waste management

Guest blogger Liv Gluchowska lives sustainably

Guest blogger Liv Gluchowska is an elite athlete, dual world champion in Brazilian jiujitsu + physiotherapist. We've offered her a new challenge: recycling (correctly). Here's what she came up with.

By Liv Gluchowska

Melbourne is undoubtedly one of the best cities in the world - and if you have ever visited then you will know just how much we love our coffee. There seems to be a new trendy, hipster cafe popping up every week, each better than the last. I have my personal favourites but also go on hunts to try new places and indulge in my coffee snobbery. Most often, I will judge the entire cafe based on the first cup of the delicious dark liquid, and no doubt I’ve been thinking  about it as soon as I wake up. Yes, I am a coffee addict in every possible way.

When I sat down to do my budget a year ago, I realized I spend close to $2,500 on take- away coffees a year. That's almost  2 cups per day. Horrified at how much money I gulp down each day, I decided to invest in a coffee machine in an effort to save some money.

I buy a lot of coffee.

I buy a lot of coffee.

I am time-poor, so I settled for a coffee pod type as it’s easy, convenient and quick. However, the seemingly easy solution to my problem actually became more of a problem. I am not having less take away coffee, but instead I am just having much more coffee. I still buy a take away cuppa each day as I head to work, and another one during lunch-time. And on top of that I am having my usual 1 or 2 at home...

A week after my purchase, I emptied the rocket-fuel maker of its pods. It’s not an exaggeration to say I was shocked at the amount of plastic I was about to bin. I wasn’t sure if the pods were recyclable, so I consulted the Sustain Me app on my phone. To my disappointment, I learnt that in fact I am just contributing to landfill.

Used coffee pods.

Used coffee pods.

I had no idea how rare landfills are in Australia and that we only have secured space for the next 15 years. And that some garbage trucks have to drive hundreds of kilometers outside big cities to reach those landfills. And that by buying coffee pods, as well as take away coffee cups, I am single-handedly contributing to the high demand of materials, which in turn causes high carbon emissions caused by mining, transport, processing and packaging.

My thought was that if I minimize my coffee machine use to one per day, I can at least recycle my take away coffee cups and limit my contribution to polluting the Earth.  Alas, to my horror, as many as 49% of all recyclables in Australia go to landfill each year. So it’s not only my coffee pods and the plastic and card board boxes they come packaged in, but also my many disposable coffee cups I go through per week. I decided I needed to change to be a better human being immediately.

Upon reflection, I was shocked reading about how I am single-handedly contributing to pollution in so many ways.

Had I bothered to make myself more educated about the issue, I would have done more research before buying an expensive coffee pod machine. At this stage only Nescafe offers a recycling service - but you still have to go to recycle in-store (which is inconvenient and time consuming for most people).

Overall awareness about the problems we face with recycling in our community is poor. Until Sustain Me app was released in 2015, I found it confusing and hard to find the right information quickly on the internet. I hate to admit that if I wasn’t sure about what to recycle, I would put it in the garbage bin, often wrongly so. Sustain Me app now does the thinking for me and I can be certain I’m doing my bit to help the environment.

Use reusable coffee cups and live sustainably.

My Recycling Plan:

I have committed to making a change in just a few simple steps:

  1. Limit coffee pod coffee to 1 per day. If desperate for caffeine, I will have a tea.

  2. Take a re-usable coffee cup to work

  3. When time allows, sit down at a cafe for a coffee rather than getting take-away

  4. Re-use coffee trays when buying coffee for my colleagues

  5. Spread awareness about recycling at work by recommending Sustain Me app

  6. Always do research first when buying new appliances

 

Follow Liv on her Website or on social media:

Plastic down the sink hole

Our sinks are blocked in our house at the moment. First it was the kitchen sink; but once we bought a plunger we were able to fix it pretty quickly. 

But then the bathroom sink got blocked. 

So I thought: "I know! I'll just go and get the plunger and then it'll be fixed". I was so naive. 

