You can also watch our segments from Greenfingers TV 2013
Chris: You know I often take great solace from the belief that the kids of today are learning so much about the environment than we ever did. Which is just as well, cos they’re going to need all the help they can get to clean up our mess. But hey, how true is it and are the next crop of kids really eco legends? I’m just dying to find out.
Chris: Why do you think we need to recycle?
Child 1: To save the environment
Child 2: To help the environment
Child 3: To keep the environment healthier
Chris: What do you do to reduce your waste at home
Child 1: Use the compost
Child 2: To reduce waste at home you buy less packaging
Child 3: Put it in the recycling bin with the yellow lid
Child 4: Put it in the bin
Chris: Do you think you do a better job than your mum and dad at home?
Child 1: Definitely, I do a way better job than my parents
Child 2: Yeah, mainly because we’re the ones that put the rubbish in the bin
Chris: Yipee, I think it’s fair to say that our future is in great hands and so much of this work is down to the hard efforts of the SMRC who do amazing work at the forefront of waste education and they have this fantastic, comprehensive program called Recycle Right that they run through their amazing facility at Canning Vale and they see between 4 and 5,000 kids a year through that program and they even do incursions into schools as well.
And leading the charge and dealing with all those tots is Anna Sondalini. Anna, what’s been the secret of the success of this program?
Anna: Recycle Right is funded by the Waste Authority and is a multi-faceted education program. So that means that we have interactive tours when we go out to the kids with incursions, we’re getting them involved with hands on recycling. We also go out and talk to the community and have their feedback and using the app and the website we’re able to reach people who aren’t just in schools and high schools, we’re able to reach the whole community.
Chris: That’s amazing! With WA having one of the highest rates of waste generation in the country, it’s clear we all need to do more to reduce our waste and I think we can all take something from the SMRC’s amazing waste education story.
For me, the real clinchers are to try and avoid generating waste in the first place. And to begin to train the brain to think of ways to reuse things and to Recycle Right.
And I love the SMRC app. It allows you to find quickly and exactly what goes where.
Whether it’s the dirty nappy, the busted fry pan or the dodgy mattress, the Recycle Right app shows me that there is a proper place for this stuff and most of the time it doesn’t have to be the bottom of a great big hole in the ground somewhere.
Now if you’d like to learn more about waste and recovery, or even just get one up on the kids, you can visit the SMRC website smrc.com.au. You can download their wonderful app Recycle Right, or you can even sneak in a tour to the Waste Education facility.
I mean, what better way than to get one up on the eco do-gooders in the family.
Chris: You know, the most amazing thing about rubbish is we produce mountains and mountains of the stuff every day. Each day, every one of us contributes to that ceaseless pile behind me and it all comes from our green topped bins. And, yeah, it’s pretty smelly and it’s ugly and we can’t wait to see the back of it, but if we treat it right, we can turn it into the most amazing compost that can build up our sands and create wonderful gardens here in Perth, But the most important thing is, we all need to follow a few important rules.
I’m with Anna Sondalini from the SMRC. Now Anna, what are some of the absolute no no’s to put in the green topped bin.
Anna: One of the biggest ones we get is glass, broken or whole. When it ends up in the green topped bin, it ends up in our compost and it can take a really long time to get out.
Chris: Absolutely, not much fun playing with that. Alright, so some of the other things that are nasties?
Anna: Some of the other ones are like tied up plastic bags. Even with the holes they’re still going to take up to 3 to 6 times longer to compost down.
Chris: And that just slows the whole process down.
Anna: It really does.
Chris: Alright, what are some of the alternatives to the normal plastic bin liner?
Anna: To normal plastic bin liners, are these things. These are compostable bin liners. They’re made from corn starch or potato starch and they break straight back down.
Chris: Very cool. So in summary, no glass and try and avoid the plastic bin liners and go for the green alternatives.
Anna: Yep, and that way we can Recycle Right.
Chris: Even things like nappies can be broken down through the miracle of composting. But what do you do with the broken and worn out stuff? It can’t be given away to charity bins and it can’t be composted, so it really is no good sticking that in the green topped bin.
So your best bet is to store it for your bulk rubbish collection, or you can make a special trip to your local tip, maybe visit the tip shop while you’re there and remember, you can always visit the Recycle Right website (recycleright.wa.gov.au).
