I've been at a CANH [Community and Neighbourhood Houses, and Centres - soon to get a name-change, much-needed, IMHO] conference over the past few days, trying ineffectively to network - I'm the world's worst networker. The best seminar, for me, though, apart maybe from a fun one on bush tucker, was delivered by Simone Cunningham, Waste Education Officer for Marion and other councils here in South Australia, and also attached to KESAB. It provided the latest lowdown on recycling in this state, and clarified many questions for the average confused but wannabe conscientious consumer, comme moi. So for my own edification, and that of others, here's my summary - and for more info, visit this site.
In SA we're apparently well ahead of most other states with recycling. Our deposit on cans, for example, means that we recycle more of our drink cans than any other state, and the ban on plastic bags has proved surprisingly effective. A while back, a state government organisation, Zero Waste SA, was created to provide an integrated waste management service. This involves the fortnightly collection of recyclable waste [yellow-lidded bins], the fortnightly collection of organic waste [green bins], and the weekly collection of other waste [blue-lidded bins].
Recyclable waste is taken to a Materials Recycling Facility [MRF], also known as a Materials Recovery Facility or a Materials Reclamation Facility, where a bounce conveyor separates paper from other waste. Paper makes up some 70% of residential recyclable waste. Further along the line trommels and sorters separate different materials according to weight, size and type.
What to recycle and how to recycle it.
Paper - put in flat, and don't tie it up. Flatten cardboard boxes, and don't worry about removing staples, paper clips etc. Coloured or glossy paper is fine. Remove plastic wrappers from paper. Cartons [milk, fruit juice etc] are all recyclable, but rinse and flatten. Paper plates that have been used for food should be thrown in the bin unless they're still quite clean. Otherwise they're too contaminated. And they can also stink out your bin.
Plastics - The logo on plastic items [the triangle with the arrows and the number in the middle] doesn't mean that the item is automatically recyclable. It's just an indication of the type of plastic. The rule of thumb for plastics is - if it's hard and rigid [all bottles, marge containers, yoghurt containers, etc] then it's recyclable. If it's soft and scrunchy [plastic bags, plastic wrap] put it in the bin. Always rinse containers - it doesn't have to be thorough, but foodstuffs can contaminate. Remember also that much of this is being sorted by hand, so think of the workers. Also remove lids. With current technology, lids get separated and treated like paper, causing no end of trouble. Best to just put them in the bin.
Glass - It's 100% recyclable, clear or coloured. Don't chuck in broken glass though, as it's a hazard to workers. Again, remove lids. Metal lids are recyclable, but keep them separate. Ovenproof glass, though, should be binned.
Aluminium and steel - All cans of course, rinsed. Keep the lids with the cans where possible. No gas cylinders or hazardous stuff. Paint tins should be clean [as if]. Foil trays, pie trays, etc should be clean. Remember 'one contaminated bin ruins a whole truckload'.
Other products - hazardous waste, e-waste, batteries
Almost everything that goes into a PC can be recycled. What's more, a lot of e-waste contains precious materials that we're running out of, not to mention plenty of noxious chemicals. The government has plans, apparently, to ban most e-waste from landfill.
The system of e-waste collection is currently rather ad hoc. There's a place called E-cycle Recovery at 365 Glen Osmond Road, which will presumably take stuff off your hands for free. Alternatively, ring [and badger] your local council for information.
Used motor oil should never be thrown in the bin. It's even worse if you pour it down the sink. Oil-polluted stormwater and sewage is the biggest contaminant of our waterways, much worse than the big news item oil spills. Oil should be, and can be, recycled. Every council has recycling locations where you can deposit your oil - old or new, clean or dirty.
Other hazardous waste can be taken to the household hazardous waste depot in Dry Creek, open on the first Tuesday of every month. More details are here.
Car batteries, other batteries, paint, tyres, and miscellaneous items you're not sure about - check out this site. It will provide details of the closest recycler to your house.
Of course the key to waste reduction is to consume less and to consume more wisely. Currently we throw out 30% of the food we buy. That's a staggering figure when you think of it.