Food waste and organics waste
Did you know that around 40 per cent of the average household rubbish bin is avoidable food waste? Food that was bought and prepared with the intention of being eaten but wasn’t consumed.
Sustainability Victoria’s work to reduce food waste covers a spectrum of activity from policy and strategies, work with businesses on materials efficiency, and grant support for food waste charities to divert more food waste from landfill.
Currently two-thirds of Victorian councils offer a kerbside organics collection service to their residents. We recover approximately 1.04 million tonnes of organic waste for reuse in Victoria each year. Timber, garden and food waste is processed and turned into soil conditioner and mulch for nurseries, landscaping and agriculture. Investing in food and organic waste collection will help increase organic processing capacity across the state and divert organic waste from landfill.
Our Love Food, Hate Waste program helps householders to prevent unnecessarily wasting food and the money spent on it (Victoria’s households are throwing around $2200 in the bin each year through wasting food!). Love Food, Hate Waste has dozens of ideas about minimising food waste in households, from planning ahead to reusing leftovers and school lunch ideas that won’t end up in the bin.
Avoidable food waste
Food that could have been eaten at some point but was instead thrown away.
All your shrivelled vegies, uneaten sandwiches and mouldy leftovers fit into this category and to make up 65 per cent of the food waste we create.
Unavoidable food waste
The inedible parts such as peels, bones, seeds and so on.
While we can’t necessarily reduce this type of food waste, we can keep it out of landfill by composting it.
Love a List!
Love Food Hate Waste followed three families for a month to monitor their food waste. They were challenged to plan meals, write a shopping list (and stick to it!) to reap the rewards – not only reducing their food waste, but saving money on their weekly grocery shop. One family reduced their grocery bill by an astonishing $140 a week.
Helping industry avoid food waste
Food waste also occurs in industrial settings and grants are available to food producers and manufacturers to conduct a materials efficiency audit and find opportunities to streamline processes, systems and equipment upgrades to minimise food waste. SV has helped businesses like apple grower Oakmoor Orchards reduce crop damage, improve the quality of apples and reduce food waste.
Reducing waste to feed more people in need
Charities like OzHarvest, SecondBite and FoodBank collect unwanted food from supermarkets and provide meals for people in need, and Sustainability Victoria has previously supported these charities, and others, to help them operate more effectively. These grants were used to purchase refrigerated transport vans and commercial cookery equipment, helping to support the diversion of 900,000 kilograms of food waste from landfill.
From 1 July 2019, e-waste will no longer be accepted in landfill sites across Victoria. Instead, it must be recycled.
What is e-waste exactly? E-waste is electrical or electronic equipment with a power cord or batteries which is at the end of its useful life, and covers household items like mobile phones, televisions and sometimes toys.
These often end up in the kerbside rubbish bin, even though they contain valuable components, often virgin raw materials like gold and copper, which can be separated, recovered and reused. Other e-waste contains hazardous elements which could harm the environment or impact human health if they leech into landfill, or if discarded or dumped illegally.
In the lead up to the ban to landfill, it will become easier for you to recycle your e-waste, and for councils to process it right here in Victoria. The Victorian Government is allocating $15 million in grants to local councils to upgrade infrastructure at more than 130 recycling sites, making recycling locations accessible to as many Victorians as possible.
Look out for helpful information and advertising in coming months to prepare for the e-waste ban and learn about the useful elements that can be recovered, or protecting your data if you are recycling a phone, device or computer.
What happens to e-waste?
Collected e-waste goes through stages of dis-assembling, shredding, sorting and repurposing. Much of the recovered copper, steel and plastics, are smelted and used as raw material in the manufacture of new products.
Find out where you can currently take your e-waste.
Of course, as well as recycling e-waste, minimising this waste is ideal. Shop responsibly and think about what your needs are and always try to buy the best quality equipment that you can afford so that it will last longer, and keep up with technological advances for as long as possible.