I like to think that my green topped bin should be fed only with stuff that can be turned into compost. Now, if we all did this, image what we could do with that mountain of waste that we saw before. We can turn it into the most beautiful food for plants. Now look at these burgeoning plants. Remember them from the Autumn series? Now they are being powered largely by compost that’s been made from stuff that came from your and my green topped bin. That’s incredible.
Christina: We’re always talking about the importance of recycling on Greenfingers – Trevor, Darren. Everyone is quite gung ho on the subject. And I think most of us are getting better at separating recyclables at home, but, have you ever wondered what happens to your waste once you do your bit and put everything in the right bin?
Bring your peg!
Look, a whole heap of rubbish is never going to smell pretty, but these recyclables are a far better site than a dirty great mountain of unsorted landfill, or a mountain of trash with no potential for future good.
A lot of kids will recognise this place. It’s the Regional Resource Recovery Centre’s Material Recycling Facility and they actually do guided tours here where you can see just where your recycling goes.
So let’s start with that green lid bin where we’ve been putting our organic material. It’s all composted here at the Waste Composting Facility instead of going to landfill. This compost is used to put nutrients back into the soil for improving crops, pastures, parks, verges and gardens.
There is a lot of glass going into the yellow bin this festive season and funnily enough it’s ground down to a sand like consistency and you know how they say don’t drink and drive… well that’s used in road base products. It’s also mixed with concrete for construction.
Making an aluminium can from recycled products uses about 95% less energy than when you make it from scratch and the great thing about aluminium and tin is that they don’t degrade with the recycling process, so that means they can just keep on reinventing themselves.
Using recycled paper saves trees and uses up to 50% less energy and 90% less water than making them from raw materials and plastics in milk bottles and soft drinks are ground into flakes, undergo a rigorous cleaning process and then they’re made into new plastic products. Mixed plastics like buckets, washing baskets and toys are sold to Asian markets or the Eastern States where they’re also made into new plastic products. And so, the cycle continues.
It’s amazing to see just how much of a difference we can make by reducing waste and recycling right. If you want to know more, check out the website (recycleright.wa.gov.au) and download the app.
Christina: When you put the bin out nowadays, more often than not, the number of yellow lids is on the rise. At my house we have two and I thought that meant we were getting pretty good at recycling. Perversely though, it doesn’t. We could be doing better. And by that, I don’t mean getting a third bin.
This is Catherine. Now she has one yellow bin – a small, empty, very rarely put out yellow bin. Not because she doesn’t care, in fact, it’s because she cares more than most of us.
Catherine, tell us the lack of waste that goes into your bins.
Catherine: Well, Chrissy, I like to think of it more as resources rather than waste, so I prefer not to throw anything into those bins, either the compost bin, or the recycling bin unless I really, really need to. I went out to the Resource Recovery Centre. I was horrified at how much plastic was in the compostable waste there from the green topped bin. I heard how it really reduces the recovery rate – plastic bags everywhere from people using them in their kitchen bins, so I decided I would be part of the solution.
Christina: So, Catherine, why does very little go into your kitchen bins?
Catherine: Well, I like to get creative, think of different things that I can use otherwise recyclable items for, because of course to reuse is much, much better than recycling, which still takes energy. As far as the compost bin in my kitchen – I really hardly ever put anything in there now because I have chooks. The chooks are amazing. They’ll just eat what, you know, other people would call you know, food waste, kitchen scraps. A worm farm is really good.
Christina: Do you love your worm farm?
Catherine: The worm farm is good but it hardly gets a look in cos the chickens, you know, eat most things. Some things, since neither chickens nor worms have teeth, are too big for either of those and I put them in a cold compost dalek outside. And that just gradually breaks down and enriches the soil underneath. The worms come up and have a feed, but it takes longer to do that, but it is just a way of keeping smelly waste out of landfill.
Christina: So Catherine, I’m going out, I’m planning on going out and doing my shopping. How can I reduce the amount of waste that I produce?
Catherine: Take your bags with you. If you might be tempted to have a coffee, if you think you might be thirsty while you’re out, to take a thermos or a travel mug. Pack a lunch, it’ll be yummier anyway and you can even get reusable cutlery. I have a little pouch that has got bamboo cutlery that just saves me from ever having to use plastic forks.
