Beaming Green

Repair, Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle with Justin Bonsey

July 21, 2021 Season 1 Episode 29
Beaming Green
Repair, Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle with Justin Bonsey
Chapters
Beaming Green
Repair, Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle with Justin Bonsey
Jul 21, 2021 Season 1 Episode 29

To mark Plastic Free July, we go a little deeper and look at waste and recycling in New South Wales, Australia and beyond.  I speak with Justin Bonsey who works in the waste industry. 

Justin is the Strategic Lead of Resource Recovery at the Southern Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC), overseeing regional projects on infrastructure planning, waste data, regulatory reform and circular economy markets and has a long history working in various waste and recovery sectors.

Justin isn't one to stand still and is passionate about finding waste solutions, having co-founded Responsible Runners and Responsible Cafes.

In this interview, Justin speaks about how:

  • helping a friend in Northern Thailand sparked his interest in how to live more sustainably
  • his experience of seeing a lot of waste while running on Bondi Beach gave him the idea for Responsible Runners, encouraging runners and walkers to pick up any litter they see on Sydney's beaches
  • he campaigned with Boomerang Alliance to introduce the container refund scheme in NSW
  • the impact of banning exported plastic waste and tyre waste to South East Asia meant local authorities had to find another, more sustainable solution
  • in NSW glass is being recycled and used for building roads
  • consumers not knowing what is and isn't recyclable can contaminate a whole truckload of waste
  • the Responsible Cafes movement grew from 800—5000 cafes in a couple of months after the ABC's War on Waste aired.

I really enjoyed the discussion with Justin and was grateful that he gave some of his time and shared his considerable expertise on a Sunday, proving how committed he is to reducing our waste consumption.

Bio of Justin Bonsey

Justin Bonsey is Strategic Lead, Resource Recovery at the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC), overseeing regional projects on infrastructure planning, waste data, regulatory reform, and circular economy markets. Formerly a Boomerang Alliance campaigner for container deposits and bans on single-use plastics, he co-founded sustainability initiatives Responsible Cafes and Responsible Runners to address litter and marine debris, and help businesses improve their sustainability practices.

Links:
Responsible Runners Facebook
Responsible Cafe's
Justin Bonsey Interview Transcript

Show Notes Transcript

To mark Plastic Free July, we go a little deeper and look at waste and recycling in New South Wales, Australia and beyond.  I speak with Justin Bonsey who works in the waste industry. 

Justin is the Strategic Lead of Resource Recovery at the Southern Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC), overseeing regional projects on infrastructure planning, waste data, regulatory reform and circular economy markets and has a long history working in various waste and recovery sectors.

Justin isn't one to stand still and is passionate about finding waste solutions, having co-founded Responsible Runners and Responsible Cafes.

In this interview, Justin speaks about how:

  • helping a friend in Northern Thailand sparked his interest in how to live more sustainably
  • his experience of seeing a lot of waste while running on Bondi Beach gave him the idea for Responsible Runners, encouraging runners and walkers to pick up any litter they see on Sydney's beaches
  • he campaigned with Boomerang Alliance to introduce the container refund scheme in NSW
  • the impact of banning exported plastic waste and tyre waste to South East Asia meant local authorities had to find another, more sustainable solution
  • in NSW glass is being recycled and used for building roads
  • consumers not knowing what is and isn't recyclable can contaminate a whole truckload of waste
  • the Responsible Cafes movement grew from 800—5000 cafes in a couple of months after the ABC's War on Waste aired.

I really enjoyed the discussion with Justin and was grateful that he gave some of his time and shared his considerable expertise on a Sunday, proving how committed he is to reducing our waste consumption.

Bio of Justin Bonsey

Justin Bonsey is Strategic Lead, Resource Recovery at the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC), overseeing regional projects on infrastructure planning, waste data, regulatory reform, and circular economy markets. Formerly a Boomerang Alliance campaigner for container deposits and bans on single-use plastics, he co-founded sustainability initiatives Responsible Cafes and Responsible Runners to address litter and marine debris, and help businesses improve their sustainability practices.

