Chris: You’ve done this a thousand times before and you probably think once it’s in the bin that’s the end of the story. But over the next few weeks I’m going to take you on a journey. And I’m going to show you that the fate of your rubbish doesn’t have to be waste. It can actually be the beginning of an amazing process of recovery and renewal, but it all starts here with the decisions you make on what goes where in your bins.
Now, we may think we’re pretty good at digging big holes in this country, but I’ve got to tell you… we’re not too bad at filling them in either with mountains and mountains of rubbish like this. In W.A. alone, we commit over 3 million tonnes of rubbish to facilities like this, and that’s one of the highest rates in the western world. But the really good news is, things are starting to change.
Now the SMRC is a partnership between Fremantle, Cockburn, Melville, East Freo and Kwinana and they’ve begun the process of turning this around, with the recent upgrades to the state of the art Regional Resource Recovery Centre here in Canning Vale. It’s a wonderful multi-million dollar investment in technology and science, and at the heart of its success is you and the decisions you make in your home and what you put in your two bins.
It really blows me away, but the reality is, the majority of this rather unsavoury mountain of mess, will be transformed into wonderful compost. It all starts on the floor as the team separates the stuff that should never have been put in the bin in the first place. The dirty three are broken glass, batteries and textiles that can just clog the machinery. And then it begins its journey of transformation and it’s taken to these giant pipes called digesters, where it slowly turns and cooks for three days, through the age old process of composting. And what about those odours? Well, a recent multi-million dollar investment in this bio filter solves that problem.
Now you might not be able to see it, but I hold in my hand one of nature’s true success stories and the beating heart of this massive plant. Trillions of super charged bacteria and fungi and here in this veritable talent academy for microbes, they are bred and nurtured to extraordinary levels of production, so that they can literally eat the liquids, remove the odour, so we’re just left with this wonderful material, minus the smells.
Once that composting process is done, it ends up here where it is finished off being turned and nurtured to give us this amazing stuff that thankfully, looks and smells nothing like the rubbish it started off as.
You see it’s your decisions that you make way back at home that determine what happens to your waste. Is it going to be landfill or compost. So remember, Recycle Right and put your rubbish in the right bins and if you want more info, visit the Recycle Right website (recycleright.wa.gov.au)
Chris: Resource Recovery centres like the Canning Vale plant we showed you earlier are great, but remember, the real key is reduce what you send there I the first place. We can reduce their burdens and make them that much more effective by the decisions we make at home.
To do it right, just follow the three simple r’s and the first is reduce.
Reduce the amount of packaging that you get, because some products are just swimming in excess plastics and wrappings, so my first tip is, just go for fresh stuff. You know, stuff that has a lot less wrapping, because at the end of the day, most of that is just going to end up in landfill.
Reuse. There are so many ways to do that, so my second tip is buy from an Op Shop, pass on the old hand me downs to the next crop of kids and turn your green waste into compost and grow your own veggies.
Recycle. Now the real secret of recycling success comes down to you. It makes all the difference, so my third tip is Recycle Right and you put the right things in the right bins. So that means in your green topped bins, please no broken glass, I mean that just stuffs composting. The same with old phones and batteries – they have toxic traces of lead and cadmium. And finally, no textiles, they just stuff up machinery and wreck the composting. So remember the three r’s and you can go a long way to making a real difference.
Chris: I bet, when you look at this mountain of tumbled garbage, you’d find it hard to imagine that this lot will all be separated, sorted, bundled and dispatched on its way to becoming something new, but that’s exactly what happens at this amazing plant.
First, the front-end loader scoops up huge chunks of this huge mess and feeds it into the plant and over the course of the next 15 minutes, and travelling an average of 200 metres, it begins its journey to discover its new identity.
This sophisticated plant uses a whole array of clever, automated stages to separate out the various materials. The magnetic belts remove the steel. Over there you can see the spinning disks lift the loose light paper and cardboard, whilst the containers and bottles drop down and this section here is designed to help the aluminium cans skip and bounce over the top.
