Facing our waste

A campaign which aims to raise awareness about the amount of waste households produce in WA has been gaining attention throughout Australia.

It’s been featured on the War on Waste and the mainstream press and it was presented at this year’s Waste 2019 Conference.

Face Your Waste has reached two million households – an extraordinary result in a state of just over 2.5 million. The campaign allows households to volunteer as bin ambassadors and use a transparent bin.

Mindarie Regional Council (MRC), one of WA’s largest waste authorities in Perth’s north, devised Face Your Waste two years ago with a view to making its residents more conscious of the waste they were producing. The authority is responsible for member councils that include the cities of Joondalup, Perth, Stirling, Vincent and Wanneroo and the towns of Cambridge and Victoria Park.

Australians generated 13.8 million tonnes of core waste in 2017 (excluding hazardous waste, ash and landfill gas), according to the National Waste Report 2018. In the Perth metro area this was 539 kilograms per capita in 2016-17.

Face Your Waste was spawned off the back of a lack of awareness of what happens to our waste after it leaves the kerbside.

The idea was to confront residents with their waste and inspire better outcomes. Its aims are to reduce contamination, waste to landfill and most importantly, waste creation in the first place.

Face Your Waste provides practical tips on how to reduce/avoid waste as traditional campaigns talk a lot about dealing with waste better as opposed to not creating so much. It is also aiming to be relatable with a comedic campaign spokesperson “Famous Sharron”, who provides simple tips such as taking reusable bags to the store and favouring quality over quantity.

The message supports that of Own Your Impact, a WA Government initiative focused on inspiring Western Australians to take ownership of their waste.

Geoff Atkinson, Education Manager at MRC, says the campaign has exceeded expectations beyond what council could have imagined.

“It actually got tremendous traction within various aspects of the media and since then basically everyone in the Perth metropolitan area has seen the Face Your Waste message,” Geoff explains.

“We wanted to really capture people’s imagination and get them talking about their waste – a little bit different to other campaigns. While they’re important, it can be easy to gloss over the issue and think that’s someone else’s waste.”

The program was first rolled out in April last year at a variety of households over a two-week period, using its 20 clear bins. MRC’s feedback found that a standard bin cycle was not enough to make a change and soon moved to a complete month.

He says that initial tests showed the 240-litre bins were robust enough to withstand side lift and rear loader trucks. The success of the program has seen more than 350 bin ambassadors registered in the first six months.

Geoff says feedback has been overall positive. He says that anecdotally, people taking part in the trial are making conscious decisions to purchase differently.

“From what we gather with the research we’ve done, transparent bins haven’t been used anywhere else and it’s actually quite unique,” Geoff explains.

Although some residents are concerned about people knowing what’s in their bins, the concept is voluntary and therefore would not affect households that don’t want to participate. The program is not intended to penalise householders in any way but rather increase community engagement.

“We’re not looking to roll this out to all households on a permanent basis. I think it has a novelty factor about it. If everyone had clear bins I wonder if it would work as it would become normalised,” he says.

Anecdotally, the project has drawn attention to how much waste households produce each month.

“When you put your bins out, you don’t really know whether what your putting out is a normal amount or how it ranks in terms of what others put out. So with these bins you can make a comparison to your neighbours.”

He adds that this provides a benchmark for others to look to eliminate unnecessary waste while also potentially identifying contamination more easily.

“It provides a bit of community competition where they can share stories and exchange ideas and make decisions on how they can do it better,” Geoff says.

“Some people thought they were doing things right but then go to see what their bin looked like and realised they produced a lot of avoidable waste or recyclables.”

He says where they have been used at events, including business training, they have proved a useful tool in improving contamination education.

He says numerous other councils in Australia and New Zealand have expressed interest in replicating the concept. The idea might also be able to be linked to other initiatives such as food and garden organic rollouts or single-use plastic bag bans to encourage waste reduction.

“The broader idea behind this campaign is that it can reduce contamination and the amount of waste being produced in the first place. It’s putting it back to grassroots and taking ownership that can be dovetailed into other campaigns,” he says.

As to the project’s next steps? Geoff says that MRC will look to measure waste reduction outcomes and provide some data on the longevity of behavioural change.

“It’s important to know if people keep reducing their waste after reverting back to normal bins and it creates a pattern of behavioural change that allows people to keep doing the right thing afterwards.

“It’s not how much waste you’ve got in the bin, but how much you can reduce over time. If you’re producing a bin full because you have a number of people in the household, that is fine. It’s about taking steps to bring that amount down.”

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ABC’s War on Waste sparks reduction initiatives

An ABC and University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures report has found the War on Waste inspired many waste reduction initiatives across public, private and community sectors.

The report identified 452 high-impact initiatives including Woolworths’ decision to remove plastic straws from stores in Australia and New Zealand, the Western Australian Government’s ban on single-use plastic bags and schools introducing commingled recycling and e-waste collections.