Links:
Responsible Runners Facebook
Responsible Cafe's
Justin Bonsey Interview Transcript

Jeremy Melder  00:00

Hello, my name is Jeremy Melder, and I'm the presenter from Beaming Green. Before we start, I would like to acknowledge that this podcast is being held on the traditional lands of the Bundjalung people and pay our respects to elders both past, present, and emerging. Beaming Green podcast is a podcast that will help you take out some of the stress and confusion about how to live your life more sustainably. We do this by introducing you to inspiring people with first-hand experience and expertise who covered aspects of sustainability, from human interest to environmental perspectives, helping you to thrive and enhance your life, and the lives of your friends and family. Welcome to this episode of Beaming Green. Today, I'm excited to be speaking with Justin Bonsey, who is the strategic lead for the resource recovery at Southern Sydney regional organization of councils. He oversees regional projects on infrastructure planning, like waste data, regulatory deposits, and the bans on single use plastics. Justin previously worked with the Boomerang Alliance campaigning for the container deposit scheme and the bans on single use plastic. He also co-founded sustainable initiatives, like Responsible Cafes, and Responsible Runners to address litter and marine debris, and help businesses to improve their sustainability practices. Please join me in welcoming Justin to Beaming Green.  Justin, thank you so much for joining us on Beaming Green today.  I noticed from looking at your CV that you've have a long list of accomplishments in the sustainability area. So, you started off  Responsible Runners and Sustainable Cafes. And I believe you're still you're working in the sustainability area now. I was also curious that you also worked as a journalist in in the US as a Japanese translator. Is that right?

 

Justin Bonsey  02:14

Yes. Well, I've got a long-staggered history of various things. I feel like I'm a bit of a jack of all trades and Master of None. Yeah, really. But yeah, I started out really working as a Japanese to English translator years ago, which I've continued to do on a freelance basis. And kind of used that to get into grad school in New York City where I studied finance and economic policy, kind of in the international affairs context. And then, funny enough, despite having that master's degree, where I probably could have gone into trade, and, you know, the Senate, and you know, all these sorts of things. I did a short, a short stint in the finance committee in the US Senate as well. I ended up getting a job as  a reporter, following a big Japanese baseball player who just joined the Yankees. So, I ended up doing that for three years, which was, which is interesting. Yeah. doing live broadcasting in Japanese to a million people. 

 

Jeremy Melder  03:26

Wow that’s amazing. So, what took you down the sustainability path? What was the catalyst for that change in embracing sustainability in your life and in your work?

 

Justin Bonsey  03:36

Well, I think the gateway activity for me was a friend of mine who built his own farm in northern Thailand. And he built it from the ground up, he had a plot of land that had been used for chemical farming. So, he went through the process of getting the chemicals off the land, replenishing the soils, built his home, and started planting lots of different varieties of rice and everything else. And I got involved in that originally and got my hands dirty planting and harvesting and helping around there. Just because it's, you know, it's a fun and, and very fulfilling way to spend your time. And I learned a lot while I was there. And from there, I was kind of hooked on sustainability, and my link to the planet. So, from there after I left Thailand, moved down to South America for a bit and was working with kids in the community, teaching them how to compost their food scraps, and how to use the output of that to grow their own their own food. You know, mostly starting with some basic stuff like Herbs and you know, stuff that's hard to go wrong. You know, bananas and, you know, we started some avocado trees and that sort of thing. And that was, that was a fantastic experience for me, because I could really experience that, you know, obviously the sustainability side of it, but to try to translate some of those ideas in a way that the local kids could not just understand, but to really embrace. And they just, they grabbed it and ran with it. And kids were stepping up to take, you know, to take responsibility for that little garden that we planted together. And they were really enjoying it. And there wasn't much I needed to do after that, because they just, they just took the ball and ran with it. And it was it was beautiful to see. So that was, that was kind of the first thing that I sort of initiated myself. And then when I came to Australia in 2012, I moved to Bondi with my partner at the time, and we spent a lot of time on the beach, as I think a lot of people do in Australia. And it was having this day. And then early September, it was an unseasonably hot, early summer day. And in the morning, the beach was close to pristine, you know, really, big isn't microplastics and cigarette butts as there aren't a lot of beaches. But by the end of the day, after 10s of 1000s of people converged on the beach, they left the entire beach completely rubbished. And I'd never seen anything like it before in my life, a transition from gorgeous, and you know, you could be on some remote island in the tropics, somewhere, to a real, a real stark reminder that there is an issue with single use disposable items, particularly plastics that persist in the environment. And yeah, and something had to be done about it. So, I started picking it all up.  I just created a bit of momentum from there.

