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Landfill waste bloats over the holiday season

24 Dec 2016

Victorians send an extra 45,000 tonnes of garbage to landfill each year as the holiday season approaches, new data from Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) reveals.

EPA Chief Executive Officer Nial Finegan said landfill levy data collected by EPA each quarter showed an increase in waste between 1 October and 31 December each year.

“Unsurprisingly, the extra consumer activity seen towards the end of the year aligns with an increase in rubbish ending up in landfill. When we consume more, we throw out more,” Mr Finegan said. 

“The increase is equivalent to about 1,500 extra truckloads of garbage compared to the rest of the year, or seven kilograms of extra waste for every adult and child in Victoria,” he said.  

Mr Finegan said this meant that Victoria’s landfills tended to fill up quicker over the holidays.

Sustainability Victoria Chief Executive Stan Krpan said everyone could take steps to reduce their own contribution to landfill.

“Before throwing things away, consider if someone can reuse that item or if it can be donated to charity or recycled,” he said.  

“Many plastic, metallic and glass items, wrapping and cardboard packaging in particular can be recycled. If thrown out these items take up valuable space in landfill, causing our landfills to fill up quicker than they should.

“What’s worse is that many of the plastic items don’t break down for hundreds of years and these resources are wasted because they can’t be turned into new products.”

Garden clippings also contribute to the increase in waste going to landfill around Christmas time as people cut back vigorous garden growth spurred on by warmer weather.    

Mr Finegan said that large amounts of garden waste did not belong in landfill and should be disposed of in council green waste bins or through council green waste disposal services.

“The breakdown of garden clippings in particular produces methane gas, which can be hazardous at certain levels, so it’s really important to minimise the amount of putrescible and biodegradable wastes going to landfill,” he said.  

“Some of the key things we aim to avoid in managing landfills are emission of methane gas into the atmosphere, the migration of leachate – a liquid that drains from waste and can carry toxic pollutants to groundwater or surface water – and dust and offensive odours.

“These impacts can be distressing, especially for those who live close to landfills, and harm our environment. The good news is that we can all reduce these effects by disposing of our waste correctly and reusing and recycling materials.”

Mr Krpan said people should also be mindful of the amount of food they purchase and throw out these holidays.

“Food waste can become a major problem this time of year. We tend to over-purchase and over-cater, resulting in perfectly good food ending up in the trash. The food we throw into our garbage bins ends up in landfill and unless managed can also create methane, leading to potential environmental and public health risks,” Mr Krpan said.

“Our Love Food, Hate Waste website offers plenty of tips and advice on how to have a waste-free Christmas,” he said.

Research undertaken by Sustainability Victoria shows overall Victorian households throw out 250,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste each year. This amount of waste is costing each Victorian household approximately $2,200 every year.

It’s important to plan your shopping, cooking and food storage this Christmas to ensure you save money and keep valuable food from going to landfill.

Last financial year 1.8 million tonnes of municipal waste went to Victoria’s landfills – that’s about 300 kilograms for every Victorian. 

People should check with their local council if they’re unsure what recycling services are offered in their area, or visit the Sustainability Victoria website.

The increase in waste going to landfill over the holidays is equivalent to about 1,500 additional truckloads of garbage.
The increase in waste going to landfill over the holidays is equivalent to about 1,500 additional truckloads of garbage.

Page last updated on 24 Dec 2016