Waste

In Australia, waste is becoming a major problem due to the population growth. As the population grows, so does the waste per person. Australia produces 48 million tons of waste per year. And according to the NSW Environment and Heritage website, this waste comes from three main sources: household (municipal) waste, commercial and industrial waste, and building and demolition waste. Household waste makes up almost half of all solid waste in Australia, with each person contributing about half a ton each year. Household waste is made up of :

3% metal
6% plastics
5% glass
19% pager and cardboard
56% food scraps and garden waste
11% other

Lots of this municipal waste can be reused, but instead is usually tossed out after one use. For industrial waste, there is about 772 pounds generated for every Australian each year. Most of this waste comes from stores, factories, hospitals, and offices. When it comes to building and demolition waste, it accounts for more than a quarter of all solid waste. Building and demolition waste includes concrete, metals, timber, and other miscellaneous building materials. [1. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/downtoearth/allaboutwaste.htm]

Out of the 48 million tons of waste generated by Australians per year, about 14 million tons get recycled or composted. [2. http://www.mapsofworld.com/poll/can-we-become-a-zero-waste-planet-infographic.html]

There is lots of news and history with Australia with respect to nuclear waste. Right now, there is a possibility for South Australia to be home to the world’s nuclear waste dump. In the past, South Australia has had troubles with dumping radioactive plutonium in the unlined ground of the Maralinga Tjarutja, aboriginal people in Australia. All around the world, nuclear waste storage is a touchy subject since the accident in Fukushima, Japan. Former member of the Australian parliament said it was a horrible idea at first, but changed his mind in 2007 and said it could mean great economic benefits. [3. http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/plans-for-australia-to-become-worlds-nuclear-waste-dump,3343]

Food is just one of the many waste problems Australia is currently facing. The following infographic was found on the Foodwise website, and shows the alarming amount of food that goes to waste in Australia each year. The image articulates that 1 out of every 5 grocery bags and over $1,000 worth of food is disposed of each year in an average household. Young consumers, families with children, and households that make about $100,000 produce the most amount of food waste in Australia. Not only does this food add the already full landfills in the area, it also mixes with other objects that are already rotting in these dumps and creates methane gas, which is harmful to the environment. Campaigns have been started around Australia, including the one that created this infographic, in order to get consumers to realize a change needs to be made.

Do Something About Food WasteDo Something About Food Waste infographic by lunchalot

 

The disposal of e-waste in Australia has been a hot topic for a while now. E-waste is a broad category consisting of devices from household appliances to cell phones. Every year in Australia over 17 million electronic devices are disposed of in households and businesses and only about 4% of these parts of recycled [4. http://www.thesecretlifeofthings.com/#!electronic-waste/c1psh]. E-Waste is a growing problem throughout the world, not just because of pile-up in the landfill but also because of the hazardous chemicals that are released into the environment. Another problem with E-Waste is the vast amount of parts sent to countries such as China and India for processing. On the road to finding a solution, the Australian government made a commitment in late 2009 to introduce a program in which retailers would be responsible for the collection and recycling of e-waste in Australia.

There are 6 steps to recycling old mobile phones and many of the parts from these old mobile phones are reused to make other things such as stainless steel, fence posts, and batteries. The six steps included in the recycling process include: dismantling the phones and sorting its various parts, the batteries are sorted into their chemical types. The circuit boards are sent to Singapore to be processed for the nickel, lead, silver, and copper. The plastic casings of the phones are sent within Australia to be remade into fence posts or garden furniture. Other accessories of the phone is also sent to Singapore where it is made into metal. [5. http://www.mobilemuster.com.au/learn-about-recycling/] Below is an infographic describing the recycling process of a mobile phone.

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The government announced that a nuclear waste dump would be built in the Muckaty area, in the Northern Territory of Australia. The clip below, from 2010, shows the indigenous peoples fight against letting the Muckaty site become a nuclear waste dump. They are fighting this because the site is not a safe and secure site and the land holds many sacred sites to them. The aboriginals were promised that their consent would be needed before anything was done, but the government has continued to push through with plans despite their consent. Some of the indigenous groups that will be affected by this nuclear waste dump are the Milwayi, Ngapa, Wirntiku, and Ngarrka people.