 

Jeremy Melder  07:07

Yeah. And is that when you were it? Was it you started the sustainable runners group? or?  responsible cafe, Which ones? Which one started first? Or was it both at the same time,

 

Justin Bonsey  07:21

we basically use that momentum. So, I went out on the beach that night, picking up as much as I could with my head toward john, because you know, the sun had gone down and asked you and other people who are running along and I was running, so I could cover as much ground as I could. And finally, somebody stopped to help. He became a good friend of mine. In between the two of us, we picked up about 100, probably 100 kilos of rubbish beach that lay over two and a half hours.

 

Jeremy Melder  07:48

That's amazing.

 

Justin Bonsey  07:50

Yeah, a lot of bottles and cans and you know, things like that, that would, that would later have a value after we have continued deposit scheme in New South Wales. And so, it started off as a kind of an emergency response to make sure none of this stuff ended up in the ocean. And little by little, you know, with word of mouth and a bit of social media, more people joined. And we had a strong contingent that came every Sunday, kind of adopted the beach, more people can at some point, one point, we had, like 25 or 30 people that were showing up every Sunday, and then little by little other groups started to pop up in neighboring suburbs, and then another states and territories down on the west coast. And that's from that point responsible runners was born.

 

Jeremy Melder  08:41

So how did you spread the word? I mean, it seems like it's just happened organically. Or did you use some sort of media form of media to get the word out?

 

Justin Bonsey  08:51

We worked closely with social media was a real big one. Yeah, working with other organizations like the Two hands project Take three, clean up Australia, you know, some of the real classical organizations in Australia that have achieved so much. But on a local level, we worked very closely with transition Bondi, which is part of the greater transition Sydney in transition Australia movement. And the good friend of mine, Lance, who was he's been extremely active in the Bondi community for many years. He had started a local group there, watching, you know, watching films, in educational films, and, you know, basically bringing volunteers together to cook vegetarian meals and basically just having a good sense of community and responsibility where we could talk and share and, and that was my first exposure to sustainability in Australia. So, I was extremely lucky to have met Lance and a lot of the other people that were associated with that, and I started just spreading the word in there saying, hey, we've got to do something to keep the litter out of the out of the ocean, and more people started to come. And then that through social media and this and that it started to spread. And I think the probably the initial popularity came, because there's this sense of if there's an environmental issue, it's easy to just leave it to the local council to do something about it, because that's what we pay our rates to do. But I think some of the early popularity for it was because locals were taking responsibility for some for an issue that they themselves didn't necessarily contribute to. And that it was it was a kind of a show that we're all in this together. So, there's, as they say, there's no, there's no passenger on Spaceship Earth. Right. We're all drivers on the planet and similar that we can all contribute to the solution. Yeah. So, I, I think people started picking up on that idea. And more people started showing up. And yeah, I think I think it just got bigger from there.

 

Jeremy Melder  11:16

So, in your observation, Justin, do you think that people are more aware of this situation, particularly around where you started off in Bondi? Or do you still think there's a little bit of a lack of care, you know, about plastics and what's happening in, you know, to the product that's being just left behind on beaches, how it's affecting marine life, and so on.

 

Justin Bonsey  11:41

I think we've seen a dramatic shift in awareness from that time until now. So that was 2012. We still didn't have a container deposit scheme in New South Wales, we've been working with the Boomerang Alliance, to campaigning for container deposits, nationally. But we kept running into roadblocks because all it took was one state in the coalition of Australian government or co ag a process to veto a container deposit bill. So, we started doing it on a state-by-state basis. And we knew that if we could get New South Wales across the line, then the other states and territories would follow, which is exactly what happened with So back in 2012,  there were only two or three states, I think Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory who would actioned single use plastic bags, by phasing those out, of course, South Australia had, they've had a container deposit scheme, since I think, the mid 70s, which has been highly effective. But with a redemption rate, I think, close to 85 90%. But since that point, I think in 2014, New South Wales introduced a container deposit scheme. And that started to spread. And since that point, almost every state and territory if not everyone, has announced a ban on single use plastic bags there have a container deposit scheme, either currently being planned or already haven't been introduced. And some states have gone so far as to even ban straws and cutlery and, you know, polystyrene food containers and things like that. And I'm not sure if that would have happened. If it weren't for the groundswell of support from, you know, all sorts of grassroots organizations responsible runners are, is one of many Yeah, yeah. And but take three,  clean up Australia, two hands project, you know, the transition movement, and many others Plastic Free July has worked miracles, yeah. Tangaroa Blue. There's a long list of organizations that have contributed.

