What is Waste? 

Waste can be thought of as unwanted or unusable materials which have been discarded after their primary use.

What does waste do? 

Although we might not give much thought to what happens with our waste when we're done with it, that doesn't mean it's harmless.

When sent to landfill, waste can create a range of environmental harm through byproducts such a leachate, toxins, and methane production. 

How is waste created? 

The linear economy  follows the "take-make-dispose model", wherein value is created by making and selling as many products as possible.  

Many of the products we purchase are designed to be disposed of, because companies can make more if we have to buy items again. 

This happens even with items we don't think of as 'disposable', such as smart phones or washing machines, through a process called 'planned obsolescence' (meaning "the calculated act of designing and building a product to ensure the existing version will become dated or useless within a set timeframe").

The recycling economy is something that a lot of us have been taught to think of as the solution to waste, but is turning into its own waste crisis. More work needs to be done to create value for recyclable materials, so that they actually become recycled into something new, especially here in Australia. 

The circular economy aims to address the shortfalls of these two other systems through three main principles: 

  1. Design out waste and pollution
  2. Keep products and materials in use
  3. Regenerate natural systems

This more holistic approach allows for waste to be eliminated at the source, and reduce the need for over consumption - leading to more kind outcomes for our environment!

What small steps can we take to get started?
  1. Don't 'waste' your money: Reimagine how you might find a reusable alternative to things designed to be used once and thrown out.
  2. Don't buy things that you don't need: look into organisations like The Brisbane Tool Library that allows you to borrow instead of buy.
  3. Learn how to repair items that would otherwise be sent to landfill: Look into Repair Cafes, like those in Woolloongabba, Sandgate, and UQ! Talk to family or friends who may have that skillset, or peruse the internet! 
  4. Purchase items made with recycled materials: This is a start to creating demand for recycled materials, and shows companies that there is value in recycled products.
Be waste smart
  1. Make sure you know the rules. Recycling can be incredibly confusing, and the rules vary between Local Government Areas here in Australia. To learn what Brisbane City Council accepts, check out their rules here.

  2. Look into the more niche recycling streams around. Companies like Terracycle allow us to recycle those more tricky products, such as blister packs, plastic bottle caps, and plastic bread tags. Some retailers, like Banish and flora&fauna will even give you store credit for sending in your tricky recyclables, while Redcycle is the go to for recycling your soft plastics. UQ even offers some unique recycling streams at the Reuse and Recycling Station on the St Lucia campus.

  3. COMPOST! Did that more that 26% of the average Brisbane rubbish bin is food waste? Composting is a great way to get that organic material out of landfill, where it creates methane gas, while also giving back to our soils. If you live somewhere where you can't compost yourself, there are plenty of other options such as ShareWaste, and Brisbane City Council community composting hubs!





About UQ Sustainability Week 2021

Sustainability Week is an opportunity for the UQ community to celebrate and promote sustainability across UQ's campuses and sites. From August 16-20, a range of activities and events are hosted across all areas of the University, including markets, workshops, crafts and DIY, film screenings, specialist presentations, tree plantings, bird watching and garden tours, solar tours, forums and panel discussions, competitions and challenges to inspire sustainable behaviours.

Join us for the fun, check out the full program! Stay up to date by liking UQ Sustainability on Facebook or following us on Instagram

Important update: Based on the recent Covid restrictions, this year's Sustainability Week will be entirely online. Those events that cannot be transitioned to an online format will be postponed. Keep an eye on our social media channels, and our website for updates! (last updated Wednesday 25 August).