Talking Rubbish Blog

Imagine the forest. Are there rubbish bins in the forest? No, because the forest keeps the management of its waste material within its own system. Trees grow, drop leaves and branches, animals poo or die, rain happens, the leaves and branches decompose, feed the plants and animals and it all keeps going. A very effective closed loop system.

Then humans come along and we need bins!!

Perhaps we could manage to have bio-degradable waste for a brief backpacking trek but generally we import goods from a long way away that need extensive packaging to be preserved in transit or storage until they can be used. When we reuse an item, recycle the packaging or a discarded product, and not ‘dispose’ of any of it, we have closed the loop. But sometimes that loop is very big.

When we bring an item a long distance to consume it or send it a long distance for recycling, we need to ponder the total benefit in actually having the product at all. Do we buy ethically produced, recyclable packaging, pesticide-free coffee from Ethiopia or buy Australian products without all the special tags?  As Kneedeep our trusty frog mascot says, ‘which part of the world are we saving today?

Back to the forest, where the loop is small. The energy use in transport and composting is renewable (wind and solar), the materials have been used previously at this location and found to be useful. Any changes are generally slow and the environment can adapt to the modifications in the system.

What is our local ‘forest’ and how can we keep the system working well?  Our most serious challenge is consuming goods too quickly and the system can’t cope with the discarded materials we want to get rid of. So a good beginning is buy less (reduce – the first ‘R’) -- this gives us time to decide how to keep our consuming loop closed. We can give ourselves the challenge to put zero organics in our bins, have zero verge throw outs, only buy household goods (whitegoods, furniture and electronics) if we can plan in advance how they can be reused and recycled, look for reuse options (friends, op shops, Quokka) when replacing unwanted goods, etc. Keep it all in circulation, as happens in a loop.

Tricky to do when we have so much stuff!!

Do you think about your purchases, about whether you really need the item, and how you are going to dispose of its waste? Do you ever ask the retailer if they’ll take back the product for recycling when you’ve finished with it? What do you do with your old whitegoods, furniture or electronics?
6 May 2011 3:16 PM  /  Peg Davies  / closing, dispose, loop, management, reuse, waste  /  7 comments


600 wine bottle a year. Is this from a house or business? The domestic bin will take glass and generally gets recycled, even broken glass. commercially there are many waste contractors who will take recyclables. If you are in a business complex see if your work 'neighbours' want recycling service. Usually have to pay. Check with your local council as to what they provide.There is a new glass recycling facility in Perth now, Colmax,opened last year. currently a bit hard to get in touch with. This will be able to take all glass available in WA. Often it has gone to SA.


Hi Peg ;) how can I dispose of around 600 empty wine bottles a year. No land to build a house! Is anyone buying bottles for recycling/reuse in Perth?


In awe of that answer! Rellay cool!


Yes Nicole and for all white goods the same question. also try it for electronic goods like TV's and computers, 'gadgets' etc. If they don't do anything at least it is put into their consciousness.

Nicole Tyrie

It's also worth asking the retailers if they recycle your old washing machine if you buy a new one... some say they will 'take it away' for you, but what does that actually mean? Does it still end up in landfill?


It is not only the perceived 'need' we can get get hammered with, because if the quality of the product is not high, we often do need to get another as it will not be up to repairing or we cannot find anyone to do it even at a price!


I totally agree that retailers should be responsible for the products they are selling. After all they are the ones drilling into us the 'need' to have the latest tv, the newest sound system, lets hold them accountable for seeing the product correctly disposed. They could even include this cost in the initial price of the item.

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