 

Jeremy Melder  13:54

Now, I agree. I agree. So, I think you know, you're right, there is a groundswell of people that are convincing. But I'm still surprised that you know, the amount of litter that I still see, you know, when I walk around, even where I live in a pristine area, which is between, you know, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah, in Northern New South Wales, I still see, you know, rubbish that is just thrown on the side of the road when I'm riding my bike or going for a walk. And I just still think our why are people still doing that? You know, aren't we caring for our environment? Like we ought to, you know, just as a little insight for you, I used to also work in the container refund scheme. So, I used to work at Tomra. A couple of years when we were interested in New South Wales and Queensland. So that was a great coup to see that take place. And I worked with I believe you worked at Boomerang Alliance as well. Is that right?

 

Justin Bonsey  14:46

Yeah, that's right. So, I was working as a campaign manager there working on the container deposit campaign. First, nationally, but then we started focusing mostly on New South Wales as well as a waste Tyre campaign, I don't think a lot of people realized that after, let's say you take your car to the to the local mechanic or wherever you get your tires replaced, that the waste tyres, there actually is a product stewardship scheme on those tyres. But what was happening is you have rogue recyclers who are not really recycling the tyres, but they'll pick up the tyres for a fraction of the cost of what it would normally be like 250 or whatever, or tyre. And then it would, they would take them and dump them in the bush or put them in empty shipping containers that would end up in China or Southeast Asia. Where  they, you know, they, they cause all sorts of diseases and fire hazards and all the rest. And a lot of states and territories now have actioned that to, to really clamp down on the rogue recyclers and make sure that those tyres are properly being recycled. And importantly, they're being traced from where the waste is generated all the way through to, to the recycling.

 

Jeremy Melder  15:59

Yeah, I agree. So, what are your thoughts on you know, we were we were sending out, you know, container loads, not just tires, but also plastic waste, you know, overseas to Southeast Asia and so on. What are your thoughts on what that? And do you think that's also helped us in our own backyard in Australia look at our waste, and how we can what how we can minimize it?

 

Justin Bonsey  16:25

Yeah, that's it? That's a good question. I think it was a bold decision. By the by the New South Wales Government to ban the export of unprocessed recycled materials. There's a lot of issues around that. I think a lot of people in the waste industry probably would have liked to see the onshore processing capacity and infrastructure a little bit further developed before the ban had been implemented. But at least it's been phased in by different material streams. But on the other hand, sometimes you need to have a major a significant change, that just shocks the entire industry and to take an action in individual state and territory governments as well. Because this is an issue a bit like litter, where we sort of outsource a problem, right? We have this way, if we don't know what to do with it, we've generated it. Some people don't want to take the effort to put it in a bin or to take it home and recycle it or composted or whatever. So, they just drop it. But similarly, Australia, but on a national level was kind of doing the same thing. But then when it started to come out that this waste was causing major social and environmental issues in other countries, I think it was a very responsible decision to say, okay, well, we got to stop that work, we got to take all this waste, we're not sure what to do with it yet. But let's keep it here in Australia, let's take responsibility for the waste that we create, let's do something with it. And so that's not only going to minimize the risk of, you know, environmental and social issues continuing in other countries, but it's a significant economic opportunity here in Australia. Because now, you know, the federal and state governments are investing in the essential infrastructure that we need to process all of this you know, councils are becoming more and more involved in the supply chain to help drive end markets for these recycled materials. Sustainable procurement is becoming it's really coming to the fore oh really has is a major tool. Yeah. So, for example, looking at the southern Sydney regional organization of councils where I work now, we represent 11 major councils south of the Harbour Bridge, ranging from Canterbury Bankstown in the West, down Southerland in, in the south, all the eastern suburbs in a West and City of Sydney. And together, when all those councils take a coordinated regional approach to issues and them, they bring their purchasing power together, they can leverage that and get positive outcomes. So, for example, we had a procurement of Asphalt with recycled crushed glass as a substitute for natural sand that we've, we've just finished and bring in all those councils together plus four other councils outside of our region. And then also working closely with transport for New South Wales, who have taken a similar approach. Basically, for those procurements, we have more than doubled demand for recycled crushed glass across the entire state. Wow, that's fantastic. And yeah, so good outcome. Yeah. So, what effectively the material recovery facilities or MURFs have told us is that it's solved the surplus glass problem in Sydney,

