Our contaminated recycling and what we can do to help

30 April 2020
Our contaminated recycling and what we can do to help

According to ACOR (Australian Council of Recycling) our household recycling and waste has increased by 10% as more of us are at home during COVID-19 lockdown measures. Along with this is an increase in recycling contamination.

Contamination is an issue because it can derail the hard work of those recycling diligently. The wrong items placed in our recycling bins lead to collections being unusable and ultimately thrown into landfill. 

The CEO of ACOR Mr Shmigel said in a recent interview there has been an increase in soft plastics going into kerbside bins when this should be going to the soft plastic recycling drop off points located at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. Soft plastics wreck havoc on the machines at the recycling sorting facilities.

The article went on to mention the rise in single use coffee cups in recycling bins. A majority of the single-use coffee cups can't be recycled through kerbside recycling because of the plastic and paper body. The cups can be recycled through Simple Cups drop off points found at 7-Eleven stores in VIC, NSW, QLD and WA. If you are going to use a single-use coffee cup please recycle because the paper is really valuable as it's considered high quality. 


So what can we do to help stop contamination?


You might be wondering why those in the zero-waste movement should do something after all recycling is a step only exercised after refusing, reducing and reusing. However it's a peculiar time. More people are cooking at home therefore more packaging. The takeaway coffee once enjoyed in a reusable is no longer available. And just because people choose a reusable coffee cup doesn't always mean they know how to recycle right either.

So while some of us know how to recycle these items correctly, others might not. If anything the current situation can be helpful in learning how and where to recycle correctly presenting a stepping stone we can build on in the future. 

How do we encourage others to recycle right?


More of us are online than ever before which giving us an opportunity to partake in online community education. Facebook is the preferred social media platform for most Aussies and we love a Facebook group. Something like a Buy Swap Sell group also doubles as a way to find out local information quickly or pass on notices. So I'm going to use my local Buy Swap Sell and another community group to help remind everyone to recycle right and not add to the contamination. I'm also using it as a way to get those food scraps out of the landfill bin and into our green organics bin or to start home composting.

If you'd like to do the same feel free to use the example below:

Join your fellow Moonee Valley residents in helping to recycle better.

During this peculiar time our waste and recycling has increased by 10%. Our recycling bins are being contaminated with soft plastics (like fruit and veggie bags, toilet paper wrapping, food packaging Australia Post delivery bags) and even single-use coffee cups. You can join your fellow neighbours by double checking what can be recycled on Moonee Valley City Council website mvcc.vic.gov.au/live/my-house/waste-and-recycling/

Other tips for recycling right:
- Soft plastics (hint: they can be scrunched into a ball) go to Coles and Woolworths soft plastics drop off.
- Avoid putting your recyclables in plastic bags as plastic bags break the machines.
- Single-use coffee cups can be taken to participating 7/11 stores. Due to the plastic lining within a coffee cup these can't go into kerbside recycle. You can find the nearest drop off here forms.simplycups.com.au/locations
- Food scraps should go into the green organics bin. This is turned into compost and passed onto farmers to help grow yummy food for us. Or start your own home compost and worm farm.
- Electronics (anything with a cord or battery) are not allowed to go into our landfill bins. Instead take them to the Transfer Station located 188 Holmes Road, Aberfeldie.

For tips on recycling other items visit www.recyclingnearyou.com.au


Hope you are all doing well at this time :)

P.S if you don't want to drop off items recycled through special programs right now keep them in a seperate box or bag until then, for example the coffee cups.




You can either snap a photo to go with your post or simply use the text above.

Now I'm aware there is the very slim possibility of some not so friendly comments but I have faith (or more hope) the majority understand I'm only trying to be helpful. It can be nerve-racking stepping outside the eco themed facebook groups to more general one talking about this kind of stuff. Just remember you are sharing information to be helpful and protect the planet. At least this works for me.

I believe social media an effective tool for sharing sustainable living tips organically and to help normalise wasting less. While it would be great for our governments (Council, State or Federal) to put out this information and we'd all make a change instantly the reality is the majority make a change because others are doing it too. Plastic and waste continues to be a popular topic in Australia so why not leverage it and help your community get it right on bin night.

