According to our local council website, Australians produce over 18 million tonnes of waste per year — the equivalent of three million garbage trucks full of compacted rubbish. Each Australian family contributes enough rubbish each year to fill a three-bedroom house from floor to ceiling.
However, recycling not only keeps garbage out of landfill, it also conserves raw materials and saves on energy to manufacture new products. And that’s what being frugal is about: not only saving money, but conserving resources. Some interesting facts on recycling:
- Every 1 tonne of paper and cardboard recycled saves 13 trees, 2/5 barrels of oil, 4,100 kWh of electricity, 4 cubic metres of landfill space and 31,780 litres of water
- Recycling 1 tonne of plastics saves enough energy to run a refrigerator for a month.
- Recycling one aluminium can will save enough energy to run an TV for 3 hours
- Every tonne of steel recycled saves 1,131kg of iron ore, 633kg of coal and 45kg of limestone
- Steel is 100% recyclable and can be recycled over and over without needing to add virgin raw materials
- Making glass from recycled materials requires only 40% of the energy needed to make glass from virgin raw materials because recycled glass melts at a lower temperature.
According to the Australian Bureau of Stats, only about 7% of households recycle all recyclable materials, despite 95% of those survey agreeing that recycling is important. One of the reasons given for not recycling is confusion over what is recyclable and how to go about recycling.
I was one of the confused. Below is a general guideline that explains what and how to recycle in the household.
- Reducing consumption is better than recycling. Choose products with minimum packaging.
- Next, choose products that are made from recycled material and are recyclable.
- Reuse as much as you can around the house. For example, see tips on reusing milk cartons (which aren’t recyclable).
- Check your local council about what and how you can recycle. For example, some councils accept pizza boxes as long as the food scraps have been cleaned off and they are not too greasy and aluminium foil and foil food containers. Also check with your council about how they deal with green waste.
- Don’t put recycling into plastic shopping bags as they can contaminate recycling. These can be recycled separately at appropriate drop points (some supermarkets have recycling bins for plastic bags). Better yet, ditch the plastic bag altogether.
- It isn’t necessary to rinse your recycling, just remove food scraps. If you prefer to rinse, then rinse in the washing up water at the end of a wash or in the dishwasher to conserve water.
- Apart from shopping bags, don’t forget other items that can be recycled such as mobile phones, electrical goods, and printer cartridges. These items may need to be taken to a drop in centre rather than just putting them in the recycling bin.
Aluminium and Steel
All aluminium cans can be recycled and depending on your local council, aluminium foil and foil food containers can also be recycled. Clean out the food scraps and give everything a quick rinse before putting in the recycling. Squash drink cans before recycling.
Steel goods that can be recycled include food tins, bottle tops, paint cans, aerosols and scrap metal. Clean tins of food scraps and give them a quick rinse. For aerosol cans, remove the plastic top and nozzle. Tins that contained chemicals are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of appropriately.
Paper and cardboard
Reduce paper consumption by reducing the use of the home printer. Say no to junk mail (you can read most catalogues on the net these days). Recycle paper around the home by printing on both sides of the page and using scrap paper for notes etc.
Recyclable paper and cardboard products include writing paper, paper packaging, envelopes (remove the plastic window), telephone books, newspaper, magazines, greeting cards, cereal boxes, cardboard packaging and boxes, manila folders, toilet rolls and egg cartons. Some councils accept pizza boxes etc.
Keep cardboard recycling clean of food scraps, polystyrene and plastic. Paper and cardboard contaminated with food scraps or tissues can be composted rather than recycled.
Paper and cardboard products that cannot be recycled include liquid paperboard (ie milk cartons), wax coated cardboard like fruit boxes, and tissues.
Plastics that can be recycled have one of the following symbols printed on them:
Remove lids and rings from bottles, rinse and squash before recycling.
Glass that can be recycled includes beer, wine, soft drink and sauce bottles as well as all colours of glass.
Heat treated glass that cannot be recycled includes drink ware, ceramics, window glass, oven proof glass, Pyrex and light bulbs. Just 15g of heat treated glass can contaminate one tonne of recyclable glass, sending the lot to landfill.
To prepare glass bottles and jars for recycling, remove lids, scrape out any remaining food and rinse if desired. Paper labels don’t have to be peeled off but can be recycled separately.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.