 

Jeremy Melder  20:07

because that was a big issue even with the recycling scheme with the amount of glass that was coming through. Right. So, you found a solution? Absolutely. That's fantastic. Do you think that would be something that could be replicable throughout the country?

 

Justin Bonsey  20:20

Absolutely. We, we've already seen in Victoria, they're far ahead. They're further ahead, the New South Wales and South Australia, they've always been ahead, I think of other states for a long time. So, they've been doing it. But absolutely, so the framework that we've used, it started with a memorandum of understanding between our 11 councils to prioritize recycled materials and procurement. So, it was a soft, non-binding commitment, more of a policy, a policy direction. And that was used as a framework to get everybody thinking about the issue and just working together on a common framework. And then from there, the low hanging fruit was using glass as a replacement for natural sand, which, of course has big carbon reduction benefits as well, really, yeah. And then from there, the next phase we're already scoping is, is exploring increasing the use of recycled plastics and rubber in roads. And its a, it's a bit of a tricky issue there, because there are regulatory concerns around the plastics. And you know, just to make sure that there's no plastic leaching coming out of it. And, you know, to make sure that it's that it's not just well performing, but you know, what's safe for the workers and for the environment, but also has good performance benefits as well. Yeah. But that that has the potential, I think, to make our roads, a carbon sink, incredibly, as well as used a lot of these low value mixed soft plastics that are very difficult to use in any other context. Yeah. At least, you know, creates a market for them.

 

Jeremy Melder  22:11

Yeah. Yeah. I don't know about you. But I am amazed when I walk through a supermarket shelf, look at all the supermarket shelves around and I look at still the amount of plastic packaging that is being produced. And it is, it is difficult to reuse that. And I'm just wondering why the packaging industry doesn't look at alternatives to that. Have you got a view on that at all?

 

Justin Bonsey  22:35

the packaging industry was okay. So, if we break it down a bit, we have the brand owners, right, so let's say you're a Nestle, for example, nestle are taking a very proactive approach. They're stepping into the supply chain, and they're really trying to drive solutions. And when you think about it, one small change from a major multinational like that can have a huge impact across many different countries. So, they're, they're looking at their different packaging configurations to see what how can we make our packaging more recyclable? So, for example, using more common polymer types, let's say you take a good example is a single use coffee cup. Right? Where you have, it looks like cardboard on the outside, think great. It's recyclable. I'll put it in my, you know, my, my paper bin. But actually, of course, it has that plastic on the inside. Yes. Which, which is not only bad for the environment, because it effectively makes that cup, not recyclable, but it's leaching chemicals into our bodies. Yeah. Which is, which is frightening. But for example, if you were to take different packaging configurations, and think about what the best way is to design the packaging, so that it can be recycled, using our current infrastructure that doesn't require, you know, taking all these little bits of paper and plastic and separating them through complicated processes, then it would increase the recyclability of the packaging. There's research being done right now on how we can reduce the great number of polymer types, which effectively, if you look at your plastic packaging, you'll have a number one or number two and number three, these types of things. How do we get that down to just you know, two or three numbers even just one even just want you?

 

Jeremy Melder  24:34

 I don't know about you, but I find those numbers myself even working in the industry. confusing, right? I'm just seeing the average mom, dad, the child how do we all you know, decipher what these numbers mean. And it's really, I think you're right, we need to narrow it down whittle it down to one to one would be ideal if we could, but you know, maybe two or three but geez, I don't know him. We got eight, isn't it? Eight or, nine.

