The circular economy can help us out of the resource crisis. But what can we do to get there? We talk about the circular economy a lot. But what can each of us, as individuals, do to get there – and what do we need our government to do?
The circular economy is a system in which no material is wasted. At the end of their life, materials are put back into production to create something new. This could be through domestic recycling of cans, plastic and paper, or through industrial recycling of things like old computers or cars, or through composting of organic waste, including food and packaging. Due to the resource crisis we find ourselves in, creating a circular economy is crucial to live as a sustainable society.
The first, big step isn't actually to recycle our waste. Australians are pretty good at that. We need to get better at industrial recycling and at composting, but that is a matter of access to recycling infrastructure. The big step is to buy recycled. Without a market for recycled materials, there won't be an economic incentive to recycle them in the first place – and Australia has had a wake-up call in the last few years regarding our ability to recycle. It's important to buy recycled paper, and support companies who use recycled material in their packaging. If you're a gardener, it's important to buy compost that's actually been composted from people's food waste, not composted from virgin materials simply to make compost. The other thing to do is to increase demand for recycling infrastructure. By that I mean compost bins alongside waste and recycling bins, and regular drop-off points for electronic recycling. There is no point thinking you're 'doing good' when you buy coffee in a compostable cup, if there are no organics bins around to dispose of it in. And if you're a business owner, why not provide compostable foodservice items and join BioPak's Compost Club, where you can have your own organics bin and encourage customers to dispose of their bioplastic cups thoughtfully?
Well, the government needs to provide incentives. They can help council's get on board with organics bins and electronics drop-offs and pass legislation to restrict the sale of disposable plastic packaging which can only be recycled a limited number of times. They can also provide a market for recycled materials – for example, when they build roads out of plastic. In short, we need certainty on where we are going with plastics and other forms of recycling, if we are going to achieve a circular economy.
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