Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: stemming the tide

by Bruce

Imagine a world where we have learnt to live with less, where nothing goes to waste, and the resources that make up the things we buy are so precious that we recycle them at every opportunity, where polluting our environment and filling up ever-scarcer landfill sites is no longer tolerated, where communities understand and take responsibility for their own actions, and where circular economies are enshrined in our laws and behaviours.

The global environmental crisis can be overwhelming, and recycling’s not always straightforward, but in Australia at least, we still have choices. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that community roots are strengthened in difficult times, and we can live more simply if we have to – we don’t need so much stuff!

As an Enmore local, two places I am very familiar with are our beloved Inner West shining lights Reverse Garbage and The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre, who have walked the Reduce, Reuse & Recycle talk for decades. With Sydney’s lengthy lockdown now ended, they are open again for business at Marrickville’s Addison Road Community Centre.

However, having outgrown their current spaces, and after some difficult recent years there, next year both outfits are moving into new premises, Reverse Garbage to Carrington Road Marrickville, and The Bower to Summer Hill. So, drop by in person to grab a bargain before they move, and visit their websites to find out more about what these environmental champions do – their community and educational work, and the fun skills they can teach you to lessen your environmental footprint.

Visit their websites or drop by in person to find out more about what these environmental champions do – their community and educational work, and the fun skills they can teach you to lessen your environmental footprint.

It’s great that Reverse Garbage and The Bower exist, but outside the Inner West, most of Sydney is not blessed with similar enterprises. Like most recycling charities, both organisations are swamped at times by the sheer volume of well-meaning donations, which indicates lots of people want to ‘do the right thing’, and give their stuff a second life. Reverse Garbage and The Bower are definitely business models that could easily be transferred to many diverse situations, but at present they are only a ‘drop in the ocean’ of what this city could do for resource recovery.

Urge your Council & local MPs to encourage widespread reuse & recycling
Who hasn’t seen discarded large TVs, mattresses, and furniture cluttering their local footpaths and rear lanes. Most of these items are recyclable, and able to be broken down into component parts, and some are reusable. Even if a Council pick-up is arranged, most people do not understand or care what happens ‘down the line’. Out of sight is ‘out of mind’ after garbage trucks crunch everything up in a matter of minutes, then take it all to landfill.

Community education can always be improved: not everyone’s on the same page, and people are forever time poor. Dedicated pick-ups for tricky waste items such as e-waste would be a great idea too, on top of what Councils already do in this area.

It’s a good thing though to see serious investments from government and business starting to happen in our waste and recycling industries. In 2024 when dumping unprocessed waste exports on overseas markets ceases, we will finally have to look after our own. It will be very interesting to see how well we meet that challenge!


There’s money in waste!

You only have to look at the popularity of Facebook groups like Inner West Street Bounty, Pay it Forward Sydney , and more traditional sites like eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle, Garage Sale Trail days, and the almost Australia-wide Container Deposit Schemes, to realise this.

Other great waste & recycling resources

Get angry, get active!

Binge on Series 1 & 2 of War on Wasteon ABC iview

Art from Trash: the ultimate statement?

The Bower’s ART from TRASH exhibition

Cancelled this year due to the lockdown, but promising to be back better than ever in 2022. Enjoy the 2020 entries and winners here.

A DIY ‘Art from Trash’ treat!

‘LOST & FOUND’ or the world’s largest collection of rustic automata by Blair (on Vimeo, 9 minutes)

Kiwi ingenuity at it again! In a remote corner of New Zealand’s South Island, tucked away among the last remaining tracts of native forest, lies a little-known place of wonder. It is the life’s work and extraordinary creation of inventor, artist and self-confessed tinkerer, Blair Somerville.

For over ten years Blair has single-handedly owned, operated and ceaselessly expanded the Lost Gypsy Gallery, his wonderland of homegrown wizardry and a playground for kids and adults alike. Using only recycled materials, Blair takes DIY to artistic extremes. His creations are ingenious, interactive, and often hilariously impractical. They take many shapes and forms and share an uncanny ability to amaze, entertain and inspire!

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