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Professional Environmental Women’s Association: Waste ‘Crisis’ Forum

How do we solve the waste “crisis”?

From China’s recent ban on the import of recyclable material from Australia to reducing our carbon footprint, how we manage and mitigate the impacts of the waste we produce has become a hot topic in recent times.

The Professional Environmental Womens Association (PEWA) facilitated a forum on this topic on the 27th of June which posed the question – “How do we solve the waste “crisis”?

The event, hosted by Maddocks, was open to all professionals in the Environment Industry and was extremely well attended. It was so popular there was even a wait list!

To solve the waste “crisis”, Gail Sloane, CEO of the Waste Management Association of Australia, thinks that there needs to be a paradigm shift to view the situation as an opportunity. She contends that we need to move away from our take-make-dispose culture and change our behaviour towards waste.

Dominik Nicholls, Manager of Waste and Resource Recovery Policy at DELWP provided context on the role of the State Government. She highlighted that whilst there are strategic plans in place and more guidance and potentially funding to come, the lack of data around waste management in Australia is slowing the response of government.

Rachel Heriot, an Environmental Engineer at SALT3 gave insight into the operational side of how waste is managed and issues that occur at the kerbside that affect waste management. She described how the lack of ownership of the waste we produce can lead increased disposal of potentially recyclable waste in landfill or illegal dumping as less care is taken at the recycling bin.

The forum was then opened to questions from the floor which stimulated some interesting discussions around what we can do as both consumers and professionals in the Environmental Industry to drive change.

The take away messages from the event were:

  • Society needs to move away from viewing the cost of recovering materials from waste as prohibitive to valuing the resource that waste managed properly represents.
  • Waste managers need certainty around the quantity and quality of waste they receive. This is not only the responsibility of the bodies creating the waste management contracts but starts with the recycling bin at home.
  • We need consistency and better communication across local government areas with the colours of their bin lids and recyclables they accept.

We all need to change our behaviour if we are going to turn the waste “crisis” into an opportunity. Whether it is taking a re-usable cup to get your morning coffee (a daily ritual here at Landserv), recycling properly at home (sort your sources putting them in the bin loose, empty and dry) or minimising the amount of waste you create int the first place, the panel agreed that change starts with the individual.