Recycling is a hot topic across Australia right now, with public interest piqued by the ABC's War on Waste television series.
A 2017 survey of 200 homes across Newcastle found that we're sending less waste to landfill than previous years and are recycling about 4kg of material per household every week. But more can be done, and the opening last month of the Newcastle Community Recycling Centre has made it even easier to find a second life for household items.
The CRC is one of 80 similar centres across NSW providing a permanent free drop-off service for common household waste items that can't be collected via normal kerbside waste and recycling collections.
Newcastle City Council has partnered with the NSW Environment Protection Authority to operate the CRC at Summerhill Waste Management Centre, which is open free of charge to everyone in the community - not just Newcastle residents.
Items accepted include:
Paint and paint-related products
Motor oils and cooking oils
Car and household batteries
Fluorescent light globes and tubes
Up to 20 litres or 20kg of each item can be dropped off at a time.
Items are sent for processing, with recoverable elements extracted for recycling. Paints are mixed with other waste solvents and used as an alternative to fuel in cement kilns. Lead-acid batteries contain lead, acid and plastic that can all be recovered and recycled, while fluorescent tubes and globes contain mercury and glass that can also be reused.
Residual gas from old gas cylinders and bottles is recovered, and the steel containers are sent for recycling. Used oils, meanwhile, are processed to become lubricants.
The new CRC is just one of a number of recycling projects across Newcastle dealing with aptly named problem wastes.
Newcastle City Council operates community recycling stations at key sites across the city, where people can drop off fluorescent globes, household batteries, ink cartridges, mobile phones and accessories, reading glasses and X-ray slides, year-round.
These can be found at Council's King St customer enquiry centre, Newcastle Museum, Newcastle Region Library, Wallsend Library and Summerhill Waste Management Centre.
Mini community recycling stations for household batteries, reading glasses and x-ray slides are at Beresfield, Stockton and New Lambton libraries.
The Newcastle Community Recycling Centre is supported by a $115,000 grant from the NSW Government's Waste Less, Recycle More initiative - the largest waste and recycling funding program in Australia.
A study of 1200 NSW residents done as part of the program found that more than eight in 10 people recycle household items, even if it takes more effort than simply throwing them in the bin. And 85 percent are concerned about environmental problems.
It will come as welcome news, then, that recycling of organic waste in Newcastle is also set to expand under plans for a new organics recycling plant to be built and operating at Summerhill by 2020-21.
The $12.8 million facility will be able to recycle 50,000 tonnes of organic waste annually, turning it into soil conditioner, compost and mulch to be used by the local community. It will start to accept food waste after three or four years of operation, further reducing the amount of material sent to landfill.
Summerhill's Community Recycling Centre is open weekdays 7.30am - 4.45pm and weekends and public holidays 9am - 2.45pm, except Christmas Day and Good Friday.