War On Waste, the three part (for now) TV series aired in May on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) channel to huge acclaim.
Australian television and radio comedian Craig Reucassel (satirical writer of The Chaser) presents this eye-opening program, diving right into Australia’s waste problem and educating Australians on how to reduce their waste.
Here are the important topics covered in each episode and key takeaways…
War On Waste – Episode 1
In episode one, Craig Reucassel sets out on a mission to uncover how much waste Australians produce and in particular, the staggering amounts of food waste that ends up in landfill each year. He enlists Aussie families to take part in the War on Waste efforts and educates them on why its important to compost food waste.
Here are some things we learn in the first episode:
- Australia is one of the most wasteful nations in the world
- The waste Australians generate is growing at twice the rate of its population each year
- Australia produces enough food each year to feed 60 million people
- Total volume of food wasted by Australian household and businesses is 3.3 million tonnes a year, with households responsible for 2.6 millions tonnes
- Australia throws out $8 billion worth of food each year
- Food waste thrown in landfill produces greenhouse gases such as methane that is 25x more potent than carbon dioxide emitted from vehicles
- Some food is thrown out even before it reaches the retail stores as it doesn’t fit in with ideal specifications or rather, cosmetic standards
- A third of weekly waste thrown out is food
- A typical Aussie family throws out $3,500 worth of food out each year
Here’s what Australians can do to reduce food waste:
- Learn to love ugly fruit and vegetable. Nature produces weird looking fruit and consumer’s pursuit of cosmetically perfect food is causing the huge food waste
- Demand supermarkets to change their cosmetic standards
- Don’t buy more food than you really need to reduce wastage
- Instead of sending food waste and scraps to landfill, compost food and other green waste. If one percent of Australians composted their food instead of throwing in landfill, it would save 45 million kg of carbon dioxide from being emitted
Recommended reading: Food For Thought: How to Tackle the Food Waste Problem
War On Waste – Episode 2
In this episode, TV host Craig Reucassel focusses on the plastic bag problem. Plastic bags wreak havoc on Australia’s natural environment and especially our oceans. He dives off the coast of Australia to discover the shocking amount of plastic waste that pollutes our oceans and is ingested by fish and other marine life.
Craig also pulls clever stunts on businesses and government. He embeds a GPS in plastic bags and plants it in recycling bins at two of the largest supermarkets to track whether it really is recycled (shock horror, the one at a Woolworths store winds up in a tip) and pushes a ginormous ball made of plastic bags to illustrate his point to politicians why Australia needs to ban plastic bags.
Recommended reading: How to Solve the Plastic Pollution Problem in Our Oceans
Here are the key learnings:
- That Australians use more than 10 million plastic bags per day
- The recycle sign of chasing arrows containing number 1 – 7 on plastic depicts the type of plastic resin it contains. It doesn’t automatically mean it’s recyclable
- Local councils and municipalities operate differently – there are no standardised national rules
- Soft plastic packaging (cling wrap, chip packets etc) is usually not recycled by local government but can be recycled at certain supermarkets
- Recycling is done by third party contractors who are responsible for collection, sorting and recycling and have their own processes
- Not all third party recycling contractors work in the same way which means the process is not consistent from council to council
- Single-use light-weight plastic bags are already prohibited in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and the ACT
- Queensland will ‘ban the bag’ in 2018
- New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have yet to ban plastic bags
- You can recycle aluminium cans, glass, paper and cardboard and other items approved by your local government
- Packaging glass can be recycled but broken and damaged domestic glass must be sent to landfill as it can contaminate other recyclable glass
Here’s what you can do to reduce plastic waste:
- Pressure state governments to pass legislation to ban single-use plastic bags
- Take reusable bags with you whether you plan to go shopping or not (because spontaneous purchases do happen!)
- Soft plastic packaging (cling wrap, chip packets etc) can be recycled at certain supermarkets. Just return to the supermarket and pop in soft plastic recycling bin
- To learn what your council will or won’t recycle, check out your local government website for more information
Recommended reading: How to Transition to a Plastic-Free Lifestyle in 8 Easy Steps
War On Waste – Episode 3
In the final instalment of the War On Waste program, presenter Craig Reucassel explores the environmental impact of two national obsessions – coffee and fashion. He takes a closer look at fast fashion to see the scale of the environmental damage it inflict, not just on a national level, but on a global scale.
Here’s what we learn in this final episode:
- Australians throw out 6,000 kilograms (six tonnes) of clothing and textiles every 10 minutes
- Fast fashion is characterised as high volume, low margin, fast paced, cheap items and hence the term ‘fast’ fashion
- To make one t-shirt uses up to 2,700 litres of water which can otherwise quench the thirst of one person for three years
- Not all clothes donated to charity are able to be on-sold. Only 1-2 percent can be sold in its retail stores; a large percentage is exported to other countries, 10 percent sold to mechanics as industrial rags and about 30 percent is sent to landfill
- Most coffee cups are not recyclable as 90-95 percent is made of paper and the rest is plastic and Australia lacks facilities to be able to separate them so they end up in landfill
- Over a billion of takeaway disposable coffee cups end up in landfill each year as they cannot be recycled
- Biocup biodegradable cups still need to be mixed in with earth (composted) to be able to biodegrade and so are treated as food waste that end up in landfill
Recommended reading: Ethical Fashion 101: The Top 5 Ethical Issues in the Fashion Industry
Here’s what you can do to deal with the disposable cup problem:
- Reject takeaway coffee cups and bring your own reusable cup
- Encourage local cafes in your area to incentivise customers (offer discounts and refunds) to bring their own cup (they also save money as they don’t need supply as many coffee cups too!)
- Shop at local cafes who offer discounts to customers who use reusable cups
Here’s what you can do to reduce the fast fashion problem:
- Do your homework and learn about the brands you purchase from – what is their environmental and social impact?
- Make do with what you have and learn to style existing fashion items in different ways (check out Pinterest or Instagram for style inspiration)
- Before shopping, ask yourself – do you really need it? Do you need to go fashion shopping again this week when you just went last week?
- If you need to shop for fashion, opt for second-hand items
- Review ethical shopping apps and read the Ethical Fashion Report find out how your favourite brand is rated and ranked
- Check out the infographic below for sustainable shopping tips
Want to take part on the war on waste?
Head over to www.abc.net.au/ourfocus/waronwaste to access educational resources and learn more about what you can do to help solve this national and global problem.