by Andrew Castrique
I am 60 years old. I grew up in the days when my mother washed out plastic bags for re-use, and bread was DIY slicing and delivered wrapped in a piece of tissue paper. Milk and (the special treat) soft drink came in returnable / reused glass bottles. The only electronic gear was the radio and the TV, and when the TV died, the TV repair guy would take it away.
Today we are inundated with throw-away. Especially plastic and electronics.
And, despite the disastrous environmental impact, this has largely been an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ issue for Australian consumers and governments alike. But now, China has thrown a spanner in the works.
Now that China is no longer taking our recycling, the cost of council kerbside recycling is rising. An increase in rates almost certain to follow.
But who’s cost is it really?
When milk and soft drink went from reused glass containers to single-use throw away, the argument from the manufacturers was it is cheaper (for them). But someone had to pay for the final disposal. And that has been the consumer, via council rubbish collection, and the environment via irresponsible disposal.
So what are our options?
As the cost of final disposal of the product and its packaging will ultimately be paid for by the consumer anyway, the disposal cost should be included in the original purchase price, with the manufacturer and retail store responsible for disposal of packaging and the product at its end of life. Add to that should be a requirement that all materials must be recycled and not just buried.
This is not unreasonable pressure on companies, this is an opportunity. As they say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.
If manufacturers had to bear the cost of recycling, the first result would be an enormous reduction of packaging, and concentration on a few, easy-to-recycle materials.
With manufacturers having an incentive to reduce costs, products themselves will be designed to be more easily recycled.
China’s actions could be the beginning of a more effective way to approach recycling. Governments must not look for bandaid solutions – the problem must be tackled at its root, and that is at the production level.
For more information on recycling, we recommend https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/about/.