Well, I did get the plunger and I did plunge the bathroom sink and to my actual horror and disgust (I could see my facial expressions get more and more emphatic in the bathroom mirror), murky and dirty water started coming up out of the plug hole. 

This really wasn't supposed to happen. 

My boyfriend's shaved facial hairs were swimming around the oh-so-recently clean sink. 

The plunger is meant to move things around and then it all goes down again. 

Well that didn't happen and this dirty dirty water was sitting in my sink now. 

 

Anyway, I did the only thing a rational-minded person would do: I kept going. 

Before I knew it, stuff started coming out. (hahaha - my first impression was to say "shit" started coming out. Not to refer to faeces, but to refer to rubbish. But upon reflection, the context of this situation would have made that confusing). Like non-liquid stuff. 

I couldn't identify most of it, but then an ear cleaner came out. Like a cotton bud. 

I can't tell you how horrified I was. 

I thought everything was going to go DOWN the sink. 

The actual most disgusting part of this story is that I know for a fact that my boyfriend doesn't use ear cleaners, and I have NEVER in my life put one down the sink hole. 

So that was someone else's ear cleaner. 

PUKE! 

There's just no way to make that story better. Let's move on.

But it does take me to an interesting place. I actually went on a tour of the water treatments plant recently, and this issue of the ear cleaners actually did arise. 

Heaps of people put them down the sink. That and baby wipes. 

I took a photo of the most common plastic stuff people flush down the loo. (hahahaha - I love talking about this. It brings about the most ridiculous sentences. For example, I wrote this sentence in error: "I actually have a picture of the most common stuff people flush down the loo". Woops.)

I actually have a picture of the most common PLASTIC stuff people flush down the loo.

ear cleaners, plastic toys, condoms, plastic key tags, plastic lids, band-aids.

ear cleaners, plastic toys, condoms, plastic key tags, plastic lids, band-aids.

7 tonnes of plastic stuff is sent down the sinks and loos into the sewage each week, from just this particular water treatment plant I visited. 

All of that goes into landfill. 

Some of this stuff - the plastic toy, the plastic key tag, the bottle lid - could otherwise have been recycled. Some of it can't. And I don't even know about ear cleaners, neither does the Sustain Me app. Better research that one. Golly damn it. It is so confusing trying to keep track of what is and isn't recyclable. On our end, we are actively trying to make the app as comprehensive as possible. 

The tour guide did tell us the most convincing reason why we probably should just dispose of this stuff correctly. 

Because it blocks your sinks.

And blocked sinks have a tendency of spewing stuff back at you at the most inconvenient times. 

ba-dum tshh

I have schooled myself.

Arggh. Since going to the primary school last week, I can't stop thinking about how single-use plastics will sit in landfill for 1000 years.

I can't stop noticing people on the street using plastic bottles, plastic bags, tin cans. I look at coffee cups in the bins in Flinders St Station, and I'm like, "Well, according to some estimates, that coffee cup will never decompose". I wonder if I'm the only one who has noticed that the 'recycling bins' in Flinders St Station are actually just plastic bags, custom made to look good. And we know that if you put a plastic bag full of recyclables in for recycling, that it gets chucked into landfill...

This worry is giving everything I might eat out of the house a sour taste. Everything I might do.

And, you see, I'm already a bit of a recycling vigilante; you've no doubt picked that up by now. I'm only going to get worse. And that worries me. 

I'm worried because if I'm a vigilante, if I'm the only one thinking about these things, then what are we going to do? What will come of us if concepts such as single-use plastics remain the norm? While most of us do recycle, we also put a lot of our stuff into landfill, too. 

For example, I am horrified at myself for one particular bad habit. I'll name and shame it here, and never do it again. When Laurence and I have jam or pesto in the fridge that goes mouldy, I'd chuck it out. That is, I put it in the waste bin instead of cleaning it out and putting it in the recycling bin. These glass jars that I've thrown out have no doubt ended up in landfill and will remain there for 1 million years. Horrifying, hey? 

And this was simply because I hadn't processed the thought that I could recycle the glass jar, despite the mould. 

