Reclaimed Journeys by Rodney Dekker

Seventy percent of what is purchased in Australia ends up in landfill and around five billion dollars worth of food is wasted annually. Australians waste far too much but these bad habits are gradually changing for the better. Rodney Dekker’s photo essay ‘Reclaimed Journeys’ documents the positive initiatives that are making a difference.

One of the largest and most successful recycling schemes in Australia is the Container Deposit Legislation (CDL) scheme that commenced in South Australia in 1977 which achieves an 80 per cent recovery rate of beverage containers. Portside Christian College in Adelaide has adopted a rigorous recycling programme, raising thousands of dollars through the CDL, which they donate as foreign aid. Other schemes include the recycling of plastic at Melbourne Zoo, the re-manufacture of tyres and billboards into a variety of products by Tyrecycle and Haul and the processing of household recyclables by VISY.

A number of charities in Melbourne, such as Sacred Heart Mission, are preventing food ‘waste’ from entering landfill by reclaiming perfectly edible food and cooking free meals for those in need. Families, governments and businesses are also reducing the generation of waste. Increasingly families are using reusable bags and nappies, a number of schools use second-hand government furniture and a café in Melbourne called Silo produces zero waste.

But what happens when waste does enter the environment? Marine debris impacts negatively on 77 Australian species such as birds and turtles. The government’s Coast and Marine Surveys Project and the organisation Earthwatch are examples of clean up operations. The Kananook Creek Association plays its role in clearing a local creek in Frankston, Victoria, to restore it to a thriving natural habitat.

By raising awareness, monitoring and cleaning up natural habitats, recycling, remanufacturing, reusing and extending the life of products, through to the reduction of waste in the first place, the need for raw material extraction is eased and less waste and fewer greenhouse gases are generated. This produces a cleaner and healthier environment for all species to enjoy.