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Sustainable Berry Articles

Reducing Landfill

Holly Landgren

We are fortunate to live in an idyllic part of the world; between the escarpment and the beach, we are blessed with clean air and water.  It’s easy to take for granted the space around us, however it’s estimated that West Nowra’s landfill capacity will be full by 2024. While Shoalhaven Council has flagged the development of a multi-million dollar domestic waste processing facility, a reduction in the amount of waste that you send to landfill is worth aiming for.

Below is a list of a few things that don’t belong in landfill, and some tips for safe disposal:

CHEMICALS

The local tip will take up to 20 litres of motor oil at no charge, and useable quantities of paint. The NSW Environment Protection Agency organizes household chemical clean outs through local councils, for toxic materials that can leach from landfill and contaminate waterways.  Items they take include cleaning products (solvent- and ammonia-based), gas bottles and fire extinguishers, motor oil, acids, old paint and tins, etc. The next local scheduled clean out is Sunday 15 June, at the Shoalhaven Council car park, from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm.  A reminder for this service will be in the June edition of the Berry Town Crier.  Take care when transporting toxic materials; pack containers carefully in the boot of your car to avoid spills.  Don’t mix chemicals, and if the container doesn’t have a label or you don’t know what it is, mark the container “Unknown Chemical.”  Agsafe runs a program for the safe disposal of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and drums through the ChemClear program. (For more details on this service contact Alan on 6230 6712.)

HOUSEHOLD GOODS

A drive through Sydney suburbs when councils run a curbside pickup of bulky goods gives a snapshot of what ends up in landfill; old couches, plastic garden furniture, plywood shelving units, plastic toys, etc.  Much of what gets thrown out is of poor quality and workmanship. By purchasing the best quality you can afford you should end up with items that last longer.  While the initial outlay might be more than a cheaply made item, good workmanship and quality materials mean you end up with items that don’t break and wear out quickly.  It also means those items are more likely to be able to be resold or donated to charity when you are finished with them.

  • White goods can be recycled for free at the tip; fridges, freezers and air conditioner units incur a small fee. Second fridges and upright freezers (pre 1996) can qualify for free pick up through the NSW Government’s Energy Saving Scheme, along with a small rebate cheque. Visit the web site to see if you qualify.
  • Each year in Australia over one million mattresses end up in landfill. In November 2010 Mission Australia implemented a program to recycle materials in mattresses, but at present there are only drop off points in Sydney. Until the program is expanded, you can recycle old mattresses at the tip for a fee.
  • Small household appliances that are not working may be repairable. The cost will likely be well below the cost of a new appliance.

LOW ENERGY LIGHT BULBS

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs contain a small amount of mercury.  As well as contaminating landfill, CFL bulbs shouldn’t be put in with your recycling.  They can break in transport and contaminate other recyclable items. The Tip accepts used CFL bulbs, along with incandescent and regular fluorescent bulbs. Unfortunately, if you break a CFL bulb the only safe disposal option is with your regular rubbish. If you break a bulb, you should open windows and doors to ventilate the room.  Vacuuming is not recommended, as it can spread the mercury through your house. Wearing disposable plastic gloves, sweep up the pieces, and use damp paper towel to wipe up any remaining glass fragments.  The glass fragments, gloves and paper towel should all be sealed in a plastic bag and disposed of in the regular rubbish collection.

OUT OF DATE OR UNUSED MEDICATION

Old medications left around the house can be a source of poisoning of small children, and can lead to confusion or mistakes if you don’t remember it’s original purpose. Don’t throw away out of date pills or liquids, or put them down the drain.  The chemicals can leach into waterways. Chemists and pharmacies will take any un-required medication, whether it’s prescription or over-the-counter, for correct disposal.

PLASTICS, ETC

The Tip will take most plastics for recycling, along with aerosol and steel cans, motor oil, and polystyrene. Plastic bags can be recycled at most supermarkets, along with other plastic packaging materials.  Charity shops are often grateful for clean plastic or paper shopping bags for reuse.

BATTERIES

Rechargeable batteries are great in theory, but they aren’t suitable for all applications.  If you need to use non-rechargeable batteries, they should never end up in landfill; both rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries can leak caustic chemicals.  Unlike many European countries, Australia has only recently made battery recycling easy and accessible. Some supermarkets and electrical retailers will take your used batteries. The tip has collection points both for household and car batteries, free of charge.  Car batteries can also be disposed of during the council clean out.

TYRES

Car and tractor tyres are accepted at the tip for a fee, but it’s worth ringing around as tyre retailers offer competitive rates, which can be a big saving if you have several tractor tyres to dispose of.

GREEN WASTE

As there is no council collection of green waste, a lot ends up in landfill.  An alternative is to take it to the tip.  There is a small charge for drop off, but while you’re there you can pick up a load of free mulch in return!

E-WASTE

In 2011 it is estimated that 24 million metric tonnes of electronic waste material was dumped in landfill across Australia.  With the introduction of digital TV, and with electronic items being relatively cheap to buy and expensive to repair, it’s likely that figure is now higher.  If you are upgrading a still working item, you may wish to give it away, as most items have a low resale value. Some charity shops have restrictions on accepting electrical goods, so check before you drop items off so that they are not left with the problem of disposal. Otherwise try listing your item on the IGA notice board, or online through sites such as Freecycle. The Tip accepts items like computers, laptops, keyboards, and televisions for free.  In 2012, 670 metric tonnes of e-waste was recycled locally. Other recycling programs:

  • Mobile Phones. Old phones, chargers and batteries can be all recycled at the local post office, or at some large retail chains, through the MobileMuster program. The program has been running for around fifteen years and has saved over seven million handsets and batteries from ending up in landfill. However, it’s estimated that currently only 9% of unwanted mobile phones are recycled.
  • Printer toner cartridges. You can drop off used cartridges at post offices or retailers when you buy replacements. If you are upgrading a printer, remember that companies that sell cheap printers make their profit through the sale of the toner cartridges. Large retailers should display printer specifications, so you can compare how many pages to expect from the life of a toner cartridge for similar printers.  Printers that have separate cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow and black are more economical to use, rather than printers with an all-in-one cartridge system, as you only replace the toner you need.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Berry Tip / Waste Depot

  • Berry Waste Depot, 175 Agars Lane, Berry, 02 4464 1241, open 8am–4pm Friday to Monday, BuyBack Centre open 8am–12pm Saturday to Sunday.

Free give away sites:

Returning medication:

Recycling farm and vet chemicals:

Disposal of household chemicals, etc:

Fridge buyback:

Mattress recycling: