Household waste increases during pandemic

Tiffanie Turnbull
·2-min read

It's been over two years since the Fernando family took out their rubbish bin.

What started out in 2017 as a pledge to take small steps to reduce their waste as a response to climate change morphed within a year into a feat Asanki Fernando though was unachievable for her family of seven.

"I knew it would be difficult to break those habits. I did have my doubts," she told AAP.

"(But) we did a little bin audit... and we started cutting things down or reducing them one by one," she said.

The family - mum, dad, 8-year-old daughter, three cats and one dog - now vetos any products with excessive packaging, buys and cooks most of their food in bulk and purchases produce directly from farmers markets.

Each year in Australia 5.4 million tonnes of packaging is sold, with just 16 per cent of plastic varieties recycled, and the average household wastes $1,026 worth of food.

During the pandemic, scores of Australian councils have reported increased volumes of general waste in kerbside bins, a survey by Planet Ark found.

With the 25th National Recycling Week beginning on Monday, the Fernandos encourage other families to begin reducing their waste footprint.

Once you put in the initial time, effort and money required setting up sustainable systems, it is easy and affordable to maintain, she said.

"There's seven billion of us and if all of us, consciously started making even the smallest change, it all adds up," Ms Fernando said.

Sydney's Asylum Seekers Centre is also offering Australians a waste reduction solution that at the same time helps provide crucial digital connectivity for those seeking refuge.

Australia chews through electronics creating 'e-waste' at one of the highest rates in the world, with each person disposing of 21.7kg on average each year.

Through the Centre's 'Donate a Device' program, that waste is put to good use, with electronic devices used by asylum seekers until they cannot be repaired or refurbished.

This year companies such as Macquarie, LendLease and Deloitte donated hundreds of devices to the Centre and community groups ran drives to collect household e-waste.

"To someone else, it's a $100 laptop now that's not worth selling but to us, it could be several years of a person being able to find work and learn English," the Centre's IT Manager Patrick Lesslie said.

"The privileged are buying and disposing of laptops early, just kind of churning through them wastefully and the underprivileged are lucky to get a hand-me-down and then they'll treasure it until it dies."

Planet Ark deputy chief executive Rebecca Gilling says recycling is more important than ever.

"The pandemic has challenged the way we live, work and interact with the world around us and has offered us the chance to build a better future," she said.