November WA Chemaraderie
Written by Paula McLay
Published December 2021
The November Chemaraderie was held on Wednesday 10 November, immediately after the RACI WA Branch and Groups AGM.
The speakers for the evening were Marcus Geisler (CEO) and Wendy Harris (Chief Sustainability Officer), Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council (EMRC), speaking on “Embracing a Circular Economy”. The EMRC provides services in waste management, resource recovery, environmental management and regional development. The talk was on EMRC’s Environmental Strategy, which builds on a number of UNs Sustainability Goals and builds programs to manage what is currently viewed as waste.
The need to move from a linear economy (make, use, throw away) to a circular economy (make, use, reuse/recycle, use, reuse/recycle) is becoming clear – both from the need for ever more resources, and the damage caused by disposing of items at the end of their life. The Australian Government has only started to act on this recently, and there have been a number of acts and legislation produced in the last 2 years. For the circular economy to work there must be far more collaboration, across all levels of government, and between manufacturers and consumers.
Just a few of the topics covered were:
- The need to harmonise recycle collection systems across all states.
- Benefits of keeping organics out of landfill (more landfill space and less methane leakage).
- Most recycling processing already occurs within Australia, not overseas as is commonly thought.
- Various waste streams will be banned from export over the next few years, and methods to recycle these materials will be needed in Australia.
- Just creating a government recycling Strategy won’t work, there needs to be an Action Plan with active reviewing to go along with it.
- Landfill space is limited.
- Need to change the behaviour of consumers so that they actively look for recycled content in purchased items, and dispose of the item at end of life correctly.
- See people and the items we use as part of the living Earth system.
- Consumers and businesses need to have (and follow) sustainability goals.
- A LinkedIn and Facebook page has just been created for CEWA (Circular Economy WA).
Some specific examples helped to explain the recycle/reuse strategies. Rather than dumping end-of-life powerpoles into unsealed landfill to leach preservative into the groundwater, it is possible to strip the metal bands and reinforcing from the poles, and this can be sold to fund powerpoles going to sealed landfill. Or taking waste untreated wood, like old pallets, shredding them and using the material as animal bedding (ie in chicken sheds), which will ultimately be returned contaminated with animal waste, and composted and used in home or commercial gardens.
A lot of interesting points were raised in the questions after the talk, and discussions ranged across refillable shampoo bottles, aerobic digestion for organics, sending glass bottles to South Australia by rail rather than recycling in WA, renewable energy and the hydrogen economy.
Photo credit – Ferdie Ferrante
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