Christina: What sort of thing do you look for in the shopping centres when you’re buying your produce?
Catherine: I buy bulk food typically. I go very quickly through a supermarket because there’s almost no aisles that I’m interested in. I tend to buy my fruit and veg at markets and then I might go to somewhere like Kakulas Sisters to buy my seeds, nuts, grains, beans, dried fruit in bulk and then I just top up my old orange juice containers.
Christina: A great way to reduce the amount of paper coming to your home is to make sure you have one of these little fellas on your letter box. It immediately reduces the amount of recyclables coming in. With a few changes you can make a real difference to the amount of waste produced in your household.
Catherine may be a hard act to follow, but if she’s inspired you, visit Recycleright.wa.gov.au, or download the app from the App store or Google Play.
Chris: In Episode one, we learned just how good our kids are at recycling, and hallelujah for that, we have got hope. But what about the current custodians – our mums and dads? How much do they really know about recycling? So, to dip our toe in the murky world of the WA psyche, we’ve here come to beautiful Kings Park and interestingly, this place has won a whole heap of awards for its waste and environmental education programs.
So we have set up a bit of a challenge for our adult brains trust. And I’ve asked the SMRC who manage a large chunk of Perth’s waste, to give me their dirty dozen. Now, this is the worst stuff that has the biggest impact on contaminating the waste stream and threatens the most, to unravel their drive to Recycle Right.
And here it is – the the dirty dozen. We’ve got clothing like this… Remember these – the old VHS? …things like saucepans and frying plans – these the CFL’s, the old compact fluorescents and stuff like batteries and phones, nappies – ouch! …the glass, paint tins like this, …things like toasters or microwaves, the old fly screen container and even things like pillows. Now all of these things can cause massive contamination. They either clog the machinery or they leach nutrients into our groundwater. Or, something like a nappy… if a dirty nappy gets into a bundle of recyclable material – that’s it, it’s wasted. It’ll have to go into a great big hole in the ground – ouch, what a waste!
So here is the challenge… we’re going to ask some poor unsuspecting parents which of these four options, yellow top, green top, hazardous waste, or charity shop, they would put those various nasties in.
Alright, here’s our first contestant for the dirty dozen challenge. So we’ve got our moo cow toaster and our paint tin. Alright, have a go. Where do you think they would go?
Contestant1: Ok, I think the paint goes in the transfer station and I think it might also go in the transfer station.
Chris: Ok. Alright my man, here’s your two. Where do you think they’re going to go?
Contestant2: I reckon landfill. And VCR… recycling.
Chris: And again, we’ve got the dirty nappy, and the fly spray. Take it away.
Contestant3: Alright, rubbish – recycling.
Chris: I think it’s fair to say that our poor old contestants struggled to Recycle Right and crack the great dirty dozen code. But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, I do this for a living and I struggle with it. So that’s why we’ve brought in Chloë from the SMRC. Chloe, where does the saucepan go?
Chloe: Yeah, well, the saucepan, it was in pretty good nick, so you could donate it to the charity store, but if failing that, drop it off to your waste transfer station.
Chris: And the skanky old nappy?
Chloe: Well, yeah, skanky nappies, you might want to compost those. A lot of people try and put them in the recycling, but please don’t recycle the nappies.
Chris: So, they go in the green topped bin?
Chloe: Yeah, they’re bio-degradable so you can break them down.
Chris: And how do people find out what they can do with all that stuff that shouldn’t go in the green topped bins?
Chloe: Yeah, look if you do want more information, there’s the Recycle Right website (recycleright.wa.gov.au), so you can visit that and we also have a new app which you can download to your phone, so it’s there at your finger tips.
Chris: So we’ve had lots of great tips today on reducing waste, but if you are sick of the junk mail barrage every week in your letter box, I’ve got a solution for you. You just get one of these free stickers from our friends at Keep Australia Beautiful Council (www.kabc.wa.gov.au). Problem solved….
We’ve got lots more tips coming up, but first, let’s find out what’s happening on Nine News.
