Consumers lack confidence in Aus recycling services

Friday, 05 October, 2018

Consumers lack confidence in Aus recycling services

The effectiveness of recycling services across Australia is being seriously questioned, according to a new survey from UNSW Sydney.

The survey findings come as the growing waste problem around Australia and globally intensifies, after China this year announced it would no longer accept certain recyclable materials it had been taking from other countries. As a result, Australians across all states and demographics now believe the recyclables they put out in their council bins are ending up in landfill.

Key findings show:

  • 65.4% believe recyclables put into council bins goes to landfill.
  • 49% of people believe green and eco-friendly efforts will not have an effect in their lifetime.
  • 72.4% of people would recycle more if the material was reliably recycled.

People are also confused about which levels of government — local, state, federal or all three — are responsible for their local waste and recycling services. In fact, some people think industry, not government, is responsible for waste management.

But what is overwhelming is the Australian public’s determination for our governments to do much more to better manage recycling and investment into technology such as microfactories — 91.7% of people say is it very or somewhat important for Australia to invest in microfactory technology to ‘reform’ most common waste into re-usable ‘high-value’ materials, and 80.4% support government investment in this technology to reduce landfill and create jobs.

“Microfactory technology has the potential for us to export valuable materials and newly manufactured products instead,” said Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director of UNSW’s Sustainable Materials Research & Technology (SMaRT) Centre. “Through the microfactory technology, we can enhance our economy and be part of the global supply chain by supplying more valuable materials around the world and stimulating manufacturing innovation in Australia.”

In April this year, NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton opened a demonstration e-waste microfactory at UNSW, which transforms the components of discarded electronic items like mobile phones, laptops and printers into new and re-usable materials that can then be used to manufacture products such as metal alloys, carbon and 3D printer filament. UNSW is also finalising a second microfactory, which converts glass, plastics and other waste materials into engineered stone products as well as insulation and building panels.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton with Professor Veena Sahajwalla at the UNSW microfactory.

“There is much that can be done right now given that scientifically developed and proven methods are currently available through the green microfactory technology, yet the federal government is now also pushing on with an investment of $200 million into so-called ‘waste to energy’ projects that actually destroy forever waste materials that can be used over and over as a renewable resource,” said Prof Sahajwalla.

“A number of councils and private business are interested in our technology, but unless there are incentives in place, Australia will be slow to capitalise on the potential to lead the world in reforming our waste into something valuable and re-usable.”

Top image credit: © Li

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