 

Justin Bonsey  25:01

And then of course, there's the mystery. Other number. Yeah, it isn't identifiable.

 

Jeremy Melder  25:08

I don't really agree with this whole thing about the leaching of plastic going into our bodies. I don't think a lot of us are aware of that, you know, I think there's been research that says that there's a better credit card size of plastic that we are consuming in our food because of some of this plastic that we don't even know where of where it's coming from. So, it's, it's a big issue. Yeah. And in terms of coffee cups, are they Is there anything out there in your responsible cafes work that you can even recommend as a takeaway apart from a, you know, reusable coffee cup that you can use?

 

Justin Bonsey  25:45

Yeah, you know, I think that's the big one is sit down and have your coffee, and don't use any single use waste to bring your own cup. I mean, it really is the most sustainable way to go. Because you're not generating any waste. Yeah, there are some alternatives. So, the problem there that I think was difficult for me to understand until I dug into it a bit is you have these cups that seem recyclable, so put them in, you know, the, you know, paper recycling bin, right. But they're not, they're not actually going to be recycled, because, you know, because for the reasons we discussed, so people are trying to do the right thing. And if we wanted to recycle them, they would need to go through a special recycling process, which would mean, we would need a clean stream of just that material. But when we put it in the recycling bin at home, not only is it not recycled, but it contaminates otherwise perfectly recyclable materials. So, it's sort of a double-edged sword there. So, more cafes are offering collection service where, let's say you take your takeaway cup, and then if you bring it back next time, and you drop it off, they have specialized collection and processing services there. There's a couple of different other organizations that have popped up in recent years that are doing extremely well like green caffeine.

 

Jeremy Melder  27:18

Tell me about that.

 

Justin Bonsey  27:19

Yeah, so what they do is they supply reusable cups, reasonable takeaway cups, but to participating cafes, and people can basically sign up through a cool app. And they get their coffee to go. And they can return that reusable cup to any participating cafe, where they will then wash it and make it available to the next person.

 

Jeremy Melder  27:41

It's called green caffeine.

 

Justin Bonsey  27:43

That's right. Okay, Green caffeine knows another one called Husky cups. Yeah, they're doing something similar. Through responsible cafes are the original idea was to work with cafes to help them improve their sustainability practices. And the first one was that we focused on really wanted to get it right. was for the cafe is to offer a small discount to be able to bring their own reusable cup. And that I think we before it made it to war on waste back in 2017. We had about 400 participating cafes across the country. Wow, that's bad. Within a month, two months we had we had about 5000. Absolutely. Yeah, well, it helps when you have Craig Rucastle spruiking it on.

 

Jeremy Melder  28:35

Thank you, Craig.

 

Justin Bonsey  28:37

Craig is a legend. Thank you, him to the ABC for the fantastic work. They did. Yes. an awareness of these issues. That's great. And we were we were really rushing to have when we found out that our website was going to be featured, we were rushing to make sure that our website was ready to go to handle those

 

Jeremy Melder  28:56

Yeah, yes,

 

Justin Bonsey  28:58

process their requests as they came in. And, and unfortunately, during the pandemic, not as many people or I should say not as many cafes are accepting reusable cups, for, you know, health and safety reasons. So, there's ways around that. They have contactless systems now where you can put your reasonable cup there, put it on a tray, and the barista can just slide that cup over, put the coffee in, they don't even need to touch the cup. So, it's still completely viable. But since that point, Jo Horsley, who's taken over as General Manager of Responsible cafes over the last few years, she's worked hard to expand the concept of Responsible cafes, to other sustainable practices. So basically, taking that that original network of cafes and expanding it from just you know, we offer a discount if you bring any Your reusable cup. To other things like, are you using renewable energy on premises? Are you composting your food waste? You know, a whole variety of things, and then giving them a little rating system based on, you know, you get one, two, or three beans. And on the map, that's available through the website, yeah, you can go and see, well, where do I want to spend my money at a local cafe that's really working hard to minimize their footprint? Yeah.