Students, teachers and staff take an active part in helping protect the environment, by designing and implementing plans that save water, energy and money.
We love that the students from primary and secondary schools take the lead on activities and then spread their knowledge into their communities. The ResourceSmart Schools waste module includes checklists, an action toolkit and curriculum support for schools to audit and reduce their waste.
Sustainability Victoria has managed ResourceSmart Schools since 2008. Over this time 1300 government, Catholic and independent schools have saved over $22 million and avoided more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Victorians lead the country in recycling with the highest recovery rates in Australia. But knowing what can and cannot be recycled can be confusing, so we always recommend checking with your local council to make sure you know what is possible in your area.
One reason for the confusion is product labelling which can be confusing and means that, even with the best intentions, we may be sending precious recyclable materials to landfill.
Did you know that in April 2018, states and territories agreed to work with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation towards its target of making 100 per cent of Australian packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier?
Sustainability Victoria is working with Planet Ark and the Australian Packing Covenant Organisation to help end labelling confusion, so householders can be better informed, and reduce contamination rates. Some of the biggest retailers in Australia including Coles, Woolworths and Officeworks, are also working together on this project to make it work across the board.
How will the labelling work?
The labelling will be designed to quickly display which bin the items should go in. This means that at home, consumers can clearly see if they need to separate parts of packaging, for example a chocolate box that has a plastic panel and cardboard tray. Manufacturers will be able to identify these elements and note them clearly on the packaging through a combination of three simple icons, according to the recyclability of the packaging; Recyclable, Conditionally Recyclable and Not Recyclable.
You can play an important role too. Minimise the amount of packaging in your life and be mindful of the amount and type of packaging of good when you are shopping. Need help? Here are a few great tips to shop more sustainably.
Single use plastics
Single use items include coffee cups, straws, balloons, plastic cutlery and bags. These items tend to be used for only minutes, yet their impact upon our environment can last thousands of years. Even when these items are recyclable – and many of them are not – energy and resources have been used to produce them in the first place.
That's why it's so important to think about whether we really need to use these items.
The Victorian Government recently announced a legislative ban on lightweight single use plastic bags, but like all good things, it won’t happen overnight. Education and preparation is underway in 2018 towards reducing the impacts of plastics on the environment to ensure the ban, once it is in place, will be as effective as possible.
What about plastic straws?
Recently, there has been a lot of focus on plastic straws pollution and the hazard that they present to marine life. In theory, plastic straws could be collected through a single-stream takeback scheme by high volume users such as restaurants and bars, but over 1 tonne of material would be required to be collected before a recycled end-product could be made from polypropylene.
Likewise, in theory, polypropylene straws are recyclable but current sorting technology will not capture straws received through kerbside collection. Straws are not recyclable through kerbside programs due to their lighter weight and narrow dimensions.
The best option is to avoid using straws in the first place or look for reusable options. However, we acknowledge that straws are a necessary drinking aid for some people with disabilities.
Learn more about plastic pollution and how to beat it on our Plastic Free July page.
Sustainability Victoria plays a significant role in supporting the development of recycling infrastructure, including through managing the Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund. The fund has over $22 million allocated to infrastructure grants supporting projects that target food organics, rigid and soft plastics, paper and cardboard, and e-waste re-processing as priority materials
The fund is used to help improve the collection, sorting and processing of recycled materials, such as recently allocating $379,100 for the Repeat Plastics Australia Pty Ltd (Replas) $1,137,300 recycling plant expansion to recycle more post-consumer plastics.
In early 2018, China introduced new trade measures that impose strict quality standards on the import of contaminated recyclable materials, including plastic, paper and cardboard. Following that announcement, the Victorian Government announced $13 million recycling industry transition package for councils and industry to support the ongoing kerbside collection of household recycling.
The $37 million Recycling Industry Strategic Plan, announced in July 2018, includes the development of a statewide education campaign, more recycling infrastructure funding and is an opportunity to boost jobs, improve infrastructure and find new markets for recovered materials.