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The perils of plastics and electronics

By Dr Kaushik Sridhar

The world produced only two million tonnes of plastic per year in the 1950s. Since then, the annual production has increased nearly 200-fold, reaching 381 million tonnes in 2015. This is roughly the equivalent of two-thirds of the world’s population.

By 2015, the world produced 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic — more than one tonne of plastic for every person alive today.

Take a minute to think about how many bottles of water you’ve bought this year, or how many plastic bags you’re using when buying the groceries. We can all go one step further when it comes to reducing our plastic waste; from tote bags to eco-refills for your coffee or washing products. Source local milk delivery services that will often use glass refill bottles to save on recycling plastics or check out zero-waste stores and join the ultimate plastic-free movement.

Remember, it’s all about balance. Going vegan isn’t necessarily the answer, and boycotting imported foods could have devastating effects on developing countries. Instead, making small gradual dietary changes can lead to a lifetime of healthy habits that drastically reduce your impact on the environment.

Electronic waste

In a new e-waste report released in 2015 by the United Nations University, global electronic waste has reached record-high levels! 41.8 million tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2014, fuelling concerns about the growing risks to public health, resource conservation and the environment.

While e-waste is not one of the main waste streams generated in Australia, it is one of the fastest-growing. It is estimated that around 109,000 tonnes of e-waste were generated in Victoria in 2015, with this projected to increase to around 256,000 tonnes by 2035.

Across Australia, businesses are the largest producers of hardware waste and recyclables, with a study finding that billions of dollars’ worth of recoverable hardware materials are binned every year. As consumers, we have no hesitation in throwing away perfectly usable devices just so we can get our hands on and be seen with the latest technology. Experts foresee the amount of annual waste increasing globally to 51 million tonnes a year as the digital world continues to expand.

To help protect our environment and recover more precious resources, the Victorian Government banned all e-waste from going to landfill as of July 1, 2019. That means, e-waste can’t go in any bin. In doing so, businesses need to ensure they are compliant and avoid fines by regularly checking local and state regulations, now that the new law has come into effect and is enforceable. Beyond complying, businesses can apply suitable technology, AI and blockchain solutions, taking the lead in areas that can really make an impact.

Showing leadership in sustainability will not only benefit business operations but also earn crucial support from consumers and the public that could translate into benefits for years to come.

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