Nov. 7, 2014
What we can't live without but throw away everyday...
We cut it, fold it, print it, post it, read it, craft it, pack it and even declare our love on it. Paper - what would we do without you? Even with smart phones and email offering us the real chance of a paperless life of communication, there are still a billion ways in which we rely on paper and cardboard. Making my kids' aeroplanes just wouldn't be the same.
We also chuck it. And often not in the right bin. Australians send 1.9 million tonnes of paper to landfill each year and most of it can be recycled. Newspaper is the most abundant paper waste, followed by cardboard and magazine/advertising material. All this waste fills up our landfill space which we are fast running out of. In Waverley alone, up to 30% of contamination found in red garbage bins that go to landfill is paper and cardboard that could actually be recycled.
It also means a lot of trees thrown away. It takes about 20 full-grown trees to produce a tonne of paper. Turning the raw materials into this page you are now reading also chews up a bunch of resources including large amounts of energy and and water. Some processing techniques such as bleaching can also be environmentally harmful.
It needn't be so damaging. Paper and cardboard can be recycled many times over - into newspapers, office paper, packaging and cardboard, and has less than half of the eco-impact than making products from scratch. Pick up any Australian newspaper, and you can bet that up to 40% is recycled content.
According to Clean Up Australia recycling one tonne of paper saves around 13 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil, 4100 kWh of electricity, four cubic metres of landfill and over 31,000 litres of water.
With National Recycling Week (10-16 November) on our doorstep, people moving house (and boxes), Christmas coming up with stacks of wrapping paper and online shopping packages, there's plenty of opportunities to do the right thing and recycle. Think 'blue' in Waverley and 'yellow' in Randwick Council areas, to help save trees and landfill.
What paper products can I recycle?
- Cardboard boxes
- Wrapping paper
- Printing paper/notebooks
- Wentworth and Southern Couriers (without the plastic cover)
- Other newspapers and magazines (old editions of The Beast!)
- Envelopes (even those with plastic windows)
- Milk and juice cartons
- Egg cartons
- Tissue boxes
- Phone books
- Pizza boxes (as long as it's not too greasy , pop it into recycling bin). Pizza box bases that are too greasy to recycle can be torn up and composted instead.
What paper products should just go in the red bin?
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper (it does happen!)
What if I run out of room in my blue bin (or yellow in Randwick and Woollahra)?
Councils won't unfortunately collect paper and cardboard which is placed on top of or next to your bin. You can make extra room by breaking boxes apart, folding and squashing them and other discarded paper into the bin.
If there is absolutely no space, try to save it until the next bin run. You can also book an extra FREE collection of your bin. And if the problem continues, you can always buy additional recycling bins.
Oh yeah, and it's also good - in the first place - to avoid buying stuff with excess amounts of packaging, if you can help it. Say no to junk mail in your letterbox with a cheap stick-on sign on your mailbox from the local hardware store.
On National Recycling Week: recyclingweek.planetark.org
About recycling for Waverley Council residents: www.waverley.nsw.gov.au/waste
About recycling for Woollahra Council residents: http://www.woollahra.nsw.gov.au/services/rubbish_and_recycling
About recycling in Randwick Council residents: www.randwick.nsw.gov.au/services/rubbish-and-recycling
Recycle your old and broken toasters, heaters, TVs, computers, irons and other electrical goods at our next E-waste Day: Sunday 23 November 2014, 9am-3pm. Check www.waverley.nsw.gov.au for location details.
Keen to find out where your recycling actually goes and what happens to it? Join the free November tour to the Material Recovery Facility. If interested, look out for Waverley e-news or call 9369 8045.
Written by Nicola Saltman.
Originally published in The Beast Magazine