Join a Toy library to reduce plastic and waste

14 April 2020

Sharing, borrowing and hiring services are essential to slowing down the manufacturing of new materials like plastic, curbing waste and helping address the collective need to have new stuff. There are many other benefits the act of sharing and borrowing provide like accessibility, connection with others, community wellbeing, learning to care for resources that belong to everyone, to name a few. I have noticed a growing interest in sharing rather than owning and today's blog post is about the magic of toy libraries.

I feel a blog post on toy libraries to be long overdue. Actually, I KNOW it's overdue. My son is now three years old. Even though I have not technically written about toy libraries here I did write about them in my first book Waste Not: make a big difference by throwing away less. And during my talks especially those on sustainable parenting I gush about them.

A post was planned and the photos were taken back in 2017 but sadly this blog took a back seat while I figured out the whole new parenting thing/writing a book. So if you are looking at the photos wondering who the baby is you can rest knowing it's my only kiddo.

Toy Libraries were not a new thing to me when I became a parent. I had already committed to the idea of toy libraries when I began reassessing my plastic use and living zero-waste life. Should I ever become a parent I would become a member instantly. And when our son was born we signed up as members of our local toy library and have enjoyed it.

Manufacturing new stuff like toys has a big environmental and social impact. Alot of resources are needed to create toys whether they are big toys or a tiny Barbie hair brush. Let's take a brief look at some...

  • Oil is needed to make the plastic (though a lot of plastic toys are made from down-cycled plastic – plastic that has been recycled but can't be recycled again) or new wood for wooden toys
  • Dyes and paints are manufactured to colour the toys
  • There is the coal fired electricity needed to keep machines running and factory lights on 
  • The fuel needed to transport the end product around the globe
  • There is the production of packaging
  • And of course the batteries should the toy be electronic
  • Don't forget 70% of an items waste, toys in this instance, is created during the manufacturing process

According to AmusingPlanet.com 75% of toys and their packaging are made in China where the wage a toy worker will earn over six months is the equivalent of what the toy will cost once it's sitting on shelves. The conditions they are working in wouldn't be considered fair in most countries these toys will eventually end up.

Most toys are not recyclable. When they become forgotten as children grow all of the resources including the effort and time people put into making the toys is discarded to landfill or dumped at Op shops.

Lastly repairing modern toys can be hard because they are either not repairable due to the material used or produced in a way that makes it hard to repair. When I had my sons Thomas train repaired the kind Repair Cafe volunteer explained most electronic toys break because they are not created with repairing in mind. It's planned obsolesce so you are forced to buy a new one.

Toy Libraries are one antidote to the problems manufacturing new toys create. Rather than buying new toys thus encouraging the burden on planet and people to continue my family can borrow a variety of toys instead of buying new. Beyond the environmental and social impact, a toy library is a fun way to ease the influx of toys from entering the house and later finding ways to dispose of responsibly.

Inside the Moonee Valley Toy Library
Looking through the building blocks
Loans and returns

What is a toy library?

A toy library is similar to a book library in that members hire items for a number of weeks. These toys are then returned and the process repeated. In Australia our public book libraries are funded by the government (our taxes) while Toy Libraries run independently funded by membership fees, small grants and fundraising. There is a committee of employees and volunteers keeping everything running.

Memberships vary from branch to branch, with some offering half price fees in exchange for a handful of days of volunteering. We chose this option and I attended four two hour shifts where I helped hire toys out, collect returned toys, count all the pieces that had been returned, keep the toys clean and the premise tidy. It was a lot of fun meeting other parents but what filled me with joy was watching the excited children hire toys. Kids truly don't care about having new toys, they simply want something that is new to them.

There are over 280 toy libraries in Australia and the easiest way to find yours is to visit Toy Libraries Australia. They are the peak body representing Australian toy libraries, providing support and helping promote them.

What can be borrowed?

Toy libraries offer musical toys, baby & toddler toys, costumes, construction toys, puzzles, games, imaginative toys, electronic toys, literacy & numeracy toys, books, special needs resources and toys, bikes, scooters. What is available varies from branch to branch too. Loan time again depends but is usually 3 weeks or longer.