Other reported impacts include a rise in cafes offering discounts to customers with reusable cups, and hospitals replacing single-use polystyrene with reusable products.

According to a statement from the ABC, almost half the 280 organisations in the report reduced waste in their operations, services or products based on ideas from War on Waste.

Institute for Sustainable Futures Research Lead and report co-author Jenni Downes said widespread adoption of the ‘war on waste’ slogan demonstrated a new consciousness in communities and raised expectations.

ABC Impact Producer and report co-author Teri Calder said the program had provided foundations for policy change.

“The biggest impact of the program has been inspiring those with the power to make changes in businesses, governments, education institutions and community organisations,” Ms Calder said.

“The ABC is proud to have sparked a national conversation and inspired action to reduce our collective waste footprint.”

The report found that while many public education campaigns struggle to shift behaviours, viewers responded well to War on Waste’s ‘motivating’ format and ‘solutions-focused’ approach.

More than two-thirds of the 3.3 million viewers of the second series reported changes in waste behaviours, according to separate ABC audience data.

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Mobile Muster calls on Australians to recycle phones in storage

MobileMuster

Mobile Muster is calling on Australians to recycle their old mobile phone after the program was showcased on the ABC’s War on Waste.

The national government accredited mobile phone recycling program is aiming to encourage Australians to take their phones out of storage and recycle them. The program is funded by all of the major handset manufacturers and network carriers to provide the free recycling system.

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Mobile Muster says there are currently more mobile phones in storage than the number of people in the country and estimates that by 2028, that number will reach almost 30 million.

Research shows that three out of four Australians are aware that they can recycle their phones, with Mobile Muster aiming to educate people on how they can recycle responsibly through its program.

Consumer awareness campaigns run by Mobile Muster highlight the environmental and social importance of recycling phones.

It also works closely with councils, workplaces, retailers and schools to raise awareness of mobile phone recycling, while also partnering with charities to give mobile users an added incentive to recycle their phones while doing good for communities.

Image Credit: Mobile Muster

Mobile Muster has established more than 35000 drop off points across Australia and have an agreement with AusPost where phones can be posted for free to be recycled.

Almost $45 million has been invested to develop a solid collection network and awareness campaigns over the last 20 years.

The program recycles 99 per cent of the material from phones and accessories, including glass, plastics and metals, reducing the need for virgin materials.

Mobile Muster Manager Spyro Kalos said most Australians know that we shouldn’t throw their phones in the bin, but many people hang on to them just in case they’re needed which often leads to them being forgotten in a draw.

“We know that recycling can be confusing sometimes, so we cut through that by providing a free and simple way for people to easily recycle their mobile phones. To date, we’ve recycled over 1,300 tonnes of mobile phones and accessories, including 13 million handsets and batteries. But there is always more to do,” he said.

“With millions of phones lying dormant at home, the e-waste problem is getting bigger and we all need to be talking about it more. Mobile phones can and should be recycled when they reach the end of their lives. We can all do our part to fight the war on waste, and it starts at home. That’s why we’re calling all Australians to find their old phones and recycle them the right way – today,” said Mr Kalos.

Featured Image Credit: Mobile Muster

War on Waste season 2 fights bottles, straws, e-waste and more

The first episode of Craig Reucassel’s War on Waste season two will broadcast on the ABC at 8:30 pm on Tuesday 24 July.

More than 4.3 million viewers watched the original series in 2017, which sparked one of the ABC’s most successful social media campaigns with a video on dumping edible bananas reaching 20 million views.

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Season two’s first episode will look at new issues around plastic water bottles and straws, and e-waste.

It will also delve deeper into previously discussed issues of food waste and Australia’s recycling crisis.

A giant footprint made of plastic packaging was created on Sydney’s Manly beach to highlight the amount of single-use plastic that ends up in waterways.

With more than 10 million plastic straws being used every day in Australia, Mr Reucassel joins forces with the minds behind the #strawnomore movement to challenge pubs and fast food chains to ban the straw from their venues.

The show will also look at Australia’s fastest growing waste stream, e-waste. With tonnes of discarded computers, mobile phones and electrical goods ending up in landfill, Mr Reucassel highlights the dangers of the toxic elements within them leaching into the environment.

War on Waste season two also sees Mr Reucassel going undercover to expose the amount of food that is wasted when eating at restaurants.

Waste Contractors and Recyclers Association of NSW Executive Director Tony Khoury said the issues of disposable water bottles will be placed under the microscope.

“Last year’s series saw tremendous media coverage extend to disposable coffee cups, single-use plastic bags, household food waste and the wasteful policy of retailers,” he said.

Mr Khoury said collectors and processor can help the war on waste by providing better education for waste generators, provide a range of recycling options, use modern equipment, transport all waste and recyclables to a lawful facility and invest in training for workers.

“We all can lobby the NSW Government to invest more of the $700 million collected from the waste levy into waste management programs and much needed infrastructure to divert more waste from landfill,” he said.

Image credit: ABC

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