National Recycling Week reflects on historical efforts

Planet Ark has encouraged residents and businesses to help close the loop by purchasing products that contain recycled content.

It comes amid this year’s National Recycling Week (13 – 19 November), which aims to highlight what happens to materials once they have been recycled and how everyone plays a role.

In the 20 years to 2015, Australia’s population increased by 28 per cent and waste levels grew by 170 per cent.

Currently the Australian manufacturing economy is predominantly linear, which can be summarised as ‘take, make, use and dispose’. Planet Ark argues this is not sustainable. A circular economy on the other hand, replaces ‘dispose’ with ‘recycle, reuse and repurpose’ and keeps important materials from being wasted in landfill.

“Since the introduction of kerbside recycling in the 80s and 90s Australians have really embraced recycling.

“But to truly close the recycling loop, and keep valuable resources like plastic, metal and paper in circulation and out of landfills, we need to buy back the products that have been made from our recycling,” said Ryan Collins, Planet Ark’s Recycling Programs Manager.

New research from Planet Ark’s new guide What Goes Around: Why Buying Recycled Matters shows 88 per cent of Australians already purchase products that contain recycled materials, and 70 per cent said they would be more likely to purchase products and/or packaging if they contained recycled materials.

Most Australians also have high awareness of some products that can be made with recycled materials including office paper (83 per cent), toilet tissue (75 per cent) and paper towels (78 per cent).

However, the new research also shows there is less awareness about other products that can be made using recycled materials, such as road surfaces, printer cartridges, paving and carpet underlay.

“We’re actually surrounded by products made from our recycling, and people may be surprised by some of the recycled products out there, like wallets and purses made from tyre inner tubes and surfboard fins made from ocean plastic.”

“Also, inspiring discoveries from research and development projects are finding more and more ways to utilise waste, so the list of products made from recycled materials will continue to grow,” Mr Collins said.

Some of those research and development innovations include using the unique qualities of problem waste, like tyres, to create synthetic hockey or soccer pitches. Green steel is another potential recyclable material, which reduces electricity consumption and delivers productivity improvements.

Other inspiring stories include research into new uses for glass, which can be used in road bases and construction.

“When consumers and businesses purchase products that are made from recycled materials, they create a demand for recycling, which supports Australian industry, allows new recycled manufacturing opportunities to flourish and creates jobs.

“As well as being good for the environment, the financial benefits of this closed loop cycle are significant.”