We have a major role to play
We need to think optimistically as well as clearly about how we’re going to tackle the tricky issues confronting our recycling industry.
The fundamental market rules of supply and demand were there at the genesis of recycling shifting into mainstream society and, surprise, surprise, they have never gone away.
If you don’t have or are unable to create a market for waste products they become – wait for it – garbage.
The truth is, while it has been branded as recyclable material, what we have been exporting to China has become ‘garbage’.
What country in its right mind would accept garbage as a sustainable import?
No wonder the pulled the pin.
Despite such a big export loss the Chinese decision represents, all is far from lost.
If we can further de-garbage our waste and do a better job at Chinese sorting, from householder right through to processing stages, we will, more than ever, find ourselves with a collection of raw products with a value that will ebb and flow with demand.
Have a variety of clean, raw products at your disposal and you suddenly have an international market bargaining chip.
It is almost akin to farmers having field bins full of different types of grain, or miners separating and storing minerals and waiting for prices to improve before taking the product to market.
Add to that an increase in study and research into the potential of these raw products and the picture can suddenly and dramatically appear rosier.
But this type of speculation doesn’t just happen.
It takes creative and outsidethe-box thinking to seize the initiative.
What about us? Here in the Wimmera we could be forgiven for believing that we are almost too far removed and small to play a major role in finding a solution to what represents a state, national and even global problem. But that’s not the case.
We create waste like anyone else, waste we have to manage.
Who’s to say this can’t go well beyond simply taking greater effort when sorting our household rubbish?
Let’s dare to think big for a moment.
Economy of scale has been an enemy fighting against us when it comes to processing just about anything other than agricultural products in our region, recyclable products being one of them.
But what if, instead of working hard to find somewhere to send our recyclables, we came up with a way of processing them here and overcame the economy of scale by inviting others to send their recyclables here as well. I’m not talking about creating a massive rubbish-dump headache, but more about a major operating plant or series of plants that employ a lot of people to establish stores of clean raw products and capitalises on our evolving freight services.
We might be able to eventually add a research and development centre to explore what else we can do with the glass, paper, plastic and metal we throw away. And then… and so on.
I’m the first to admit that the idea is nothing more than glorified dreamy concept.
Then again, there are places in the world that are already doing this so why not give at least part of it some thought?
There is no escaping the throwaway world of consumerism without governments stepping in with harsh product regulations.
We will continue to produce waste and we need to continue to come up with ideas.