We often talk about our planet like it’s a thing. We like to bestow epithets on it like “our little blue dot in space”, but I find that these titles can be somewhat…othering. Earth is 14 billion years old. Life didn’t appear on the planet for around 11 billion years, until some kind of ocean-faring bacteria discovered it could suck up chemical waste from geothermal vents on the ocean floor. In the 3.7 billion years that have followed life has exploded, each new era leading to more and more biodiversity, cosmic and genetic action and reaction, and eventually this arms race of eat and avoid-being-eaten lead to us – humans.
Earth is alive. It was alive before we were here and will be alive long after we are gone. As one of the few intelligent and sentient life forms to exist on earth, custodianship falls to us and we have so much to learn. Household rubbish can form the bulk of what ends up in landfills, and erroneous recycling methods cause further harm to our environment. While there are household rubbish removal services that can mitigate this, it falls to us to adapt our behaviours to suit our environment. Here are 20 facts that may give you something to think about the next time you go to throw something in the recycling that doesn’t belong there.
Cold Hard Facts
Before I continue I just want to say, these facts are scary. They present a deeply troubling look at our habits as a nation and not only do they paint a rather bleak picture of the future, but they call on us to be accountable for that future.
Yes, climate change is nothing new to earth, the climate has changed several times over its long history – but this is something else. This is man-made climate change. It’s not natural, it reaches no equilibrium, and it’s happening so fast the earth can’t keep up. Several species have already gone extinct due to the effects of man-made climate change.
We can either be scared by these stats, or we can use them as the signalling call to action. The brilliant thing about humans is that we’re good at adaptation. It might take us a while but we always get there in the end. We’ve adapted to disasters before, we can adapt to this crisis now. It just takes a little knowledge.
1. The Mass Of Waste
As of April this year, it has been confirmed that Australia alone produces around 76 million tonnes of waste annually. This comes to about 1.4kg per person, every day. While the construction industry produces about 25% of this annual waste, households produce a staggering 20%. The latter is also responsible for over 70% of glass waste, and 90% of textile waste.
29% of Australia’s total waste is sent to landfills, which negatively impacts air, soil, and water quality, and release large amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere via decomposition.
2. Personal Waste
The average aussie is responsible for over 500kg of waste per year. This means over an average lifetime, one Australian will produce over 45,000kg of waste.
3. Waste Is Increasing
That 76 million tonnes we mentioned earlier? That’s not a yearly average. That’s an increase. The annual waste that Australia is turning out into the world has increased by 10% since 2016-2017. That might not seem like a lot, but 10% of 76 million is 7,600,000 tonnes.
4. The Most Dangerous 3%
Plastic, as you likely know, is non biodegradable material. Its harm on the environment is famed, and led to the commercial phasing out of plastic straws and bags, to the implementation of biodegradable packaging.
But it’s still not enough.
Although the overall amount of plastic waste has decreased (3% down from 4% in 2016-2017), 84% of that is being sent to landfill, a whopping 2.1 tonnes of plastic every year.
5. The Food Wastage Nation
People can talk all they want about benefit recipients being the cause of a weak economy, but it’s actually more related to the grotesque amount of food wastage that happens in this country.
Food wastage causes about $36.6 billion of damage to the Australian economy annually. The yearly amount of food wasted is 7.6 tonnes, 70% of which is still edible.
6. Tag ‘em And Bag ‘em
Australians are second only to America in our plastic bag usage. Annually we use about 6 billion plastic bags, 3.3 billion of which come from supermarkets. These bags can take anywhere from 50-1000 years to biodegrade, but in that time they do plenty of damage, clogging up habitats, trapping and suffocating animals, and reducing soil quality.
7. Plastic And Bottles And Cans Oh My!
I mean we all know that bottled water is a scam. A handy scam, but a scam nonetheless. The convenience of a bottle of water comes at a cost, both environmentally and monetarily. Bottled water is around 2000% more expensive than the water that comes out of our taps. Furthermore, it takes around 3 litres of water, and 250 ml of oil to produce just one bottle of water.
