Inside the Collection

Changing attitudes to waste: National recycling week 8-14 November 2010

Printer part from the Fuji Xerox remanufacturing plant, Photography by Jean-Francois Lanzarone
Printer part from the Fuji Xerox remanufacturing plant, Photography by Jean-Francois Lanzarone

This week is one of Planet Ark’s campaigns, National Recycling Week and is focusing on the recycling of household batteries, printer cartridges and mobile phones this year. Formed in 1992 Planet Ark is a not-for-profit company.

In the last twenty years there has been a growth in Australian founded organisations dealing with environmental issues related to waste and recycling including ‘Planet Ark’, ‘and ‘Clean up Australia’. These organisations have worked with community, government and business to offer better environmental practises. They have also spread from a purely Sydney or Australian focus to a global reach.

As ‘Clean Up Australia’s founder Ian Kiernan says

“its about ordinary people like us being firstly informed, so we can make intelligent decisions and then making sure that the people who rely on us through the government, who wants our votes, … have got to follow our example”.

interview Ian Kiernan 2000

Illustration of Harbour Bridge with the Words "Clean up the harbour day" written in bold text. Collection: Powerhouse Museum
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

This is a sign from the inaugural ‘Clean up the Harbour Day’ in 1989 in Sydney. The event received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydneysiders donating their time and energy to clean up the harbour.

In 1990 the first ‘Clean up Australia Day’ took place with 300,000 Australians involved, it has gone on to be a world wide phenomenon. From 1990 to 2006, Australians have devoted more than eight million hours towards the environment through ‘Clean Up Australia Day’ and collected over 200,000 tonnes of rubbish.

‘Clean up the World’ started in 1993 involving approx 30 million people in 80 countries. In 2004 the campaign incorporated 35 million people from 115 countries who cleaned up parks, beaches and waterways.

Changes in legislation and attitudes have led to an increase in recycling. From 1990 to 1993, the rate of household recycling in Australia doubled. In 1996, 91% of Australian households said they practised some form of waste recycling and/or reuse activity. In 2009, almost all Australian households (98%) reported that they recycled waste and (86%) reused waste.

Even green waste, which comprises up to half of our household waste, is now being recycled using composting and mulching methods.

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