Waste

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Hefty problem: a local council was left with a huge clean-up bill after a dead whale washed up in Perth last year. AAP Image/City of Stirling

Dead whales are expensive – whose job is it to clear them up?

Dead whales can cost beachside ratepayers a lot to clean up. The alternative is to tow them away before they wash up - but the legal question of who does the job is far more complex than it sounds.
In most states, the issue of container deposit legislation has festered for decades. Brian Finestone/Shutterstock.com

Spin the bottle: the fraught politics of container deposit schemes

Four decades after South Australia's container deposit scheme began, New South Wales has finally overcome industry resistance and launched its own. Could the rest of the country now follow suit?
The Western Treatment Plant in Werribee, Victoria, largely powers itself using biogas – a by-product of sewage treatment. Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock

Biogas: smells like a solution to our energy and waste problems

Could what we flush down the toilet be used to power our homes? Thanks to biogas technology, Australia’s relationship with organic waste – human and animal excreta, plant scraps and food-processing waste…
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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. 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…

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