War on Waste, the ABC documentary series presented by The Chaser's Craig Reucassel, brought some shocking statistics into lounge rooms all over the country earlier this year. 1.6-million viewers discovered that Aussies use more than ten million plastic bags per day and chuck out 3.3 million tonnes of food waste per year.
Meanwhile, the City of Melbourne is running a project that transforms cigarette butts into plastic products. Every week, the council collects more than 200,000 butts from 367 dedicated bins across Melbourne. "[It's] litter that may otherwise end up being washed down drains and into the Yarra River," said Lord Mayor Robert Doyle AC.
Unfortunately, cigarette butts are not biodegradable and take ages to break down. So, in collaboration with Enviropoles (who does the collecting) and TerraCycle (who does the recycling), the City is ensuring the butts are turned into usable items, including plastic furniture and shipping pallets. Funding comes from the Victorian Government, via the Litter Hotspots program.
"[So far], we have collected 1.2-million butts from around Melbourne's universities and hospitals and busy CBD locations that can be repurposed," Lord Mayor Doyle said.
To draw attention to the project, there's a Perspex box filled with cigarette butts in Queensbridge Square, on the banks of the Yarra.
The initiative follows the lead of Vancouver, Canada, and New Orleans in the US. "Cities around the world are looking for new ways to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill," said Councillor Cathy Oke, Chair of the City of Melbourne's Environment portfolio.