Most toy libraries offer party packs a great idea for adding extra toys in the backyard, house or rented hall at a low cost. I have even seen jumping castles. Some might also hire out plates, cups, cutlery, kids chairs and tables for parties too. Membership is not always required to hire out a party pack.

Toys are suitable from birth to around 6-10 years old age, depending on each location.

As you can see in the photos below smaller toys are housed in reusable plastic bags with a label explaining what is in each bag and how many pieces. At my local ty library everything is hung up for easy sorting.

The toys are categorised by theme not gender something I liked immediately.

An example of how the toys are organised
The plastic bags toys are kept in and descriptions

Cleaning and what to do with broken or missing toys

You are encouraged to clean toys before returning. We cleaned our toys using a cloth soaked in soap and hot water. I would do this when I brought the toys home and before returning. This might come across as a chore but I see the process an opportunity to teach children how to look after items and to reiterate the need to respect and care for it as we are sharing the toy with other kids.

There is the chance a toy will break or returned with missing parts. Don't worry, you won't be shamed and banned for life. Instead a fee is paid when returned. And just like other libraries a late return incurs a small fine.

Forgot to clean the toy at home? You can clean them at the cleaning station
A wall of toddlers bikes

We don't have a toy library in our area, but I'm keen to start one!

It would be great to see toy libraries in communities across Australia and the world. Toy Library Australia have a brief guide on their website but encourage those eager to contact them directly for more detailed info. There are many successful libraries running for over 20 years and are happy to help with the set up process.

Last year while I was visiting Rosebud Library giving a zero-waste talk an elderly lady put up her hand to tell me and the audience she was thrilled to hear me talking about toy libraries as she was one of the founders of Australia's first toy library. You can read about my encounter with Evelyn here:

"This lovely person is Evelyn and she founded the first toy library in Australia 43 year ago with two friends in the Melbourne suburb of Mitcham. She came along to my talk at the Rosebud Library on the Mornington Peninsula to hear how I reduce waste. Of course I talked excitedly about toy Libraries in my presentation! As if I wouldn’t!! She wasn’t expecting to hear about toy libraries or chat about it either. But I’m glad my talk prompted Evelyn to tell me about her story and how the first toy library came together in a small community, the idea quickly spreading throughout Australia eventually turning into Toy Libraries Australia. There are now over 280 toy libraries!

I gave Evelyn a big hug to say thanks for laying foundations that do so much to not only reduce buying new toys and creating waste but what it does for communities. Of course she shrugged it off. These days she helps out with the local Boomerang Bag group in Rosebud.

There are a multitude of changemakers within all of our communities doing important work and they are usually quite volunteers. Their stories aren’t always told or even known by most. It’s the work of people like Evelyn that has helped the modern zero waste movement be easier to navigate. I’m simply standing on the shoulders of giants."

If anyone would like to contact Evelyn for an interview let me know as I have her email just in case.



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This lovely person is Evelyn and she founded the first toy library in Australia 43 year ago with two friends in the Melbourne suburb of Mitcham. She came along to my talk at the Rosebud Library on the Mornington Peninsula to hear how I reduce waste. Of course I talked excitedly about toy Libraries in my presentation! As if I wouldn’t!! She wasn’t expecting to hear about toy libraries or chat about it either. But I’m glad my talk prompted Evelyn to tell me about her story and how the first toy library came together in a small community, the idea quickly spreading throughout Australia eventually turning into Toy Libraries Australia. There are now over 280 toy libraries! I gave Evelyn a big hug to say thanks for laying foundations that do so much to not only reduce buying new toys and creating waste but what it does for communities. Of course she shrugged it off. These days she helps out with the local Boomerang Bag group in Rosebud. There are a multitude of changemakers within all of our communities doing important work and they are usually quite volunteers. Their stories aren’t always told or even known by most. It’s the work of people like Evelyn that has helped the modern zero waste movement be easier to navigate. I’m simply standing on the shoulders of giants. Image: two women standing side by side. #toylibrary #toylibrariesaustralia #toylendinglibrary #ilovelibraries #authortalk #wastenot #wastenoteveryday #wastenotbook #zerowaste #volunteer #ecovolunteers #communityservice #lesswaste #ecocommunity #share #sharingeconomy #borrow
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The play mirror our son picked out
Time to go home and play

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