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New line on recycling.

The virtues of recycling have recently been challenged in the media, with some critics claiming that recycling schemes are often poorly designed, too costly and wasteful of energy. Contractors have found that the collection cost of certain materials is often greater than their worth, and end markets for them do not exist. But the critics of recycling are far outnumbered by the householders, local governments, institutions and industries vigorously supporting the collection and reprocessing of recyclable materials.

The provision of recycling education and information services will assist these sectors in their efforts to divert recyclable materials from landfill. ACF will be an active player in this education process through the establishment of its Victorian Recycling Hotline, a service to be funded by the Victorian Recycling and Resource Recovery Council and to be launched in March.

The funding is the result of an ACF feasibility study which included visits to four of North America's waste exchanges and recycling hotlines, in Vancouver, Edmonton, Seattle and Sacramento.

A recycling hotline provides telephone callers with access to information about reducing, reusing and recycling materials. A waste exchange is a networking service which creates listings of available and wanted materials. These are listed in a waste exchange catalogue and divided into various categories, including metal, solvents, wood, plastic and textiles. Where opportunities exist, exchange staff actively match waste generators with users of the same material.

Of the four waste exchanges visited, the Industrial Materials Exchange at Seattle in Washington State was the most successful because of the city's high costs of waste transport and the availability of large amounts of unwanted materials. Due to space limitations, Seattle's waste is transported to landfills south of the Washington State border. The high transportation cost encourages the major generators of unwanted materials, such as companies in sea and air transport, pulp and paper production and food processing, to list these materials with a waste exchange as a cost-effective alternative to landfill disposal.

Before preparing its feasibility study, ACF believed that waste exchanges played an active and significant role in the reuse and recycling of waste materials. But, in general, waste exchanges contribute little to the diversion of materials from landfill. Each North American waste exchange visited operated within a limited budget, and allocated few resources to the active promotion and search for opportunities for the use of listed materials. In some cases the volume of materials transported from one party to another that can be directly attributable to the waste exchange networking facility is minimal.

Recycling hotlines operate alongside three of the four North American waste exchanges visited, and contribute far more to reducing, reusing and recycling materials by diverting materials to reprocessors and reusers. This finding convinced ACF of the need to establish the Victorian Recycling Hotline. The service will also incorporate a waste exchange. Materials that cannot immediately be reused or recycled are to be listed, and hotline staff will actively search for the possible exchange of listed materials.

The Victorian Recycling Hotline will provide the first centralised Victorian information service for waste and recycling designed to cater for all sectors of the community. It will serve the information requirements of householders, industry, local government, and institutions about reducing, reusing and recycling materials. Callers will be able to access information via a telephone hotline or an interactive web site. A computer database will house information about existing services, facilities, processes and operators for the reuse, the recycling and recovery of resources. It will also include a listing of publications, fact sheets and flyers.

The Victorian Recycling Hotline will be a very valuable service for Victorian householders, who are participating in kerbside recycling schemes in increasing numbers. In 1994 the Litter and Recycling Research Association (LRRA) boasted an average participation rate of 68 per cent across Melbourne and 64 per cent for Victoria. Other states have also experienced increases in participation rates.

However, recent studies carried out by the LRRA within Victoria show that although volumes in the domestic recycling waste stream have increased, the amount of domestic waste generated per household has also increased. This indicates that concerted efforts must continue to focus upon the improvement and development of kerbside recycling services, and increased householder education that encourages lower consumption.

Many residents are still unsure about the type of materials that can be put out for kerbside collection. Non-glass products, such as ceramics and plastics, create particular confusion. Surveys carried out during this year's updating of ACF's Guide to Recycling in Victoria show that, in general, councils distribute information about kerbside recycling only on an annual basis. ACF's Victorian Recycling Hotline will provide information about each council in Victoria, including the type of materials included in their kerbside service and the details of their drop-off service.

Recycling programs in the commercial and industrial sectors have a much lower participation rate than in the community/ household sector. Building and demolition waste in the commercial and industrial sectors provide up to 40 per cent of total waste going to landfill. Organic waste and institutional waste are also significant. If the Victorian government is to meet its landfill waste reduction targets -- a 50-per-cent reduction from the 1994 levels by the year 2000 -- then concerted efforts will have to be made to decrease the amount of waste generated by this sector.

ACF's Victorian Recycling Hotline is set to play a significant role in the waste reduction process by encouraging households, government and industry to reduce, reuse and recycle.

* Kate Lumb is the Marketing and Research Coordinator for the Victorian Recycling Hotline. She visited North America last year as part of the hotline's feasibility study. Kate will be working with Alistair Mailer, the hotline's Technical and Financial Coordinator, to establish and coordinate the service. Kate has been working at ACF on issues of solid waste and water since 1994. Alistair has specialised in the impact assessment of industrial and government development proposals since he began at ACF in 1994.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Australian Conservation Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:project supported by the Australian Conservation Foundation
Author:Lumb, Kate
Publication:Habitat Australia
Date:Feb 1, 1997
Words:988
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