Crazy. 

You might be sitting here hoping I have an answer to these concerns. I do, well - an answer of sorts. I'm going to keep advocating for us to recycle more, I'm going to keep promoting the Sustain Me app as a convenient way for people to recycle, whether they're at home or not. And I will continue to advocate that we deny the concept of waste. 

Hopefully you will too.

Recycling in Bangladesh

It has been quiet here for a while. Verrrry quiet. If you lean in, I'll tell you why. ... I went away to Bangladesh. 

The story goes: I met a Bangladeshi friend in one of my first years at university and we become quite close. At one point, she invited me to go to Bangladesh with her and some other friends. Appreciative, but poor, I promised her that I would definitely go one day and so we agreed that I would go to Bangladesh for her wedding. That's right. She is now married. And I went to her wedding. 

I also chucked in a side trip to Thailand and speak to you now as a slightly different person. 

One of the things I learnt about most on my trip was culture. Of course I learnt about the Bangladeshi and Thai cultures, but also about my own culture. How to discern it, how to recognise it; I found it in a few spots I didn't expect. Indeed, I came up with the idea for this blog post in a CNG (compressed natural gas - a name given to small, green taxi-like things that I'd call cars if they were anyway near the size, speed or likeness. Heck, I'd call them cars if they had seatbelts), while in the middle of the WORST traffic I'd even been in, having completely surrendered to it. And that idea was around culture. 

You see, these CNGs, they didn't have windows. They had metal-grate doors that closed, but are a bit like chicken-wire in that you are still exposed to the elements. On one hot, sticky day after we had had a tour of old Dhaka, we bought ice creams and shared them with our CNG driver and tour-guide. We sat, quiet and still, in the "car" while we ate them and upon completion the two locals plopped their wrappers through the metal grate and out onto the ground. Just like that. No questions asked. An immediate disposal. A product of Australia and of my generation, I held my wrapper in my hand. I was not going to litter. The driver, having realised the wrapper in my hand, gestured that I plop my wrapper outside also. Well, needless to say, I didn't. What happened to that wrapper after I put it in the bin in my room that night, I'll never know. But it wouldn't surprise me if my efforts simply delayed the process of it ending up on the ground somewhere. 

Because, the thing is, if there is no rubbish service then there is no where to put your rubbish. If you put it in your bin at home, then it will just keep piling up. If you don't want it in your house, you can put it outside, put it where ever you like. It doesn't matter. Because unless someone collects it, or unless you take it to a tip or transfer station, it won't go anyway. So you might as well just leave it anywhere. You might as well plop it out on the road. 

Picture this image. There is a cosy-looking, run-down shack sitting to the side of a plot of land. Trees and chickens surround. The weatherboards are painted eclectic colours so that an artist would appreciate its aesthetic. And outside, just near the house, presumably somewhere near the kitchen, there is a great big pile. A great big pile of rubbish that falls down the hill. The chickens peck through it. This was a common enough image throughout both Bangladesh and Thailand, and very likely many other parts of the world where there is no comprehensive rubbish collection service. But this particular house, with its trees and weatherboards, is painted here for you from the memory of my visit to the Botanical Gardens in Dhaka. This house was the park ranger's house. 

So when I talk about recycling in Bangladesh, I talk about wastage and rubbish and the absence of infrastructure that could service the needs of the people. I talk about cultures that grow around these services and I talk about how that makes me feel. It makes me reflect at how outrageously effective the Australian Government has been to prevent littering and promote recycling. It makes me appreciate that the services exist for me to be environmentally responsible. 

When I talk about recycling in Bangladesh, I talk about a conversation I had with a Bangladeshi there, in Dhaka. A conversation about recycling in Australia. And it made me realise that if there ever was a bunch of like-minded, well-meaning people who had the capacity to reduce their waste entirely, it was going to be us, Australia. 

Yes, it'll be hard to recycle more and reduce our waste. But it's not going to be that hard. 

Join the movement. Deny the concept of waste. 

23.02.2015