Household waste disposal is one of the world's major environmental issues. In Australia, most household waste is dumped and buried. Old sites are rapidly filling and new sites are becoming harder to find. Alternative waste disposal methods like incineration are expensive and there are problems with pollution.
The simplest way to reduce our disposal problem is to reduce our waste. Waste reduction involves four steps:
|the amount of material you use, particularly packaging
|consider whether or not an item can be re-used or recycled before you buy
|waste items whenever possible
|waste items to use the base material again
The aluminium beverage can industry is a leader in waste reduction. Australia has one of the highest consistent aluminium beverage can recycling programs in the world:
- Cans are being made lighter every year
An aluminium beverage can weighed 16.55g in 1992 and 15.5g in 1997. This amounts to nearly 6% reduction in the raw material being used.
- Recycling is a closed-loop process
Aluminium beverage cans are turned back into new aluminium beverage cans.
The benefits of recycling aluminium beverage cans
- Recycling reduces waste in landfill
It can significantly reduce the amount of waste in landfill. Imagine the volume of landfill required for the 1.64 billion cans recycled in 1996.
- Valuable energy and natural resources are conserved
Aluminium beverage can production can be a sustainable industry because of the high levels of recycling. Recycling aluminium beverage cans reduces the need for raw materials, reduces the use of valuable energy resources and reduces the levels of waste disposed of in landfill. All of these have positive outcomes for the environment, society and economy of Australia.
The energy required to produce the metal for one aluminium beverage can is equivalent to the energy required to recycle that can 20 times. For every tonne of aluminium recycled, five tonnes of bauxite are conserved.
- Recycling programs can make money
Millions of dollars are now being paid annually for empty aluminium beverage cans. Individuals and community groups can earn extra cash and the beverage can collection helps keep the environment clean. In 1980, 550 million aluminium beverage cans were collected for recycling (representing only 9% of the number produced) and $5 million was paid to the community. By 1985 this had increased to 1.64 billion cans (64% of the number produced) and $31.6 million. In 1997 Australians consumed over 2.6 billion aluminium beverage cans.
Visit the Facts and Figures section of this web site for more information.
- Recycling also provides employment
These programs employ people at collection centres, in transport and in the melting down of reclaimed aluminium.
- Recycled aluminium earns export dollars
Recycled aluminium is exported, earning hard export currency dollars for the Australian economy.
Sustainable development is resource management that fulfils the needs and desires of today's population without endangering the ability of tomorrow's population to fulfil its own needs. The types and amounts of products consumed, how they are produced, and how the wastes resulting from production and consumption are managed are resource management decisions that may or may not lead to sustainable development.
Relevant School Stuff Activities: 6