These skilled workers remove the stuff that should never have made it into the yellow topped bins. Finally, it ends up here ready to be shipped all around the world. I mean this plastic could become new bottles, or maybe even vests or park furniture and this steel can, this might be your new car and this lot over here, this might be your new batch of toilet paper.
You see this is a sophisticated operation, but still a lot seeps through. I mean, in Australia alone we throw out over $15 million dollars of aluminium cans a year, simply because we don’t Recycle Right, putting the right things in the right bins.
So how do we reign in that waste and improve recovery? Well a huge part of the story starts here at the Audit Facility. I always thought audits were done by teams of accountants pouring over finances, but here these trained specialists are actually sifting through a selective stash of your household rubbish, looking for clues.
Pooh, clearly this is painstaking and rather smelly work, but seeing what people are throwing away where and how, tells us so much about people’s habits and what are the barriers to effective recycling, but most importantly, this helps to shape education programs so we can improve that all important waste management. But of course, none of this takes away from the most urgent message, and that is we’ve all got to stop generating so much waste. I mean, just imagine how puny and small our landfill would be if we all stopped buying so much new stuff, dripping in excess packaging and wrapping and we reused and recovered stuff whenever we could. We’d save a whole lot of money and resources and we’d give these poor old auditors a bit of a break.
The SMRC offers free tours of the Recovery Centre. To find out more, go to recycleright.wa.gov.au.
Chris: I love trees and I just couldn’t image living in a suburb without them, but if they’ve got to go – sorry fellas, it makes so much more sense to use them, rather than just burning them or throwing them into landfill.
Welcome back to the Regional Resource Recovery Centre here in Canning Vale and I can’t wait to show you more of the great work the SMRC are doing with recycling and today, it’s all about green waste.
And this is where it all begins. The SMRC collects anywhere from 50 to 100 tons of this green waste every day from council verge collections, tree loppers and of course, you and I.
You know, I’ve always found it terrible that we call this stuff Green Waste. It really should be called Green Gold because once the litter is removed, these logs and branches get fed through that giant chipper and they get magically transformed into this stuff and it is chock a block with nutrients and because of its rough, coarse texture, it can be used as a mulch, it can be used as an additive to commercial landscaping mixes and as well, it’s even formed the basis of those bio filter beds I showed you in the first episode.
Taryn Beagley, the Education Coordinator here at the SMRC and her team have set the ambitious goal of turning this miserable, sandy patch into a thriving community garden. It will be amazing to see how this garden comes together and Taryn has chosen a wide variety of raised beds, so they’re going to give it the best chance of producing a fantastic foundation for those veggies. And she’s going to try and get some of the SMRC workers to grow plants from their homelands.
The beds are placed and then filled with a wonderful rich blended compost that started life here as rubbish from those green topped bins. The seedlings are planted and then the final layer of mulch is applied to protect them from the onset of the drier, hotter months.
It’ll be amazing to see how these gardens evolve over the next few weeks and to see how those SMRC staff respond to this novel new resource they’ve been given. And I really look forward to giving you updates and to show the produce that is being grown on this composted waste, that started life as green waste on this compost facility.
Remember if you would like any more information, visit recycleright.wa.gov.au. They even have a great new app to help you Recycle Right, so you know what to put in which bin and other great tips on living more sustainably.
Chris: Well, I bet you’ve seen this symbol everywhere and you might be thinking, what does it mean, why is it important. Well, it’s actually a cue from nature because nothing and I mean nothing in nature is ever wasted. Everything is reused and recycled. You know, nature is the grandmother of hoarding and we can learn so much from her, because still to this day, we throw out millions of tons of perfectly good products every year and they can be reused and recycled ideally again and again and over and over.
