3 – Jenna B.

Hi! My name is Jenna and I’m currently a sophomore majoring in Environmental Economics and Management with a minor in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. I have lived in Novi, Michigan for the most of my life. I have always seen myself going to a big school like Michigan State and I am very happy with my choice to go here. I have a very strong interest in sustainability and would hope to make it a large part of my career. In my free time I enjoy golfing, hammocking, going to concerts, running, skiing/ snowboarding and photography. There are so many things I am excited to learn about in Australia, including topics about clean energy and water quality. One of the things I am probably the most excited to do is snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef and learn about ways to preserve what we have left of it. This has always been something on my bucket list! But most of all, I am excited to see how what I learn can be implemented in my future career and the rest of my college experience.

When we are in Australia I have decided to research the topic of waste management and their efforts of plastic reduction and recycling in Australia and comparing it to what the U.S. does. I found that this would be an interesting topic to look into because there are different policies and ways that people go about reducing their waste in the differing countries. I also would be interested in looking into laws that Michigan has such as the Michigan Bottle Law for reducing plastic litter and comparing that to Australia’s regulatory effects. Below are some  articles that I found to be the most interesting in helping me gather more information for this topic.

One gives a lot of helpful statistics on the waste management industry of Australia. It also goes into detail on the national waste and recycling performance for each year. I found that the Australian Bureau of Statistics includes the Waste Account Experimental Estimates and the Waste Management Services Australia that aim to give information on the perspective of income, expenditure and employment in the waste management industry. I have also found that waste management businesses contributed $3.3 to $3.5 billion to Australia’s GDP (Australian Government). The second link backs up the first one and is the National Waste report for last year, along with details on the types of products being recycled. The third article is on asset recycling practices, also known as a measure that allows the government to fund necessary infrastructure investments through proceeds made from the sale of public assets to the private sector. This is something that the U.S. is looking to implement as well, however is advised to take precautions as Australia has already experienced some issues with this method. The fourth article is on product stewardship, recognizing that manufacturers, importers, governments and consumers have a shared responsibility for the environmental impacts of a product throughout its full cycle. With these articles, I think they will give me a good foundation of information on this topic as well as all the information I can collect once we are in Australia.

With growing population, urbanization, and fast-paced lifestyles, increased plastic production has been an ongoing problem for years now. It is a determining factor for what condition our planet will be in years from now and the time to change our practices is now. Therefore, I wanted to investigate waste management while abroad, specifically focusing on the use of plastic products and recycling. Knowing the increase of plastic pollution and how it negatively affects the environment, I wanted to look at how Australia is doing compared to the U.S. to improve aspects of the country socially, economically through corporations, and through urban design in order to reduce overall plastic use and improve recycling results.

Throughout our time in Australia, site visits and cities where I collected the most information for my project were Bulla Dairy Foods, Sunsalt, city of Melbourne, Adelaide City Council, the Adelaide City Market, the city of Adelaide, The Great Barrier Reef, Jaques Coffee Plantation, Nerada Tea, Ecoganic, Mungalli Creek Dairy, and the city of Sydney. The first location we visited that stood out with recycling and insight to plastic use was the Adelaide City Council site visit. To involve the community, the city of Adelaide sponsors frequent sustainable events promoting initiatives such as a straw-free Adelaide and switching from plastics to organics and compostable products. The ultimate goal for the city is to ban single use plastic products and to optimize recycling infrastructure throughout the city by placing recycling bins effectively. Adelaide is also implementing a new technology that acts like an x-ray to detect objects and separate certain products out. This is something that has needed initial funding but will pay off in the long run. The current recycling rate in the city is around 70% and could increase up to 80% if more products were completely compostable (Adelaide City Council, 2019). As motivation, the city has made it so residents would get money back for compostable items. One of the biggest reasons why they were seeing effective results so quickly was because of their partnership between the city of Adelaide and the state government of South Australia. This is important because once there is the collaboration between the city and the state, there are more resources that are available and a widespread understanding of the issue. 

Another sustainable site that stood out was the Adelaide City Market. This was located in the middle of the city and attracts many consumers throughout the day. The market had many products that were an alternative for products that would normally be plastic. These included eco-friendly bamboo straws and cleaners, paper straws in restaurants in the market, eco-friendly cling wrap, eco-friendly rubbish and freezer bags, organic cotton net tote bags to carry products in the market, and reusable produce bags for all the produce offered for free and at a cost in the market. Each bag was made out of 8 recycled plastic water bottles and the cling wrap, rubbish and freezer bags were bioplastic made out of sugarcane which is more easily biodegradable. 

