In recent years there’s been an increased emphasis on the need to recycle. We’re a hugely consumer-driven society, and recycling converts the things we throw away into new items, making sure that none of the energy and raw materials used to make them goes to waste. It also prevents air and ground pollution, and the release of greenhouse gases that results from dumping was waste on landfill sites.
But recycling does much more than this. You might think that dutifully putting your plastic bottles and aluminium cans in the recycling doesn’t make that much of a difference but take it from us – it really does.
Why is recycling important?
Recycling preserves precious natural resources. Recycling items rather than using raw materials to make new things preserves our natural resources which, in the face of population growth and growing demand, won’t last forever.
It saves energy. Recycling materials uses less energy than extracting, processing, and transporting raw materials to make new products.
It causes far less harm to the environment and animals than extracting raw materials. Mining, quarrying, logging, and fracking all cause harm to the planet by causing air and water pollution.
It reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfill. Recycling more reduces the amount of waste we send to landfill. When waste sits rotting away on landfill, it leaches toxins into the groundwater and soil, and gives off greenhouse gases like methane as it decomposes, which contributes to global warming. Not only that, if recyclable items are sent to landfill, the precious raw materials and energy that went into making them are lost.
What are the most commonly recycled items?
When it comes to recycling, some items are more widely recycled than others. These are the materials that are easily recycled and don’t reduce in quality once they’ve been recycled. If you get confused every time you go to your recycling bin, know that these items are no cause for concern.
Aluminium. This is one of the most easily recycled materials, which is good news, considering how many cans we use. Cans can easily made into new ones with no loss in the quality of the material.
Paper and cardboard. Paper and cardboard are usually easily recycled (unless they have excessive tape or embellishment attached or they’re soiled).
Food and garden organics services. Putting your food scraps and garden clippings in the food and garden organics bin will almost halve the amount of waste sent to landfill and means your food scraps can, instead, be turned into valuable garden resources, like mulch or compost.
Glass. Glass doesn’t degrade through the recycling process, so it can be recycled over and over again into other products like new jars, bottles, and road surfaces. But it’s important to remember to put your glass bottles and jars in a separate bin or take them to a drop-off point. Otherwise, broken glass will contaminate other recyclables like cardboard, paper and plastic and make them harder to recycle effectively.
What about plastics?
When it comes to plastics, recycling gets a little more complicated. PET, the plastic that’s used to make water bottles, is widely recyclable, but with other types of plastic, it’s not that straightforward.
Our advice is that when it comes to plastics, reduce your use of non-recyclable plastics as much as possible, and reuse any plastic containers that are food safe to store food and snacks.
Not in any bin
The following items shouldn’t go in any bin at home:
e-waste like power cords, plugs and batteries of any kind;
chemicals or hazardous waste; and/or
building waste, soil or rubble
Does recycling really matter?
Will it make that much of a difference if you put a few cans, tins, and bottles into your recycling bin every week? The answer is a resounding yes. And if you’re still not convinced, here’s why. Recycling just one aluminium can save enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for around 4 hours. And it’s a similar story with glass, with every 20 glass bottles you recycle, saving about a kilo of carbon emissions. These are only a couple of examples, but generally, the more waste you recycle, the less carbon emissions end up in the atmosphere and this equals a healthier planet.
What happens if we don’t recycle?
Earth might be abundant in natural resources, but at the rate we’re using them up, they won’t last for long. Then there’s the issue of more waste going to landfill, and more greenhouses gases being released into the atmosphere if we don’t recycle more.
If we don’t up our recycling game…
Natural resources and fossil fuels will run out pretty quickly. Current estimates suggest that fossil fuels will run out by 2050. Fossil fuels are used for many things including to make plastics, so if we don’t recycle plastics, we have to draw from the precious depleting reserve. Other materials are also running out, from the precious metals used in electronics to the wood from the trees that are rapidly disappearing from some of the world’s woodlands and rainforests.
Landfill space will run out. We can’t keep producing more and more waste without making an effort to recycle. And apart from that, sending waste to landfill is an expensive and unsustainable option.
More greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide contribute to global warming, and the breakdown of the vast mountains of waste on landfill sites is a big contributor. If we don’t recycle, this problem will only get worse.
How can I recycle more?
Many of us have good intentions when it comes to recycling, but some of us fall short of recycling more whether it’s due to confusion about what we can recycle, or the belief that it just takes too much effort.
But here’s the thing, recycling more doesn’t take a particularly huge effort. Here are just some of the things you can start doing to improve the way you recycle.
Reuse or recycle plastic bags you have. Either reuse them or take them to a recycling point.
Crush plastic bottles and keep the lids on. This removes air from the bottles, creates more space in your recycling bin, and makes recycling more efficient.
Give your recyclables a rinse. Don’t put dirty bottles, jars, or containers that contain the dregs of food or drink into your recycling bins as they will cause contamination, as will any. Give them a rinse and you’ll avoid contaminating a whole batch of recycling.
What’s with the new bins?
Over the past couple of years Victoria’s recycling system has undergone significant changes, designed to help us better manage household waste, improve recycling services and facilities and achieve a target of 80% of waste diverted from landfill by 2030.
Improvements like the introduction of new bins and services for glass, food and garden organics, mean that we can create more new products including mulch, compost, glass jars and even roads. Plus, the transition to a consistent household waste and recycling system across Victoria which ensures items are placed in the right bins means the processing of recyclable materials is cleaner and minimises the risk of contamination occurring, with less waste goes to landfill.
Get clued up on local recycling in the City of Whittlesea
Recycling services will differ from council to council until the new state-wide system is in place. This includes the services available to you and what goes into each bin.
To find out how to dispose of your unwanted stuff in the City of Whittlesea including what you can put in your recycling bin and what has to be taken to a recycling centre or put in with your general waste, visit the council’s website, https://www.whittlesea.vic.gov.au/waste-environment/bins-and-waste/food-waste-recycling/ and search or browse by what you'd like to get rid of.
The last word?
Recycling correctly helps keep valuable resources out of landfill so that they can be used again and again. This reduces the production of new or raw materials and supports our transition to a circular economy.
They might seem small, but your actions make a big impact.