Just have a look at the array of products in front of me and can you guess what they all have in common? Have you worked it out? Well they’ve all been resurrected and reformed to make wonderful, funky new products. We’ve got recycled office paper – very cool… this fantastic and I’m pleased to say, very soft recycled toilet paper. Even your favourite cereal comes in a box that’s up to 80% recycled material and this decking is a mix of sawdust and recycled milk cartons and the flat steel from this swish, new car is up to 20% recycled product. But my personal favourite is the humble aluminium container. They can be recycled over and over again. In fact, when you recycle aluminium, you use less than 5% of the power needed to create a new can, but only if you make the simple choice to Recycle Right and put our aluminium cans in the yellow topped bin.
And so what happened to all of that plastic we saw bundled up in the recycling plant? Well, it gets chipped up and then pelletised, melted down to make everything from these very stylish hi vis vests, to polar fleece jackets, irrigation, bollards. You can even get garden beds like we use here at the SMRC, made out of recycled plastic. In fact, this new garden is a living showcase of recycling with its compost made from the green topped bin rubbish, tree mulch paths, not to mention the drip irrigation, much of which is made out of recycled plastic.
It would be impossible to over-estimate the value of recycling. You know as the world’s population continues to climb and resources dwindle, we just need to learn to do better with less, reuse and Recycle Right and each time we close that loop and make a new product out of something that was waste, we make a massive difference saving water, energy, resources and it can look pretty cool too.
Chris: You know I think there’s only one thing better than adults embracing sustainability and recycling and that is the next generation to do exactly the same and today it’s all about the kids and we’re here at this amazing facility where they’re striving to ensure that the next crop of consumers understands how important it is to reduce, reuse and Recycle Right.
Anyone who knows anything about educating kids will tell you that this can be a pretty tough gig. Kids are harsh critics and they will soon vote with their feet and loose interest in any program that just doesn’t capture their imagination, but here in the Education room, just one look through this viewing platform reveals the most amazing and captivating world of huge, whirring machines and enormous piles of decomposing garbage and massive piles of steaming compost, just wonderful for wowing kids and the person charged with handling this all important part of this program is Taryn Beagley.
So Taryn, what makes Recycle Right so successful?
Taryn: Well Chris Recycle Right is the only integrated waste education program in Western Australia and it’s supported by the Waste Authority.
Chris: And what are the key components of this amazing program?
Taryn: Well, firstly, we have our great tours where you can visit each facility and look in over viewing platforms and see exactly what happens to your waste.
Chris: Do you get a lot of kids coming through?
Taryn: Yes, we get about 5,000 people a year coming through.
Taryn: We’ve got our smartphone app, which was the first app developed in Western Australia, which is available on our website.
Chris: That’s awesome. Lots of great stuff there.
Taryn: Yes, definitely and we can also attend your school or community group meeting and teach you what happens to waste here at the SMRC.
Chris: I think one of the really powerful parts of waste education is where the kids get to see first hand just what magic happens to trash and garbage at this plant. They can literally see the various steps, even hold the recycled products and compost, but it also shows them the tangible ways we can get on with solving the problems and creating solutions. Soon the kids will literally be able to see, touch and even taste produce from the gardens that have been built from the ground up, using materials salvaged or even created on site.
And if you think that’s cool, then check out the newly developed Recycle Right app, and it’s been designed to help you, the consumer, make informed and quick decisions, so you can do the best thing with your waste and Recycle Right.
The SMRC runs free workshops for schools and community groups so you can come and see firsthand the 21st century way of dealing with WA’s mountain of waste.
If you want more details, just go to the website recycleright.wa.gov.au.
Chris: If anything deserves the black Logi for wanton environmental wastage, it’s this scene here… piles of e-waste on the verge, ready for collection. Now I know you’ve seen it everywhere, but what you probably don’t realise is that most of this stuff is just grist for the landfill juggernaut, which means it’s going to be buried in a hole somewhere, slowly breaking down, dripping toxins into our precious groundwater. But it so doesn’t have to be this way.