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Leachate is basically when water mixes with other substances. As water flows through a path, it breaks down substances and carries them along with it. It is formed most rapidly when the item the water comes into contact with is decomposing, therefore landfills create a lot of leachate. Australia is not the only place facing this problem; however, it is definitely happening in the landfills in this area containing hazardous waste. Although many landfills place a covering system over the waste that acts as a sort of umbrella, there is still leakage and the strength of the cover is constantly threatened by weather and animals [6. http://environmentalcleaningservices.ca/specialized-environmental-services/what-is-leachate/]. This is a problem in Australia in landfills that are close to agricultural areas because the leachate can leak into the soil and contaminate the land.

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Food is another of the many wastes in Australia. According to Foodwise, Australians discard 20% of the food they buy, which is 1 in every 5 bags of groceries. For an average household, over $1,000 of food is thrown away every year, which is enough to feed an average household for a month and pay six months of any electricity bill [7. http://www.foodwise.com.au/foodwaste/food-waste-fast-facts/]. There are many reasons why all this food is going to waste, but it is obviously a large problem in Australia. These wasted foods are adding to the steadily growing landfills and creating methane gas as it mixes with other waste rotting in the landfills. Not only is food being wasted and the environment being harmed, but the water, fuel and resources it took to make and transport the food is also discarded.

Out of the about 48 million tons of waste produced in Australia, only 52% was recycled. Australians have access to ways to recycle materials, such as steel. It is estimated that 93% of Australians can properly dispose of steel, yet many steel cans get sent to landfills. Plastic is another major issue. The amount of plastic in landfills actually has been slowly increasing in the country, and is one of the biggest recycling concerns for the country. Not all is bad when it comes to recycling though, Australia is the number one newspaper recycler in the world, thanks to curbside collections[1. http://www.sita.com.au/community-education/site-tours-education/fact-sheets/  http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/interestingfactsaboutrecycling/].

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Plastic bags are a huge problem around the world, especially in Australia. According to a clean-up campaign, Australians use 3.92 billion plastic bags a year, and over 10 million new bags being used every day. 7,150 recyclable plastic bags are dumped into landfills every minute, or 429,000 bags every hour. [8. http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/Campaigns/plastic-bag-facts.html] Not only do they clutter our landfills, but they also end up on the coast and waterways, killing or injuring many livestock on land, and birds, whales, turtles, and seals in the water. Many environmentalists are fighting to phase out of bags in local grocery stores around Australia in the hopes of helping this waste problem.

There is waste not just on land, there is also waste affecting the waters around Australia, specifically plastic. Plastic that is less than 5mm in diameter is starting to cover the surface of the coastal waters of Australia. This may not seem very large, but there are about 4000 pieces for every kilometer of surface water. The plastic is mainly found around large cities, such as Sydney, and come from larger pieces of plastic that were broken down. Fishing supplies and everyday plastic waste are the main sources of the plastic. People are already working on ideas to help lessen the plastic, like reducing the use of single-use water bottles and plastic bags[2. Source is http://www.sciencewa.net.au/topics/fisheries-a-water/item/2674-plastics-highly-concentrated-in-australian-waters.html/2674-plastics-highly-concentrated-in-australian-waters.html].

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In Australia, 48% of waste goes into the landfills. Communities around Australia are expanding, but as this happens, they run into different landfills, or find the new community very close to a pile of waste. As these landfills continue to fill up, the idea of incineration is tossed around as a possible solution. Not only would this reduce the amount of waste, but it could generate electricity, much like Sweden does. However, if not handled correctly, this could cause air pollution. This technique also is very expensive and is usually only used in places with little land, unlike Australia, which has lots of land. Future discussion will ensue. [9. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/02/17/comment-australia-its-time-some-trash-talk]

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This image shows a common activity in indigenous areas. Due to lack of resources and education on the subject, many indigenous people in Australia burn their waste, not knowing the harm it can cause to not only their health but the environment as well. Many of these areas have had years of neglect and a lack of funding for proper disposal. In cities, many individuals are highly educated on how to dispose of waste and are close to waste management services. On the other hand, indigenous communities are uneducated, dispersed and far away from these services [10. http://www.wme.com.au/categories/waste_managemt/sept4_2011.php]. In order to solve the problem, the people need to be educated and a system needs to be set up in order to properly dispose of waste.

