It’s one thing to put things in a recycling bin, it’s another to buy recycled.
And with Federal government export bans on mixed plastic waste imminent, it’s more important than ever to support and develop Australia’s recycling industry, according to Linda Grant, Barwon South West and Resource Recovery Group (BSWRRG) Education Officer.
BSWRRG is driving a campaign, funded by major councils in the Barwon South West region, to find ways to encourage people to explore recycled options and help “close the loop” at a grassroots level.
The campaign’s online Zero Waste Map identifies a range of products and services to help people reduce their waste.
A recently added ‘Buy Recycled’ category highlights businesses and products that have recycled content. More than 150 regional businesses are listed.
A series of pavement stencils helps highlight where these businesses are, while mobile billboards showing the Buy Recycled web address are moved around the region.
“We want to encourage people to have a look and explore recycled options for themselves,” Linda says. “As consumers, we can all do our bit by buying products that have recycled content.”
Linda began with BSWRRG more than three years ago. Prior to that she worked in the waste industry, mainly in catchment and land management.
Her personal journey in waste reduction “really took off” when she and a group of friends watched the ABC TV documentary series War On Waste.
“We were all a bit shocked into action,” she says. “We formed a group to encourage and support others to reduce their waste. We ran some fun activities and participated in initiatives like Plastic Free July.
“Then we started an unpackaged co-op which allowed us to purchase products in whatever quantity we needed, which is one of the keys to reducing food waste. It also allowed us to reduce the amount of packaging we were consuming. The packaging that we did receive was either reused or directed to the correct recycling channels.”
She says the Barwon South West Zero Waste Map and Buy Recycled campaign evolved from a local government program in which participating councils focused on procuring recycled materials.
“All of our councils make sure that there’s recycled content in their wheelie bins,” Linda says.
“Surf Coast council has quite a number of different projects with recycled content, including crushed glass replacing quarry sand.”
City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire, Moyne Shire, Southern Grampians Shire, Glenelg Shire, Colac Otway Shire, Corangamite Shire and Borough of Queenscliffe council support the program.
Linda says she had the idea for a local campaign for some time, but it was when she attended a statewide waste education conference in Geelong, Victoria in 2019 that it began to take shape.
“City of Yarra had done a zero waste map and I was able to go ‘that’s exactly what I’ve been talking about’,” she says. “We’ve done it on a regional scale, now we’ve got inquiries from a Melbourne council keen to follow suit.
“We’re encouraging all levels, everyone purchasing in the community – whether it’s individuals at household level or local government – for everybody to look at where they replace virgin products.”
Building supplies, landscaping, notebooks, clothing and tableware made from recycled content feature on the Buy Recycled map, alongside skateboards, cards and toys.
Ryan Mischkulnig is director of The Reimaginarium, “home of Australia’s best reimagined products”.
He founded the store in Geelong about three years ago “as a platform to test the impact presentation has on people’s perceptions of reclaimed goods”.
He gives everything from used furniture and homewares to jewellery and Bluetooth speakers new purpose.
“I wanted to see if, by better meeting people’s needs as far as access to goods and trust in goods, and through careful presentation, I could attract a different market to reclaimed goods. Perhaps people who would otherwise have purchased new,” Ryan says.
“Doing this is an incredibly important way to impact our waste production. Making it easier for someone who already buys second hand to purchase quality goods is nice, converting someone who would have purchased new to buy reclaimed is a far bigger environmental impact.”
Ryan was invited to join the Buy Recycled campaign as it was being established.
He says the campaign is an opportunity to improve the visibility and perception of the reuse industry.
“While conventional recycling [plastics, glass, metals etc] is well understood and supported in Australia, more niche recycling, as well as repair and repurposing industries, are greatly undervalued and unrecognised in the environmental impact that they are having,” he says.
“The industry, which is made up of many, many tiny voices, needs to find ways to share resources and grow together.
“I hope that being a part of the [Buy Recycled] campaign helps bring an awareness and a voice to this industry.”
Ryan says a rolling series of COVID-19 lockdowns since the campaign launch makes it difficult to judge the face-to-face impact of Buy Recycled. He hopes as the campaign continues digitally there will be greater community support.
“Every time we can convert a person’s purchase from a new to a reclaimed or recycled good we are successfully reducing end-of-life waste and production waste – a double win.
“In my mind, if we can convert people without them even realising then we are on the right path to a huge environmental impact. Hopefully, this campaign will open eyes to sustainable alternatives in their neighbourhood that they never knew were there.”
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