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Recycling now ‘second nature’ for most Australians

Australia – ‘Australians are among the most rapid adopters of new technology in the world. This means that e-waste is growing three times faster than any other type of waste in Australia,’ says a new report by non-profit organisation Planet Ark.

In 2011-12, an estimated 29 million televisions and computers across Australia reached their end-of-life stage – with only 10% of these recycled. ‘By 2027-28, this figure is expected to rise to 44 million units, or 181 000 tonnes,’ notes Planet Ark.

But the news isn’t all discouraging: as of this October, 425 drop-off points had been set up across the country specifically for these items. Also, Australia’s National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme has enabled the recycling of some 40 000 tonnes of televisions, computers and computer products during 2012-2013. ‘This is nearly double the recycling volume prior to the introduction of the scheme,’ Planet Ark points out.

Similar to the rise in e-scrap, the use of packaging has also ‘sky-rocketed’. Australians consumed approximately 4.4 million tonnes of packaging, of which some 36% or 1.6 million tonnes was sent to landfill. According to Planet Ark, close to 300 000 tonnes of flexible plastic packaging is disposed of in Australia each year, a third of which comes from households.

Plus for packaging

But on a positive note, there was a ‘dramatic increase’ in the amount of packaging recycled between 2003 and 2012: volumes grew from 1.64 million tonnes to 2.81 million tonnes, while the used packaging recycling rate jumped from 39.2% to 63.8%. Paper and cardboard combined was the most recycled packaging material last year, with a recycling rate of 76.8%. Aluminium cans came in second on 67.3%, followed by plastics with a collective recycling rate of 41.5%.

‘In the past 25 years, recycling in Australia has undergone a revolution,’ the report contends. ‘Once considered a niche activity for the most environmentally committed, recycling, at least on the home front, is now second nature for most of us.’

Green frustration

The numbers support this claim: research found 85% of Australians agree that recycling at home is the right thing to do, while 78% think recycling at home is easy and convenient. Furthermore, 68% of respondents feel frustrated when they are forced to put recyclable items in a rubbish bin when they are away from home. In the case of PET drink bottles, 31% of consumers even stated they prefer to take the plastics home with them to dispose of them properly.

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