Now, if you meet James and Michael, now these are two true e-waste superheroes and they’re not only diverting this stuff from landfill, but they collect it from all over Perth. And they’re proving there really is treasure in trash.
Hi, boys. How are you?
Chris and James: Pretty good, how are you?
Chris: You’re going to take this aren’t you?
Michael: Yeah, I think I’ll take that off your hands, mate.
Chris: Alright. Nice one. James, how are you mate?
James: Good mate.
Chris: Good to see you. Now, what goodies are we finding in e-waste?
James: Well Chris, we get all sorts of goodies and baddies in e-waste. Roughly 95% of what comes in here will get recovered. There are around about 50 different material types. Some of the more interesting ones, being copper, aluminium, steel, plastic and even some gold and silver out of the circuit boards. So we deploy mainly a manual disassembly process here, so they’ll break it down into all the different material types and send it down to downstream processors all around the world.
You can jump on the bandwagon at a number of websites. We’ve got SMRC/Recycle Right. We’ve got Tech Collect website; we’ve got the DHL drop zone, Total Green Recycling and we’ve also got Planet Ark which can be very helpful.
Chris: What a truly impressive feat turning all of this e-waste into a thriving recycling business.
Chris (on tv): Now what a fantastic way to give it a whole new life.
Chris: I was getting to that. He’s so rude!
Chris: Hi guys, how you doing?
Chris: Now these wonderful teachers are here because they’re part of the Wastewise program, which is run by the Waste Authority of WA. Now the wonderful thing about this program is it’s linked to the school curriculum. So they’re given really powerful tools so they can go back and teach their kids how easy and important it is to be Waste Wise. Over 750 schools in WA have been given expert training and support to help reduce the waste going to landfill and to foster Waste Wise attitudes and behaviours.
So with the efforts to teach our next generation of the importance of being waste wise and all those fantastic efforts to tackle that tragedy of e-waste, I really think things are looking up.
Nice one. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Chris: It’s been called the greatest moral challenge of our time, our inconvenient truth and regardless of the fickle nature of its political fortunes, pretty much all the scientific evidence is telling us that climate change is going to continue to have a massive impact on our lives. And the fact is, when we reduce our waste and Recycle Right, we strike a blow against climate change in ways we may not even have realised.
Now take the humble aluminium can, now if I want to create a new one, I have to clear a forest like this, dig up all the bauxite ore, add massive amounts of water and energy, to create the new can. So if I guzzle its contents, and then throw the can in the trash, or worse, throw it on the roadside, it’s gone, it’s lost and I have to repeat that whole process again. A whopping 25% of the world’s climate killing greenhouse gas emissions come from this wasteful type of process, but aluminium is a truly remarkable product. If we Recycle Right and put it in the yellow top bin, we can reuse it again and again, indefinitely, saving our forests and reducing those dreaded emissions.
Everywhere you look, you see the same process and opportunities. By composting the green top bin, using that amazing process, I‘ve shown you at the SMRC, we not only create life giving compost, but we prevent it going to a great big hole like the one across the tracks where it just rots and festers, releasing methane, which is one of the worst greenhouse gases on the planet.
With so much at stake and so much to gain, it pains me to have to tell you that as of 2010, we recycled a measly 30% of our waste in WA. I mean that’s less than a third and one of the lowest rates in the country, but the Waste Authority of WA aims to whip us into shape. They have set a target to lift that recycling rate to 50% by 2015 and 65% by 2020 through better education and investment in recycling and recovery processes, all of which should lead to greater uptake by you and me. So the challenge is on for all of us, and I urge you to find out as much as you can about the products you use and what happens to them when you’re finished with them and I urge you to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as you can, whenever you can.
Check out the SMRC’s new app on the App Store or Google Play, or visit the recycle Right website Recycleright.wa.gov.au