 

Jeremy Melder  30:31

And that's the thing, isn't it, we can influence change with our wallet, in terms of what we buy, and support people that are trying to do the right thing by the environment is not just about us, it's also about wildlife that are getting affected by all these things as well. And marine life, there's a lot of fuel going into making this plastic and how it's affecting the environment. So, it's just, you know, how do we bring that awareness across? And you know, I was doing an interview last week, funnily enough, I found that, you know, in schools, government funding training for teachers, about sustainability in the education system, and I was going, this is very interesting, that that's not happening. You know, I just think that's a fundamental thing that we get the teachers trained up so they can talk about the issues with the kids, because they are the future of this country really, aren't they?

 

Justin Bonsey  31:30

I think it's our best opportunity. Yeah. To really enable kids to make good decisions for themselves and to understand the impact that their behavior has, yeah, as an adult, it's taken me a while to kind of understand, and I'm still understanding each day, I find out something that I have been doing for 20 years that is having a bad impact on the planet. But I, you know, I wish I had that opportunity as a kid where somebody sat me down and said, hey, this, you know, here's, here's a great, great way to live, here's some things that you could do to not just minimize your negative impact on the planet, to have a positive impact. Yeah,

 

Jeremy Melder  32:08

absolutely. And I think that's so true. What you just said, you know, we I'm continuously learning every day, even during this podcast talking to you just now I've learned a few things, you know, you know, learned about green cafe and all those things. So, it's wonderful that we can all share this, we have this opportunity to learn because I think we're all on this planet to learn and do and make a difference if we can. What are your thoughts about nationalizing the way we look at waste, rather than it being, you know, a statewide solution? Do you think that we have the room to make it more of a national decision rather than each state?

 

Justin Bonsey  32:48

I think it's going in that direction already. We're seeing the national waste strategy is picking up and focusing on several things that have that have first gained attention in individual states.  The national packaging targets, for 2025, which aims to increase the recyclability of packaging, the compostibility of it, the amount of recycled content that's used in packaging, these sorts of things. There is an increasingly harmonized approach to otherwise disparate approaches to different issues. I think there's there is real opportunity, the fact that we have an assistant Minister for waste and resource recovery now, at the federal level, I think he speaks volumes about this the COAG export bans of unprocessed, recycled, recyclable materials. That too, is a national process. There's a lot of discussion around having a national approach to waste education. That's a big one. Yeah. So, you know, otherwise, you know, traditionally, it's been sort of left to councils, and in some cases, states, yeah, to increase awareness around, you know, the importance of not littering and proper recycling and things like that. But there's more and more discussion around how we can you know, how we can leverage all of these, these resources to make sure that everybody is getting the same message, because it's quite confusing. But I think one of the biggest opportunities we have through a harmonized federal approach is in the labeling on our packaging. Yeah. So, you, as I'm sure you're aware, having worked with Tomra. One of the biggest issues is, let's take a step back. If we look at where waste is generated, and we follow it through the value chain, right, so let's say get a bottle of Coke, or something like that right now, take it home. I drink it, I can either put it in my curbside bin, or I can take it and get my 10-cent refund in New South Wales. And in that's much better because it's going to give us a clean material stream. But if I put it in my bin at home, right, when the trucks come by to collect all the recycling, I may have properly recycled all my materials with 100% accuracy, but maybe my neighbour hasn't. And when those are combined, in the back of a truck, that contamination rate is going to rise little by little. And this can be through people trying to do the right thing. But they but they just don't know. Or maybe there's something that used to be recyclable, but now it's not. Yeah, you know, because all depends on end markets, you know, what, what do we do with these materials. But one thing that really will help everybody understand how to properly recycle is consistent uniform labeling. So, the Australasian recycling label or ARL is a really good way to do that. Because there's a little label that would go on all the packaging, particularly food packaging can be quite confusing. And it tells you what to do, do you put it in your curbside bin? Do you take it back to the store, like if it's soft plastic, that sort of thing? It tells you whether something is recyclable and how to do it. If we look at our packaging, now, there's no regulation on what different companies and brand owners can put on their packaging, they can put the generic recycling label on there, you know, the little three arrows are pointing to each other. But that doesn't mean anything. It's sort of an aspirational suggestion, like this should be recyclable or go recycle this, but it doesn't consider what are the local collection systems? Where does this material go? How is it going to be used by the material recovery facilities by re-processes and re-manufacturers on shore? And the real key, I think, to unlocking the potential of in markets is having a clean material stream. So having better proper recycling through a uniform recycling label will increase the value of those materials passing through the system, and give a lot of our onshore manufacturers, much higher quality feedstock, so they can make types of the types of products that people want, but with more recycled content, which were I should say, Australian recycled content. And that will get us closer to achieve in a closed loop system.

