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Australia celebrates 21st National Recycling Week

Resource recovery again takes center stage in Australia as the nation celebrates National Recycling Week from 7 to 13 November.

The annual event, now on its 21st year, is organized by the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation.

This year’s event is marked by various recycling-related activities, among them the Friday File Fling which encourages various businesses to de-clutter the workspace by putting up paper waste for recycling, offering prizes for the most number of recyclable paper submitted.

Schools also take part, through the Naturale Schools Recycle Right Challenge. Running from 10 October to 11 November, the program provides free recycling activity guides, lesson plans and school events for students and teachers.

Recycling also enters the mobile digital space, with the Recycling Rescue game designed to teach students the environmental benefits of recycling mobile phones and ink cartridges.  

Touted as Australia’s most comprehensive recycling app, the RecycleSmart App provides information for every council area in Australia, including kerbside and drop-off services as well as recycling facts and Planet Ark news feeds.

Founded in November 1996, National Recycling Week aims to educate Australians by promoting kerbside, industrial and community recycling initiatives as well as providing the public with the tools to manage material resources and reduce waste.

While recycling has become second-nature to Australians in the last two decades, there is still room for improvement.

According to the Planet Ark report So You Think You Can Recycle?, Australians still tend to make mistakes when recycling waste. For instance, old drinking glasses cannot be recycled in kerbside bins, yet are still wrongly recycled by 57% of committed, enthusiastic recyclers, as opposed to 44% of disengaged ones.

Ceramic also interferes with glass recycling, yet 57% of committed recyclers are likely to recycle ceramic plates compared to 27% of disengaged recyclers.

The report also notes a disparity between genders and age groups when it comes to recycling, with women (69%) more willing to recycle batteries at the supermarket than men (59%).

Older people are also more aware of aerosol cans being recyclable in kerbside bins, with 50-64 year olds (48%) besting 14-24 year olds (30%). Elders are also more mindful of recycling liquid cartons at home, 87% against 74% of the younger population.

For home waste, 8 out of 10 councils report plastic bags as their biggest recycling problem, with 150 million pieces of plastic diverted from landfill.

At work, the level of recycling various materials differs depending on the office, with 72% recycling paper, 46% recycling cartridges and 25% recycling mobile phones. Meanwhile, 7 out of 10 Australians could not decide between virgin and 100% recycled paper.

By 2018, 70% of Australians are likely to have access to a container deposit scheme, while the number of products carrying the Australian Recycling Label is expected to reach 1,000.   

Regarding e-waste, the report says there are 25.5 million unwanted mobile phones in Australia. Some 80,000 tonnes of e-waste have been recycled through TechCollect, and 9 out of 10 Australians would pay extra for battery recycling.

Most importantly, 90% of Australians surveyed believe that recycling is still the right thing to do.