Lower Carbon Living: Waste Reducing and Recycling

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Australia’s annual National Recycling Week takes place this year from November 13 to 19. Planet Ark founded National Recycling Week in 1996 to bring a national focus to the environmental benefits of recycling1. During National Recycling Week recycling initiatives at home, school and work are encouraged, and people are given tools to minimise waste and thus their carbon footprint.

Waste in numbers

In 1996-97, Australians generated approximately 1,200kg of waste per person. By 2006-07, this had increased to 2,100kg per person.5

On the brighter side, an increasing percentage of waste finds its way to recycling.  During the last decade, the proportion of total waste being diverted from landfills to recycling facilities increased from 36% in 1999-2000 to 52% in 2006-07.5

However, Wastenet (2008) reports that the average person living in Perth sends  more than half a tonne of waste to landfill per year.

Benefits of recycling

Reducing and recycling waste is a major component in limiting our ecological footprint. For starters, recycling reduces waste sent to landfill. Recycling also saves our natural resources, reduces carbon emissions and energy consumption.


For example:

  • Recycling an aluminium can uses 95% less energy than it takes to make a new can from raw materials2.
  • Every tonne of office paper recycled saves enough energy to power 1.5 houses for a month and enough water to fill two bathtubs. It also avoids the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by driving a car more than 3,000 kilometres.3
  • For every tonne of mobile phone materials recovered, 10 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are avoided. 4
  • Food scraps that end up in landfill rot and produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. The emissions generated by household food waste in landfill are estimated to be similar to the total combined emissions from the manufacture and supply of iron and steel in Australia.6


Recycling tips

  • Reduce food waste by making a meal plan and shopping list, and having a compost bin at home.
  • Avoid contamination: keep diapers, food scraps or plastic bags out of your recycling bin.
  • Buy in bulk: it saves money, and packaging.
  • Check your local council guidelines on waste disposal to find out which items can be recycled in your bins
  • Find your neigbourhood recycling facilities on recyclingnearyou.com.au to find out where to recycle things like cartridges, mobile phones, batteries, and light bulbs.


Recycling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Avoid single use items, and consider taking an Earth Carers’ course to explore ways of living with less waste. Every little bit helps, and everyone can make a difference.




  1. http://recyclingweek.planetark.org/
  2. Alcoa n.d. Aluminium… endlessly recyclable.
    <http://www.alcoa.com/australia/en/info_page/pots_recycling. asp>.
  1. Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) NSW. 2010. Environmental Benefits of Recycling. Sydney, Australia: DECCW.
  1. 2013a. Key mobile phone recycling facts. <http://www.mobilemuster.com.au/about-us/ fast-facts/>.
  2. <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1370.0~2010~Chapter~Waste%20per%20person%20%286.6.3%29>
  3. Baker, D., Fear, J., and Denniss, R. 2009. What A Waste: An Analysis of Household Expenditure on Food. Policy Brief No 6. Canberra, Australia: The Australia Institute.