Chris: You know it’s not just our waistlines that bulge at the festive season. The SMRC tell us that soon after Christmas, the whole place gets awash with all this extra trash that comes at the end of the festive season. Suddenly there’s a big influx of red and green and tinsel and the whole place gets festooned, so that it looks a little bit like a giant, wrapped pile of trash.
Now quirky as that is, what it reveals is something more sinister. We all feed the plant with loads and loads of Christmas waste, the wrapping, decorations, those cheap and not so cheerful plastic pressies and they’re all quickly broken or thrown out because they weren’t quite what we wanted. So I’ve invited Chloe, who’s the waste education officer from the SMRC – she’s back again, to show us how we can get rid of all this Christmas waste, save some money and even maybe, some tips on getting presents people may actually like and enjoy.
Chloe: Yeah, ok, so these are pretty cheap, disposable Christmas decorations. We see these on the tip floor quite a lot, so really good idea to try and buy more sustainable Christmas decorations that you can have for years to come. Tinsels another big one that ends up getting wrapped around our machinery, so really good idea not to recycle your tinsel. Pop that in the green bin.
Chris: And I bet you get lots of these. It looks very real, but I assure you it’s plastic this Christmas tree. You get lots of those?
Chloe: Oh yeah, we sure do. Again, that’s something that goes into landfill, so it’s a really good idea to go down and do the traditional thing, lopping off your real Christmas tree, cos we can mulch those.
Chris: And speaking of which, this is my firm favourite! Look at this. What a great present. How cool’s that? That’s only three weeks and what a wonderful, sustainable gift. That’s corn and zucchini in there. Awesome gift for people.
Chloe: Yeah, I wouldn’t mind receiving one of those.
Chris: I know. Well if you play your cards right, you may even get this one.
So, people are probably wondering what do they do with all of that avalanche of Christmas trash, so how can you help them with that?
Chloe: We have a Recycle Right app so you can download that onto your phone so it’s there are your fingertips. Otherwise, you can visit the Recycle Right website (recycleright.wa.gov.au)
Chris: And finally, what about a gift that creates no waste, no pollution, is heaps of fun and is guaranteed to give you and the family memories to pay out on for years. For Christmas this year, the family’s getting a day pass to Adventure World and I can’t wait. I’d better get some practice in now. Whoah!!
Chris: You know the battle of the bulge at Christmas time does extend well beyond your family’s waistline and there’s one part of Perth that is in desperate need of a starvation diet and that is the Waste Compost Facility at the SMRC. But the trouble is at this time of year, we all get a bit carried away with the festive spirit and there’s a huge spike in the amount of food waste that’s being scraped from our plates and when we add that to the stuff from our bins, it can really slow down that composting process and that is definitely no present for our food waste composting facility.
So I’m here with Anna Sondalini, the waste education officer at the SMRC and we want to give you some top tips to trim that Christmas excess, save you some money and help the environment at the same time. Ok, Anna. Here we are. We’ve got the full spread and so many families go for lots of this plastic disposable stuff. Why is that such a problem?
Anna: The worst part about plastic disposables and things that can just be thrown away, is that when they get mixed up with all the food waste, they end up not being recycled like they can be.
Chris: And that’s obviously a big problem. Alright, so we’ve sat down, we’ve had our meal, we’ve gorged, we’re absolutely stuffed. What do we do with the leftovers?
Anna: You can always pack them up and use them again later. No one wants to cook twice during the festive season, so leftovers are a great way of getting around that.
Chris: Ok, and then food scraps.. what do you reckon?
Anna: Worms, compost, chooks, and even to the dog… food scraps always have another life.
Chris: And I love the idea that we can take those caches, small caches of food waste, bury them in the vegge garden and that feeds those teeming armies of microbes and they get their own Christmas feast and turn that into compost. Fabulous!
Anna: Sounds fantastic.
Chris: Now if Christmas at your place is anything like ours, then you end up with those inevitable surplus presents… those things like the weird Dutch biscuits and puddings and if they’re sealed and unused then that’s a great opportunity to give them to fantastic charities like Food Bank, Food Rescue and Oz Harvest and they do a brilliant job feeding poor families and saving the stuff from going to landfill.
So Christmas doesn’t have to be a time of complete excess and waste. With a bit of thought and recycling right, you can have a great Chrissie and you can save money, slash your waste and give the long suffering SMRC compost facility a much needed crash diet this festive season.