What are we wasting?

Although we have not posted about our activities so far this year, our group has been very productive and has also grown by another 3 members. Over the next few weeks, we plan to update you on many of our recent projects and activities.

Last month we celebrated our first anniversary and three founding members, Emma, Olivia and Kate delivered an informative presentation about the life cycle (cradle to grave) of some of the products we routinely put in our bins.

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Emma covered Plastics and smartly began by reminding all of us that plastic is made from oil – a very important fact indeed, considering our enormous dependence on this precious and finite resource.  This was emphasized by listing some of the numerous plastic products we use daily. The life cycle of the product was outlined from its extraction and processing as a raw material to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, distribution disposal and recycling. All these steps make their own substantial contribution to global warming. We were urged to re-use plastic instead of just throwing it in the bin and given lots of excellent tips on how to do this.

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Olivia discussed Paper and focused on our need to reduce the amount of paper products going in our recycling bins. She argued the focus on recycling has resulted in people forgetting the need to reduce, yet we know paper comes from trees and cutting down fewer trees to produce it would be more environmentally responsible.

Junk mail was also mentioned. In Australia, it accounts for 240,000 tonnes of paper per year, or 6% of total paper use. Annually, the production of junk mail uses the equivalent of 8.5 thousand Olympic swimming pools of water (Source: ABC net-environment 2010). Despite the growth of online catalogues, the production of paper junk mail in Australia is increasing. How can we reduce it?

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Kate enthusiastically chose Metals and researched the lifecycle of the humble aluminum can from bauxite extraction to, nine separate processes later, remelting – each of these  eleven processes, not including our drives to the supermarket to purchase the cans, create more global warming emissions. Kate also showed us how we can reuse cans by turning them into very attractive pen holders!

Many of us understand the need to recycle and, provided we are not colour blind, have become quite good at allocating our waste products to separate coloured bins. But how do we reduce our waste? Where do we start? How hard will it be? What will we have to give up? What will we gain? What are the consequences if we don’t? A difficult conversation begins.

Check out Veronique’s blog here!

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