‘And man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminium can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate and the disposable bottle, and this was good because man could then take his automobile and buy his food all in one place and he could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And pretty soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminium cans and paper plates and disposable bottles, and there was nowhere left to sit down or walk. And man shook his head and cried, ‘Look at all this God-awful litter’.’
Art Buchwald, 1970
‘We used to be hunter-gatherers, now we’re shopper-borrowers.’
First the good news – Australians are pretty good at household recycling. In the last 20 years we have gone from recycling 15% of recyclable household waste to 95%. We are the world champs. Well done to all of us!
But we will not preserve our way of life through household recycling alone. This is but another piece of the 1000-piece puzzle that we need to solve to stop the wasting of our natural resources.
When it comes to waste we are brilliant at creating it. Most of us buy and use much more than we could ever need – these items are called stuff or dust gatherers.
The wheelie bin full of rubbish that we put out every week created 70 bins full of rubbish that was produced upstream in the production cycle to make all our stuff that we buy.
Only 1% of all items purchased are still in use six months later. How did this happen?
According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian creates just over 2,000kgs of waste each year. Each household spends $1,266 on goods purchased but were never used. Around $600 worth of food is wasted by each household every year.
Between now and 2040, humans will consume as much as we have since we first stood on two legs.
The highest wasters are those with young families.
The lowest wasters are the elderly. Maybe it’s because they have lived through some seriously tough times – war and depression – and have some idea of what it is to be economical with their purchases. These folks may have something to teach us.