Reducing waste in landfills is vital for maintaining a healthy environment, especially here in Cairns where we are surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest, which is why all businesses need to look at different ways to recycle and reuse everyday items.
“We have to do something because waste is a huge problem,” says Lesley Van Staveren, Co-owner of FNQ Plastics and Founder of the Committee for Waste Reduction (CFWR).
“When we each do little things consistently we create positive change together.”
Lesley says one of the best ways for businesses to get started is to have a good, hard look at their rubbish.
“Businesses use a lot of paper, packaging, plastics and takeaway products and have quite a lot of organic food wastes, which all end up going into general waste,” she says. “One of the things that really makes people sit up and take notice of the waste they’re generating is to do a bin audit.
“I suggest getting a tarp, putting it on the floor, emptying the bin and separating the rubbish. This helps to recognise all the different types of waste being generated in order to see where some of the waste can be eliminated.”
Having separate bins for plastics, paper, food and general items is an easy and highly effective way to cut down on waste.
“It’s so important to reduce the waste of our landfills and directing items and materials in the correct way to be recycled or reused is a big help,” Lesley says. “Getting people used to a different way of doing things takes time, but it’s definitely worth it.
“If you don’t want to do a bin audit, because it can be quite confronting, just start by pledging one item to change, such as doing double-sided printing, taking away plastic cups from water coolers or having plastic-free meetings and events.
“When businesses are putting on an event or even holding a staff meeting the automatic habit is to reach for plastic plates and cutlery and plastic wraps. There are so many alternatives available that we can use.”
On July 1st this year, the Queensland Government will implement a waste levy so if businesses have a high volume of waste they are going to have to pay for it.
“Queensland has one of the worst recycling rates in the country,” says Queensland Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch. “Every year about 55 per cent of our waste is sent to landfill – that’s over five million tonnes. This amount of rubbish would fill the Gabba nearly 18 times.
“We know Queenslanders care about recycling and want to make a difference in waste management,” says Ms Enoch, adding that the Container Refund Scheme has already seen more than 10 million containers returned for recycling.
The CFWR, which is a not-for-profit organisation made up of about 70 passionate local businesses and individuals who aim to educate people and businesses on how to reduce waste in a positive way, has recently started a Waste Wise Business Program to help businesses cut down on waste and become more cost effective while helping to protect the environment.
“We don’t want to guilt businesses on their habits, Lesley says. “We just believe that if we get a whole heap of people with the same passion in the same direction coming up with ideas and initiatives then we have a lot more impact.
“There are so many reasons why we need to reduce our waste. Obviously, the environmental impact is the main one, but it also helps businesses reduce waste disposal costs and enhances their reputation in the community as more people prefer to choose a business that operates in a positive way.”