Additionally, the Great Barrier Reef area had notable policies on their plastic reduction as well. In the state of Queensland, they banned single use plastic bags and plastic straws in order to prevent them from ending up in the reef, moving to paper products or other alternatives. Turtles can ingest plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish. Plastic pollution has been a large issue in the Great Barrier Reef area and when there is an increase in the pollution, cyclones that form strong winds can spread the pollution. Furthermore, another location was Mungalli Creek Dairy. They are currently investigating what kind of packaging alternatives, specifically in vending machines, could minimize their plastic use. Their plan was to set up a closed system that will recycle plastic use. They also mentioned that in Cairns, there is a company recycling plastics into different furniture (Mungalli Creek Dairy, 2019). This demonstrates that there are many avenues for products to go down once they are recycled. 

During the scavenger hunt in Sydney, I found that there was a significant amount of recycling bins in the parks within the city, but there was a need for more recycling bins throughout the city. I noticed that some trash cans were overflowing in the city and that restaurants and shops still had a significant amount of plastic straws and bags available to customers. I found Melbourne to be about the same as Sydney, however I did notice more efforts going towards plastic free products and cleaner parks with enough recycling bins. It can be implied that the delay to switch to plastic alternatives could be because of the large population of Sydney, but if they along with the U.S. were on the same track as Adelaide, their impact could be great. 

Overall, I found that Australia, especially South Australia, has an effective rate of recycling proportionate to its population. I found that the city of Adelaide had the most characteristics for being the best at phasing out plastic products and increasingly using alternative products instead of plastic. At the Adelaide City Council meeting, I found it very beneficial that they had community events to educate citizens and to promote phasing out plastic products throughout the city. By making these programs fun and social events bringing the community together, people are more likely to see it as something that will benefit the community as a whole rather than just on a personal scale. One of the main reasons why the push for banning plastic was so big in Adelaide and Queensland in Australia was due to the fact that they are coastal cities and wanted to avoid plastic pollution reaching the oceans, especially the Reef. Ultimately, the greatest results would be achieved by large companies if the plastic waste was in a closed loop system and it was all recycled in the end instead of ending up in a landfill, as well as considering subsidies and increased trade regulations on plastic products (Oke, 2009). Most of the sites we went to in Australia had the general outlook that it would benefit them to reduce their plastic products which is more unusual to see in the U.S.. I learned that we must strive away from the mindset of consuming and wasting products and move towards a continuous loop of recycled goods.

Eco Friendly products found at the Adelaide Central Market
Organic Cotton Net tote bag as a replacement for plastic bags in the Adelaide Central Market

Related Links of places mentioned:

Adelaide City Council: https://www.cityofadelaide.com.au

Mungalli Creek Dairy: https://www.mungallicreekdairy.com.au

The Great Barrier Reef: http://www.greatbarrierreef.org

The Adelaide Central Market: https://adelaidecentralmarket.com.au

Nerada Tea: https://www.neradatea.com.au

Additional Sources:

Gourmelon, G. (2015, January 27). Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags. Worldwatchinstitute. Retrieved from: http://worldwatch.net/sites/default/files/vital_signs_trend_plastic_full_pdf.pdf

M. Oke, P. Allan, K. Goldsworthy & J. Pickin. (2009, November 19). Waste and Recycling in Australia. Amended Report. Hyder Consulting. P. 1-121. Retrieved from: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/ff342d4f-17a4-4c9f-bb1c-b95e01898751/files/waste-recycling2009.pdf

Reisser, J., Shaw, J., Wilcox, C., Hardsty, B., Proietti, M., Thums, M., & Pattiaratchi, C. (2013, November 27). Marine Plastic Pollution in Waters around Australia: Characteristics, Concentrations, and Pathways. PLOS. Retrieved from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0080466

Environmental Protection Agency. (2018). Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2015 Fact Sheet. Assessing Trends in Material Generation, Recycling, Composting, Combustion with Energy Recovery and Landfilling in the United States. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-07/documents/2015_smm_msw_factsheet_07242018_fnl_508_002.pdf

Australian Government. The Waste Management Industry in Australia. Department of the Environment and Energy. Retrieved from: http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/national-waste-reports/national-waste-report-2013/industry

References:

Australian Government. The Waste Management Industry in Australia. Department of the Environment and Energy.

http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/national-waste-reports/national-waste-report-2013/industry

Randell Environmental Consulting. November 19, 2018. National Waste Report 2018. Blue Environment.

http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/7381c1de-31d0-429b-912c-91a6dbc83af7/files/national-waste-report-2018.pdf

Lessons to be learned from the Australian “Asset Recycling” program. June 2017. In the Public Interest.

https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/wp-content/uploads/ITPI_AssetRecyclingLessonsLearned_June2017.pdf

National Environment Protection Council (NEPC). Product Stewardship.

http://www.nepc.gov.au/resource/ephc-archive-product-stewardship

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