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With the depressing by-election results in WA, we have reason for concern. The by-election handed over the balance of power to a government riddled with broken promises, doublespeak (eg. be careful if the PM wants to be your “best friend”) and agendas aimed at making life easier at the top at the expense of the rest and also the environment.
More concerning is how backwards this government is on a problem that the rest of the world is owning up to; namely, climate change. There are huge expenses that come with allowing climate change to continue unmitigated. Australia already has a harsh, fluctuating climate.
Maybe this government believes Australia will be sufficiently cashed up on coal money as a buffer. Maybe their perspective myopic; stuck on just the next three years.In any case, their attitude and policies regarding climate change is insufficient. We will suffer for it.
Many of us feel that these are not public servants, but private appeasers. They do not represent us, nor do they work for policies to ensure the Australia the average Australian would recognise.
They seem to have forgotten us.
A while ago, Mike Marriott and I built “Generation Adaptation”. While there was not yet enough inertia for the project, there are elements of GenA that could be of great value.
Primarily, the forum. It now seems clear that, at least for the next three years, we will need to fend for ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we need to do it in isolation.
We can build a community.
I want to crowd source ideas and potential solutions to help individuals and communities reduce their living costs, their carbon footprint and improve their lives simultaneously.
I believe it’s possible – or else I wouldn’t have wasted all these years harping on about climate change and sustainability. We need to think differently. In my own life, I’m already making numerous steps in that direction.
Yet, for it to work, I pitch the following to my readership; If I was to make a type of forum on NewAnthro, would you help me make it a valuable resource and discussion platform for all? It would require not only interaction, but SHARING and encouraging others to also get on-board.
One person is a monologue. Two, a dialogue. This would need a community actively engaged in bucking the tend. While I focus on Australia, this platform would be international.
Case studies! If someone provides an excellent case study, it should also be a post (written by a reader, or by myself if it’s easier). The most important this is to show that this is possible, not wishful dreaming. I would think of this forum as proof that how we live isn’t the best it can be. We can achieve more only if we are willing to think differently.
If you like the idea, please “like” this post or comment. Also share this page to encourage others to do the same. If I can get a small community ready to begin the project, I’ll try to develop the infrastructure required.
Countries that accept the science… well, that rules Australia out. Apparently, climate change is “crap” in perhaps the most vulnerable country.
I would commend the government if they were brave enough to run with this as their official campaign video. They are, after all, looking for ways to save money and I can’t find a fault with it.
I couldn’t help but think of our current government.
By Anna Littleboy, CSIRO
While Australia’s rich stocks of raw mineral resources have contributed to the nation’s wealth and given us a competitive advantage we are also one of the highest waste producing nations in the world (on a per capita basis).
But can we do things differently? Can we change our production and consumption patterns to generate wealth from what we currently designate as waste?
Consider e-waste, which is the old TVs, DVDs, computers, household appliances and other electrical goods that we throw away. This type of waste has emerged as one of our fastest growing waste streams but only about 10% is recovered or recycled.
But e-waste devices also include valuable metals such as copper, silver, gold, palladium and other rare materials which means they are also ending up in landfill.
By 2008 we had already sent some 17 million televisions and 37 million computers to landfill, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
But if 75% of the 1.5 million televisions discarded annually could be recycled we could save 23,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, 520 mega litres of water, 400,000 gigajoules of energy and 160,000 cubic metres of landfill space.
Another way of looking at this is to compare gold yielded from an open pit mine with that from discarded electrical goods. Mining yields 1 to 5 grams of gold for every one tonne of ore. From the same quantity of discarded mobile phones and computer circuit boards, you can extract 350 grams and 250 grams respectively.
In a world increasingly addressing issues of sustainability, it’s no wonder that such end-of-life products are now being seen as urban mines – valuable sources of above-ground metals which can be recycled and reused.
That is the concept of the “circular economy”.
There is already some extensive recycling activity in Australia, helped by schemes such as the national Product Stewardship framework which encourages people to reduce waste.
But we still lose significant amounts of valuable and recyclable materials into landfill and park valuable metals in tailings and spoil heaps.
Given Australia is already a global leader in primary resource production from the ground, it is timely to think about how we might also adapt and grow our expertise to mine and process above ground stocks and remain at the cutting edge.
Globally, there is already growing capacity and innovation in recycling.
New forms of manufacturing and business models are being developed that integrate secondary manufacturing of recycled materials.
So the potential is there to diversify and adapt Australia’s skills and technologies to support the new forms of processing and manufacturing in this circular economy.
A major challenge lies in the ability to persuade people and industry to see waste products as a resource rather than a liability. We need to create more responsive manufacturing, processing innovation and new business models around recycling.
This will challenge the way we currently operate as a nation and ask us to rethink how we relate to consumer markets around the world.
We can’t keep relying solely on our raw mineral resources. Some commentators are now discussing materials scarcity as a bigger issue than energy scarcity.
This scarcity is driving a move towards a circular economy – one in which the value created by inputs (materials, energy and labour) is extended by enabling a material life that goes beyond product life. So we go from mineral to metal, to product, back to metal and so on.
By understanding such economies and value of how this chain operates in Australia, we can begin to understand, at scale, the barriers and opportunities to more sustainable consumption and production in a resource limited future.
That’s why CSIRO and its university partners led by University of Technology Sydney are today launching the Wealth from Waste Research Collaboration Cluster to do just this.
Although the technological challenges of complex materials processing are fascinating, it is innovative business models that hold the key to unlocking the wealth in our waste.
We also need to understand more about the cultural norms to see what needs changing.
Clean Up Australia found that around 14 million phones sit unused in drawers or cupboards, that’s equivalent to almost one unused phone for every two people in the country.
Although 90% of the materials within a mobile phone can be re-used, globally less than 10% of mobile phones are actually recycled. So why when we already have a solution do we not act to recycle our waste?
The research programme will be about finding new ways of doing things that accommodate our relatively small domestic materials market and challengs the mindset that size matters when it comes to complex materials processing.
If we wish to add urban mining to our global mining reputation then we need to couple research, industry and policy transitions for success in a future where recycling is an integral component of resource productivity, not a niche specialism.
Anna Littleboy does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
On a personal note; I’ve long said that the most repugnant aspect that I see as inevitable about the future is that our grandchildren will be forced to mine our landfill. Our dumps will be where future generations will be forced to acquire essential resources.
If there is so much value in this material, how could we possibly justify our processing pathway (ie from people like Rinehart to the tip)? We can’t. It’s that simple.
I felt a little weird with the coined term “Urban mine” but at least the dialogue is moving forward and long before our children’s children have to uncover the mess we swept under the rug, circular processing might become mainstream. This is as fundamental to address as is climate change.