Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reducing landfill

Be careful thinking too much about closing the loop, it can mean you will redesign your place many times to try to turn waste into useful inputs elsewhere in your plot.  Next thing you know the only place which makes sense is to move your chicken coop immediately uphill from your vegie patch so that soil nutrients become a valuable input every time it rains rather than a pollutant for someone else.

It also means when you get your waste guide from the Council, you're likely to down tools and read it cover to cover.  That's what we did.  (Sigh).

Increasingly councils are encouraging people to cycle their waste through recycling.  There's lots of good info in the Council's guide on this, but for us, today's gem was about landfill.

Landfill is basically the stuff that isn't reused or recycled - the loop isn't closed, and it becomes someone else's problem to deal with.  Through households separating things out, landfill has reduced, but the reality is that the average household still sends 740kg to landfill each year (that's nearly the weight of a small car, every single year - imagine trying to bury that in your back yard).

What surprised us was that the biggest portion is good compostable goodies which could be used to build soil rather than generate methane (a potent greenhouse gas) at the tip (see diagram below).
We always thought that it would be good if people were charged for how much rubbish they generate, and rewarded if they generated less.  In today's guide we realised they kind of are.

In our council area (Wollongong), once a year you can change the size of your general waste (landfill) bin.  Larger bins cost more, smaller bins cost less.

We currently have a 120L wheely bin, which rarely has much in it.  By changing down to a 80L bin (reduction by 1/3), we save $79 a year and, get a nice visual prompt to stop generating so much waste and give the neighbours something to talk about.  Lovely.

If you're in the Wollongong Council area, send in this form before the end of February and there's no charge for the changeover.  You can always change back (for a fee) if things get out of hand, or change again for free next year.

If you're not in our Council area, why not check with your Council and see what you can do.

Our Council doesn't do the same thing for other bins yet (recyclables and green waste) but we'll take that option when it comes.

Here's Wollongong Council's guide to being waste-wise which we think is a pretty good read.

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