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Analysis and Comment (34)

A male Onthophagus vacca, the species of dung beetle being released this week in Western Australia. A male Onthophagus vacca, the species of dung beetle being released this week in Western Australia. CSIRO

French beetles flown in to clean up Australia’s cattle dung

The average cow drops between 10 and 12 dung pads (also known as “pats”) every day and just one of those cow pads can produce up to 3,000 flies in a fortnight. With more than 28 million cattle in Australia…
When you outputs become your inputs, that’s a circular economy. When you outputs become your inputs, that’s a circular economy. WRAP

Explainer: What is a circular economy?

The concept of the circular economy has left the realm of academic theory and entered the world of business. The price of natural resources and materials is soaring, and in response to volatile markets…
Electronic thermoset components, such as those found in mobile phones, are destined for landfill – but new research points to a way to make them recyclable. Electronic thermoset components, such as those found in mobile phones, are destined for landfill – but new research points to a way to make them recyclable. David Goehring/Flickr

Recycling the ‘unrecyclable’: a new class of thermoset plastics

Plastics comprise around 10% of solid waste in Australia. And while we can recycle certain types, there is a group of particularly stable plastics called thermosets, common in electronic devices, which…
Products that were once new and expensive are quickly treated with disdain. Products that were once new and expensive are quickly treated with disdain. Gareth Fuller/PA

Cutting waste needs longer lasting goods, and tax breaks

Reducing waste should be uncontroversial. While the government’s newly published waste prevention programme represents an improvement on previous strategies, it could have been – should have been – far…
An expanding sea of junk in Lagos. An expanding sea of junk in Lagos. Margaret Bates

Europe’s electronic waste has become Africa’s burden

The disposal of computers and other electronic and electrical goods, e-waste, is a growing global problem. In 2011, the world threw away 41.5m tonnes of electrical equipment, and this is expected to rise…
Run, don’t walk. Run, don’t walk. County Clean

We must change our ways to fight fatbergs

It was a ball of grease so enormous, so destructive and so repugnant that not just London, but the whole world, recoiled in horror. The city’s biggest-ever fatberg lurked under Kingston-upon-Thames for…
Mindless littering, or mindful rebellion? Mindless littering, or mindful rebellion? Anthony Devlin/PA

In defence of litter

What propels us to notice when a place is badly littered or surprisingly clean? When abroad, why do we often make comparisons between well-swept cities and badly kept ones? Of course, there is the banal…
Tiny fragments of plastic, upon each of which balances a miniature world of microbial life. Tiny fragments of plastic, upon each of which balances a miniature world of microbial life. Marilou Maglione/SEA

Welcome to The Plastisphere: ocean-going microbes on vessels of plastic

The amount of plastic debris accumulating in the open ocean has doubled in 40 years. This has been is a topic of increasing public concern and scientific interest since it was first reported in the 1970s…
“Burgerisation” has made waste as common in the food system as take-away wrappers on streets. “Burgerisation” has made waste as common in the food system as take-away wrappers on streets. Niall Carson/PA

Food waste is the symptom, not the problem

Foundation essay: This article on food waste by Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University London, is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the UK. Our foundation essays…
Despite the popularity, a national container deposit scheme isn’t the right way to clean up our litter. Despite the popularity, a national container deposit scheme isn’t the right way to clean up our litter. Flickr/nist6ss

Container deposit laws past their use-by date

The old-fashioned approach to recycling in which consumers pay a redeemable deposit on drink containers is popular among all kinds of people, from Greenpeace members to traditional Coalition voters. But…
Social conventions stemming from the marketing of washing product companies means we wash our clothes more than we need to. Social conventions stemming from the marketing of washing product companies means we wash our clothes more than we need to. Jackson Boyle

The dirt on clothes: why washing less is more sustainable

If you’re worried about dressing ethically, chances are you think about sweatshop conditions in developing countries, unsustainable farming practices, convoluted global supply chains that ring up a huge…
In the hold, but for how long? Wasting millions of tonnes of seafood is a tragedy. In the hold, but for how long? Wasting millions of tonnes of seafood is a tragedy. Maurice McDonald/PA Archive