That’s right. It costs water to make water. It doesn’t take long to see how this isn’t a sustainable practice, and yet the bottled water industry makes over 15 billion sales per year.
8. Household Food Wastage
The annual household wastage of food comes to around 1.20 tonnes. Every single year.
9. The Real Cost Of Food Wastage
Aside from the environmental damage, we’re already familiar with the exorbitant impact that wasting food has on the economy. The billions of dollars of annual damage can be difficult to understand so, in simpler terms think of it like this.
Every year your food budget loses $2000-$3000 due to food wastage. Every year your household loses up to $3000 of food that could have been eaten.
10. We Made Our Bed
Every year around 1.8 million mattresses are disposed of in Australia. Around 40% of these (22,140 tonnes) end up in landfill.
11. On The Runwaste
We are one of the most textile-wasting countries in the world, throwing out 6,000kg of clothes every ten minutes. In 2019, Australia produced enough textile waste to fill 190 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Only 26% of this is recycled.
12. Spending on Waste Services
17 billion dollars was spent in 2019 on waste management services. The Construction industry alone spent $2 billion, while the manufacturing industry spent $1.2 billion.
13. Making Landfall At Landfills
2019 saw 20.50 tonnes of waste arrive at landfills. This includes 6.7 million tonnes of food waste, 3.5 million tonnes of plastic, and 4.6 million tonnes of hazardous waste annually.
14. Follow The Plastic Road
Only 12% of all plastic used by Australians every year is recycled. The rest ends up in Landfill, where it is free to damage our native flora and fauna. Household waste contributes roughly 47% of this annual plastic waste.
15. The Impact On Oceans
Every year 130,000 tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean. This waste is directly responsible for the starvation, harm, habitat loss, and deaths of several major oceanic species in Australia’s oceans.
16. Not Reduced, Not Reused, Not Recycled
88% of plastic packaging is thrown away after only being used once. This means that despite plastic being a material incredibly well-suited to recycling, it’s just not being recycled. This is a huge reason for the above statistics, highlighting the real damage that this plastic wastage is causing to our beautiful ecology.
17. Electrical Waste
In this tech-savvy age, it’s easy to forget that our gadgets and gizmos are powered by electricity, and electricity is produced by the burning of fossil fuels. When these fuels are burned it releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increasing the rate at which earth steps closer and closer to a major climate change event.
In Australia, 540kg of e-waste per household is produced annually, with only 37% of this being recycled.
18. Industry Waste
Julia Gillard was flamed out of her position as Prime Minister for daring to impose a carbon tax. Maybe if we had been more receptive we’d be in a better situation. As it stands, the construction industry contributes 40% of Australia’s waste on its own. The rest is spread out between e-waste, the organics industry, and plastics industry.
19. Packaging Waste
Australia produces just under a million tonnes of packaging every year. At maximum, only 32% of this is recovered, and only 5% of that is recycled.
20. Organic Waste
Organic waste just isn’t being dealt with properly. Instead of the proper channels, organic waste is instead going to landfills. This causes the organic waste to undergo anaerobic decomposition, releasing methane rather than carbon into the atmosphere. Though neither is desirable, methane is around 25 times more potent than carbon, making it an amazing accelerant for climate change.
No Such Thing As A Waste Of Time
There is a good side to these facts. We’re aware of it. We know what’s wrong and right now experts are devising and designing measures to counteract the harmful effects that we’ve had on our environment. Right now, the focus is on changing our household waste behaviours so that we can give them as much time as possible.
However while there is hope, I cannot understate how important it is for us to adopt appropriate environmental protection methods. In this regard, this writer implores readers to do all you can. Recycle properly, don’t leave appliances on stand-by, only charge phones when you need to, make sure your taps aren’t dripping when not in use, don’t throw litter on the ground, and don’t over-buy food only to throw it out later.
There is hope for us and for the earth. We just have to act on it.