorian Government forecast that Melbourne could grow to 7.7 million people by 2051 (read the fact sheet here). If that happens, we’d have to get a lot smarter about the way we handle what households throw out.
Waste is a social and ethical issue as well as an economic and environmental one. Our consumption habits, purchasing choices and disposal practices are part of the problem.
We can keep working on reducing the amount of waste we produce and make a real positive impact on our environment.