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E-waste is now a huge part of the world in the twenty-first century as people update their cellphones, computers, and other electronics and get rid of the old. In Australia, only 4% of the e-waste produced is recycled. Where does it all go, then? Australia is one of the many countries that agreed to the Basel Convention, which bans the shipment of hazardous waste to developing countries. However, recent news reports say that multiple Australian ships were intercepted on the way to Asian ports carrying e-waste without any permits. Once again, the more powerful countries dump their waste into a country that doesn’t have much power at all. [11. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/toxic-australian-ewaste-dumped-on-china-20090521-bh6f.html]

                                        

Australia has a hazardous waste problem inside its boards, and outside. Australia was one of the countries opposed to a ban on transportation of hazardous waste in the Basel Convention, because Australia was one of the top exporters. Even after the convention Australia continues to export hazardous waste, and actually increased its shipping to developing countries, such as China, India, and Malaysia. There have been many protests against the shipments to Malaysia where locals are being negatively affected by waste, specifically from Lynas Coalition. Australia is taking advantage of this poor country by paying millions to export these materials, and the people being affected are the ones that aren’t seeing any of the payoffs[3. Source is http://savemalaysia-stoplynas.blogspot.com/2012_09_01_archive.html].

                        

Australia is facing a serious problem when it comes to hazardous waste. There are currently about 150,000 hazardous waste sites around the country, of which 40-60% are near urban areas. These sites are causing issues and concerns for the people who live around them, especially since so far less than 1% have been re-mediated. These sites are many in places near poorer areas of cities, so that those who are less economically sound are affected the most. The hazardous waste also see discrimination in who handles it. Migrant workers in Australia are most likely to work with these harmful materials[4. Source is http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-16/toxic-waste-threatens-1502c000-australian-sites/4960618].

                                                   

Australians on on average produce about 400 kilos of waste every year, which gives them one of the highest per capita waste generation of all countries. An Australian household generates many different hazardous waste, of which 86% gets disposed of with their usual waste. One of the most common hazardous waste of this is batteries, which can leach into the surrounding ecosystem. Lead batteries, that are used in cars, are especially dangerous. An even more shocking fact is that at about 60% of people that did not dispose of these materials properly knew of facilities in where they could dispose of them[5.  http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/interestingfactsaboutrecycling/].

                             

Weapons and energy are not the only thing that is a problem when it comes to nuclear activity, waste is another major issue. The world needs somewhere to store its radioactive material and Australia is a the top of the list for places. Australian Nuclear Forum has plans for how the country will move to a full nuclear cycle, and the first step is creating a world nuclear dump in Officer Basin, in Southern Australia. This would not be the first dump in Australia, there was a plan for a dump in Northern Australia, but was strongly opposed by the Aboriginal people, who were not informed of the deal till after it had happened. The government tried to take advantage of the Indigenous people, but they are fighting back and taking the deal to court[6. http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/nuclear-waste-to-be-trucked-through-sa/story-e6frfku0-1226148760811].

 

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This image shows the Maralinga Nuclear testing site for the British in the 1950s. This land was inhabited by the Maralinga Tjarutja, who are indigenous to Australia. When the project started,  the aboriginal people were moved off the land, and were allowed to re-inhabit the land in 1984. Many of the people got sick from the toxic waste, and so from 1996 to 2000, there was an attempt to clean up the land, but the British left plutonium in the ground in unlined holes. This technique is not safe for anyone, especially the Maralinga Tjarutja people who were victims of radioactive toxic waste that was put on their land without consent [12. http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/maralinga-how-british-nuclear-tests-changed-history-forever].