Eco-librium - Things to do with human waste

Monday 28 March 2011

Eco-librium - Things to do with human waste


by Marie Taylor
Water & Waste, Cairns Regional Council

Humans are wasteful creatures.

But, one of the easiest ways we can all play our part is by reducing the impact our lives and actions have on the surrounding environment being the Great Barrier Reef, prestigious estuarine environments and rainforest habitats.

To do this there are a few rules we need to follow. That's right! RULES.

•    Avoid generating waste wherever possible.
•    Reduce the amount of waste we collect in our lives.
•    Reuse things that we have collected so they are not wasted as quickly.
•    Recycle what we can.
•    Dispose of what is left responsibly (smoker's that includes you!)

So today we're here to talk recycling.

Heard the rumour that all our recycled items end up in landfill? So have we.

Be aware that if you put non recyclables or incorrect items into your Recycling Bin it becomes “contaminated” and can make your entire neighborhood’s collection unable to be processed, which then ends up in landfill.

Take time to prepare your recycling by remove lids, rinsing and flattening items to make more space in your recycling bin, and PLEASE do not put plastic bags into the recycling bin!

Now that you've got it sorted, where does the contents of your yellow-lidded bin go?

The recyclable items are sorted manually at the Materials Recovery Facility at Portsmith. Once the items have been separated and sorted, they are then baled. The bales are transported to contractors outside of the Cairns Region for processing into new materials.

But let's face it, there's no point recycling if you don't buy recycled products.
By purchasing recycled-content products, you are doing your part to help maintain market demand for the materials that we do not want in our landfills, and ensuring the continuation of recycling programs everywhere.

In addition, making products with "recycled resources" rather than virgin resources (raw materials) uses less energy, less water, and creates less air pollution.

Buying recycled products ensures that natural resources are not wasted, and captures the economic potential of what we throw away. By adding value to materials, recycling also creates jobs and protects the environment. So close the recycling "loop" and buy recycled - at work and at home.

The availability, variety, and quality of recycled products is expanding. Some materials are easily recycled back into the same products. For example, glass from bottles can be made into new bottles, newspaper can once again become newspaper (not that you need paper when you've got The Newsport), and aluminium from cans is easily made into new cans.

Most materials can also be recycled into different products. Plastic soft drink bottles can become carpet fibre or park benches; the rubber from used tires can be used for floor mats, or as an additive in asphalt.

In fact, there are four materials that always have a significant amount of recycled content even though many are not usually labelled "recycled".

•    Steel, including food cans, cars, appliances, bicycles, furniture, nails - anything made with steel.
•    Aluminium, including beverage cans.
•    Glass bottles and jars.
•    Moulded pulp containers, including grey or brown cardboard egg cartons, fruit trays and flower pots.

Several other products may or may not be made with recycled content, so it is important to read the labels. Look for the products with the highest percentage of what is called "post consumer recycled-content." Post-consumer is the material consumers and businesses recycle; it doesn't include pre-consumer, secondary, or manufacturers' waste.

Not all products that are marked with the recycling symbol or make claims such as "environmentally friendly," "eco-safe," "safe for the environment," or "natural" are made with recycled content or can be recycled in your community.

Most products advertised as recycled are not made completely from recycled materials. Instead, they are made with some percentage of virgin materials. For example copy paper may have a total recycled content of 50% comprised of 30% pre-consumer or secondary waste materials and 20% post-consumer waste materials. The remaining 50% is made from virgin materials.

A claim that a product is "recyclable" does not mean that the product is made from recycled waste material. It should mean that it can be collected, reprocessed and resold as another product.

However, whether or not it is actually recyclable depends upon whether your community collects the material or whether your council accepts that type of material. So read the labels carefully, and know what is acceptable in your council recycling program.

To see if a product is actually made with recycled materials, look for a solid circle with chasing arrows symbol. This is your key to knowing that you're spending your dollars on a recycled product.

Now to listing a couple of myths to buying recycled.

1.    Recycled products are hard to find. This is no longer true. Recycled content products can be found in grocery stores, hardware stores, office supply stores, home shopping catalogs and shopping centers. There are thousands of products made from or packaged in recycled-content material.

2.    Recycled paper isn't as good as non-recycled paper. Recycled-content papers now share the same printing and performance characteristics as their virgin equivalents.

3.    Recycled products cost more. This used to be the case for some products, but is often no longer true. Many recycled products are competitively priced with their non-recycled counterparts. In fact, some may be less expensive!

There you have it. Your guide to recycling. Now let's put it into practice an lessen the impact of human waste!