We must stop committing valuable fish to a watery grave

In European waters controlled by the EU Common Fisheries Policy, the discarding of fish overboard has long been condemned by environmentalists and regretted by fishers. According to the UN Food and Agriculture…
From the plate to the power station. From the plate to the power station. Flickr/tomylees

It stinks, but food waste is feeding our hunger for energy

The amount of scrap food thrown away worldwide is staggering. WRAP, a government-funded non-profit set up to encourage recycling and clamp down on waste, reports that in the UK we discard more than 7.2m…
An estimated 30-50% of food produced worldwide is wasted, and ends up only fit for the birds. An estimated 30-50% of food produced worldwide is wasted, and ends up only fit for the birds. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Food waste: beyond fridge guilt to a sustainable system

The food system is perhaps the most vital component of our modern industrialised world. Without food in shops, it’s fair to say society would unravel in a matter of days. The food industry is in many ways…
Is Coca-Cola Amatil’s opposition to the Northern Territory’s container deposit scheme out of concern for household budgets or simply decreased profit margins? Is Coca-Cola Amatil’s opposition to the Northern Territory’s container deposit scheme out of concern for household budgets or simply decreased profit margins? Flickr/Julian Stallabrass

Coke chokes the NT container deposit scheme

A reported 10 billion drink containers are thrown away in Australia every year. Many of these are recycled, but many end up in landfill, on roadsides and in waterways. The danger posed to wildlife by plastic…
Recycling is all very well, but how do we stop producing waste in the first place? Recycling is all very well, but how do we stop producing waste in the first place? Yoav Lerman

For a truly sustainable world, we need zero waste cities

The current state of worldwide urban development is depressing. We are not moving towards environmentally sustainable design and reduced consumption quickly enough. There have been dire warnings about…
Is our distaste for toilet talk halting sanitation improvements in the developing world? Is our distaste for toilet talk halting sanitation improvements in the developing world? Alan Porritt/AAP

Loosen up, it’s time to talk about toilets

Bodily waste can be an embarrassing subject, but one that most of us can avoid thanks to efficient toilets and sewers. Nevertheless, this embarrassment may be holding back improvements in sanitation where…
Plastic bottles often end up on the beach where the plastic can remain for decades, harming sea life and the fish we eat. Plastic bottles often end up on the beach where the plastic can remain for decades, harming sea life and the fish we eat. senderweb/Flickr

National container deposit scheme crushed by Australian Senate

For the past 30 years, South Australians have lived in a state with a “container deposit scheme”. This means on small bottles or cans of water, soft drink, juice or alcohol, consumers pay a 10c deposit…
Anything tastes good when it’s cooked in a pie. Even kidneys. Anything tastes good when it’s cooked in a pie. Even kidneys. Jo Carter

Have some guts and help the environment

I invited some friends to dinner recently for a little heart to heart. Little did they know, that I was being literal. For my guests that night, I served lamb heart stew. Offal. The word is enough to turn…
Take the offer: sharing cuts waste and builds communities but we have our reasons for not always being comfortable with it. Take the offer: sharing cuts waste and builds communities but we have our reasons for not always being comfortable with it. Flickr/Zervas

Sharing: if it’s so good, why don’t we do more of it?

Sharing is a good thing right? We are told it is good for the environment by cutting waste and needless consumption; we encourage it in our children for their moral growth; we see it used in advertising…
Recycling seems like a bright idea, but is its shine coming off? Recycling seems like a bright idea, but is its shine coming off? Kilgub/Flickr

What a waste! Why reducing rubbish might not make sense

The initial impressions most people have of waste-reduction campaigns and calls for greater recycling are that they must be good. After all, most of us are taught from a very early age that waste is a…
We have to rethink the way we construct buildings, to make them easier to reuse after demolition. We have to rethink the way we construct buildings, to make them easier to reuse after demolition. sssteve.one/Flickr

