I must be honest and say that before undertaking the zero-net waste challenge, I had not considered the impact of my own poor household waste practices. I thought of the management of waste as a problem for the governing bodies, such as local councils, and therefore did not feel the need to make a change. I did not feel part of the problem.
This very quickly changed after some research into the issue and it dawned on me that this problem is very real and that I, personally, am contributing to the problem.
Waste management has become an Australian national issue, with approximately 56% of household waste sent to landfill. Of this, the major source of waste is decomposable organic matter. Achieving sustainability in waste management requires an integrated solution, involving:
- services and facilities available for waste collection and treatment;
- industry and local government; and
- active participation of individuals (THAT’S YOU AND ME!)
Let’s have a look at the problem of waste management in a local Brisbane suburb, West End.
West End is undergoing extensive change with an influx of multi-storey developments. The South East Queensland Regional Plan highlights ‘urban consolidation’ as a main solution to increased population, and the 2012 amendments to planning legislation cleared the way for high-rise development in the area. Consequently, local population is predicted to increase from 6,500 to 31,500 by 2020.
This rapid population growth in West End will significantly increase waste, placing pressure on regional waste management facilities leading to serious environmental problems around pollution leaching and greenhouse gas emissions.
KEY FACT: Using national metrics, an increase of population of approx. 20,000 people would result in an additional 16,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill per annum from West End alone
Although these statistics are relevant to West End, we are all aware that the population of South East Queensland is booming. If that is the effect that increased population has on the waste of West End alone, imagine the cumulative effect of population growth on waste at a regional, state and national level.
Currently, as Brisbane residents, we are restricted in reducing waste sent to landfill, with limited council-provided services for recycling decomposable matter. However, in order to relieve pressure placed on South East Queensland’s environment via landfill, we can all make a difference by taking our own steps to more sustainable waste practices (such as taking the zero-net waste challenge). We are not part of the problem – we ARE the problem and by taking small steps in the right direction, we can all make a big difference.
See our post on composting for further suggestions on how you can make a difference.