By Jenny Lindsay
Game Changers Conversation, VU Footscray University Town, VU@MetroWest on 20 June 2018
Waste is everywhere. But so are the opportunities to prevent it.
That’s right, prevent it – not just deal with it. When we think about waste management, we often think of dirty, smelly tips, landfills or dumps. We ask how do we deal with the waste that’s currently created? Better recycling programs to divert waste from landfill? Partly, yes. There are definitely ways to improve our community’s recycling habits.
Imagine if we had less waste to deal with in the first place? Reducing the burden of waste management needs to be a priority for our community.
Better design for utility and long life
Some of the reasons for throwing things out included that they just didn’t work in the way they were expected. For example, who’s had a water bottle that leaks, or a cup that drips its contents down your front? It might look great, but removing barriers to use needs to be a focus for producers.
Ben Young, CEO & Founder of Frank Green, directed his energies to bringing good design to the drink bottle and keep cup scene. Building quality items that work well and are made to last is a sure-fire way to keep consumption to a minimum. Ben involved baristas in the design process and incorporated features for added customer assurance, like extra turns to ensure the seal was secure.
Buying something just once that you’ll actually use, and use a lot, beats wasting the millions of disposable and poorly constructed items in the world today.
Donavan Marney, Industry Support and Outreach Scientist at the Australian Synchrotron, noted that we ARE innovating, but research funding comes in waves. While Council are activating waste management programs, there needs to be longer term policy and leadership at higher levels to enable research and development to identify solutions.
The work being done now is around how to process waste, by identifying the properties of the materials. We already know disposal of micro plastics is a particular problem. The processing of waste material is decided at the time of disposal.
A better scenario is to decide earlier – does this item need to be produced/purchased/discarded?
Let’s walk this journey together
For our consumption and habits to change, let’s walk this journey together. It’s important to recognise that not everyone has the same values. For example, our lifestyles are often heavily reliant on cars, which are entirely synthetic. A war on waste does not mean war on all plastic.
In an environment where we decide how to manage our waste problem at the time of disposal, can we decide earlier? Do we need the latest model? Is it unrepairable? Can we find it elsewhere?
If you can imagine a tap left running, do you constantly mop up the floor, or turn off the tap?
Let’s see where we can reduce consumption, minimise waste, and eliminate the need for items at the source wherever we can.
Michelle Fisher is the founder and coordinator of the Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West). She is more comfortable wielding pens than tools and welcomes contributions from those who can wield one or the other or both! Please send submissions to the Melbourne Repair Cafe's email address..
Jenny Lindsay is a seeker of sustainable lifestyle solutions who regularly helps out on the Repair Café registration desk. Jenny is the founder of Connectjen virtual assistant which offers copywriting, marketing and admin support for businesses committed to challenging the status quo.