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What We Can’t Live Without, But Throw Away Everyday

By Nicola Saltman (Snr Environment Officer, Waverley Council) on November 25, 2014 in Other

We cut it, fold it, print it, post it, read it, craft it, pack it and even declare our love on it. Paper, what would we do without you? Even with smart phones and email offering us the real chance of a paperless life, there are still a billion ways in which we rely upon paper and cardboard – making my kids’ aeroplanes just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Unfortunately, we also chuck it, and often not in the right bin. Australians send 1.9 million tonnes of paper to landfill each year and most of it can be recycled. Newspaper is the most abundant paper waste, followed by cardboard and magazine/advertising material. All this waste fills up our landfill space, which we are fast running out of. In Waverley alone, up to 30% of contamination found in red garbage bins that go to landfill is paper and cardboard that could be recycled.

This also means a lot of trees thrown away. It takes about 20 full-grown trees to produce a tonne of paper. Turning the raw materials into this page you are now reading also chews up a bunch of resources including large amounts of energy and water. Some processing techniques such as bleaching can also be environmentally harmful (though we avoid this at The Beast).

It needn’t be so damaging, though. Paper and cardboard can be recycled many times over – into newspapers, office paper, packaging and cardboard – with less than half of the eco-impact of making the products from scratch. Pick up any Australian newspaper and you can bet that up to 40% is recycled content.

According to Clean Up Australia, recycling one-tonne of paper saves around 13 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil, 4100 kWh of electricity, four cubic metres of landfill and over 31,000 litres of water.

With National Recycling Week (November 10-16) on our doorstep and Christmas coming up, there are plenty of opportunities to do the right thing and recycle. Think ‘blue’ in Waverley and ‘yellow’ in Randwick to help save trees and landfill.

What paper products can I recycle?
• Cardboard boxes
• Wrapping paper
• Packaging
• Printing paper/notebooks
• Wentworth and Southern Couriers (without the plastic cover)
• Other newspapers and magazines (including old editions of The Beast)
• Envelopes (even those with plastic windows)
• Milk and juice cartons
• Egg cartons
• Tissue boxes
• Phone books
• Pizza boxes (as long as they’re not too greasy). Pizza box bases that are too greasy to recycle can be torn up and composted instead.

What paper products should go in the red bin?
• Photos
• Paper towels
• Tissues
• Toilet paper (it does happen!)

What if I run out of room in my blue (or yellow in Randwick) bin?
Unfortunately councils won’t collect paper and cardboard that is placed on top of or next to your bin. You can make extra room by breaking boxes apart, folding and squashing them and other discarded paper in the bin.

If there is absolutely no space, try to save it until the next bin run. You can also book an extra free collection of your bin, and if the problem continues you can always buy additional recycling bins.

It’s also a good idea to avoid buying stuff with excess amounts of packaging, if you can help it.

To find out more about National Recycling Week, visit www.recyclingweek.planetark.org. For more information about recycling locally, go to www.waverley.nsw.gov.au/waste or www.randwick.nsw.gov.au/services/rubbish-and-recycling.

If you’re keen to find out where your recycling actually goes and what happens to it, join the free November tour to the Material Recovery Facility. If you’re interested, look out for the Waverley e-news or call 9369 8045.

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