Beyond recycling: making waste obsolete

Given our rapid depletion of resources, especially raw materials, and Australia’s ever-increasing waste creation, it’s time to ask: what are the best ways to encourage resource recovery and recycling to…
Much of our e-waste – such as these computer parts – ends up in developing countries. Much of our e-waste – such as these computer parts – ends up in developing countries. Greenpeace India

E-waste: the high cost of high-tech

E-waste from used electrical and electronic gadgets such as desktop computers, laptops and iPhones is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. Rapid uptake of information technology around…
Consumers need more useful information about assessing the freshness and safety of food products. Consumers need more useful information about assessing the freshness and safety of food products.

Has the use-by date gone past its prime?

Picture this: you arrive home from work feeling a bit peckish. Sliced mango and a dollop of yoghurt should ease the cravings until dinner, you think. You open the fridge door and, horror, no yoghurt. Not…
Exporting uranium carries a risk not just in Australia, but all over the world. Exporting uranium carries a risk not just in Australia, but all over the world. Mad House Photography

Expanding Olympic Dam: with great power comes great responsibility

The South Australian and Federal governments have approved another expansion at Olympic Dam. This expansion raises some very important questions about Australia’s role in the future of global energy and…
When resources are scarce, turning rubbish into something productive is a great business model. When resources are scarce, turning rubbish into something productive is a great business model. AAP

Scarcity as the ‘mother of invention’: can we consume less and still grow?

For over 200 years, since the industrial revolution, we have seen economic growth strongly coupled with the consumption of more and more resources. The more we grew, the more we consumed. This model works…
Sure, they’re ugly; but plastic bags might not be so bad. Sure, they’re ugly; but plastic bags might not be so bad. Robin Tennant-Wood

Banning plastic bags: real change, or a cosmetic solution?

From today, plastic bags are banned in the NT. The ACT will follow suit in November: in 2009 the ACT abandoned its 14-year old “No Waste by 2010” strategy and replaced it with a ban on plastic shopping…
Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets. Seals, turtles, sharks and dolphins are killed by abandoned fishing nets. tedxgp/Flickr

Marine debris: biodiversity impacts and potential solutions

Pollution from human activities has major impact on the world’s marine ecosystems. Plastic refuse is one of the most pervasive types of pollution. More than 80 million tons of plastics are estimated to…
If businesses develop the skills to assess energy efficiency, they could be on a winner. If businesses develop the skills to assess energy efficiency, they could be on a winner. Passivehaus via Wikimedia Commons

Businesses could benefit from efficiency under carbon tax

Being energy efficient has always made financial sense for industry. The introduction of the Clean Energy Future package and a price on carbon makes it even more sensible. But many businesses will struggle…
Every trip has positive and negative effects. Every trip has positive and negative effects. Ben Beiske/Flickr

Can tourism really have conservation benefits?

Many of us eagerly await those few weeks when we can escape the daily grind and break away to some breathtaking holiday destination. But with increasing concern over climate change and the emissions generated…
Australia struggles to keep up in the efficiency race. Australia struggles to keep up in the efficiency race. Flickr/adambowie

Australia ignores energy efficiency, burns money

Energy efficiency is globally seen as the biggest and best option for cheaply reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dealing with rising power bills. But in Australia it still struggles for recognition…
Turning off the taps means we spend less, but is that bad? Turning off the taps means we spend less, but is that bad? Flickr/siette

Economists want water conservation to dry up

The Productivity Commission’s recent report on Australia’s urban water sector sets out the economic case for reform. One reform they suggest: remove water conservation measures. In Melbourne, most people…
Reusing construction waste can save companies a lot of money. Reusing construction waste can save companies a lot of money. Flickr/Peter Van den Bossche

Cleaning up the construction industry

Australia is one of the ten worst offenders in the OECD when it comes to generating solid waste. The construction industry is a leading contributor, throwing out a third of our gross national pile of (potentially…

Research Briefs (3)