 

Jeremy Melder  37:41

How far away off are we Justin? Do you think?

 

Justin Bonsey  37:45

Well, the Australasian recycling label is a good idea. But now, it's voluntary. You need to be a member of the Australian packaging covenant organization, which is a great organization and they're doing good things. But that too, is voluntary. Yeah. The three really are no major repercussions for companies that don't make much of an effort around their packaging. I think there's a real opportunity for the federal government to work with states and territories to mandate the uniform recycling label, and to regulate all the other claims of recyclability. compostability biodegradability, that's, that one's a real issue, and even worse, degradability and Oxo degradability, which really are just fancy greenwashing ways of saying nothing at all. Yeah. So, I think if we had a harmonized approach to that, that made it mandatory for products to have that label, we would see a dramatic shift in recycling behavior.

 

Jeremy Melder  38:50

So, agree with that, you know, I think, you know, I like that you say it's greenwashed because it's so true, because a lot of it is and this thing about consistency throughout local government regions and collection points. There is so much confusion from between, you know, Byron council here where we are and between the Tweed council you know, in what's collectable, then there's the Lismore Council. And so if we had a consistency in terms of what's you know, really recycle, and you have this system that you were talking about the labeling system, it makes it such a smoother supply chain in terms of recycling these goods in a clean way, rather than you know, as you said that one person is putting, doing their best making their best effort to you know, recycle good, but their next door neighbor isn't, and you're getting contaminated waste, and you don't want to do that, you know, and what we're trying to do is reduce that. So, I'd say yeah, it's a shame. It's a voluntary thing you were saying, but you know, be great if some of the bigger organizations put some cash towards making it mandatory, you know, because it's for the environment it might also influence buying decisions. You know, from people because I know that x y Zed companies really pushing for this because they really care about the environment. What do you think about that?

 

Justin Bonsey  40:10

 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And we're seeing more examples of product stewardship as well, where, you know, companies are taking responsibility for the packaging that they create and profit from, to make sure that it's being properly recycled. I mean, recycling really is a last resort. You know, we hear about it as the way to fix our waste issue. But it really is the last resort we need. We need to refuse, reuse, reduce all of these things, really buy only the things that we absolutely need, and then make conscious decisions around Okay, well, when I buy this, how is it going to be reused, repaired, repurposed, yeah, to really extend the life of it, because that not only reduces waste, but it also reduces carbon emissions because we know we won't have to go buy a new product. From that point, a good example going back to Nestle, where they are investing in product stewardship at the local government level, where they did a trial together with the material Recovery Facility, IQ renew, and, and curb cycle, which is a subsidiary of IQ renew, where they trialed soft plastics collections at home in several 1000 households in the Central Coast. They took the soft plastic that was collected through there, and then processed it through Licella, which was also based at IQ renew and the Central Coast. And Licella  is an incredible emerging technology that that is so new, it doesn't, it doesn't have a regulatory framework around it yet. But it can take all these plastics, particularly the low-grade mixed plastics, that there's really nothing else to do with them. And it can convert it back into crude oil, wow, through what they it's called a cat HTR or a catalytic hydrothermal reactor. So, it's, it's not exactly chemical processing, it's not exactly thermal, it's kind of a kind of an in between. But it can take all these plastics, turn it back into a bio crude oil that can then be fractionated into various grades of the fraction it so it'll produce everything from a diesel fuel on the lighter end to ethylene, which can then be processed into polyethylene to make things like KitKat. wrappers, where even the lower the heavier grade can be used to cut bitumen. It's used in our roads as a binder to keep all the aggregate together, it then becomes a plastic derived resource. But what Nestle Curb cycle I saw, and IQ renewal did in their trial is take that soft plastic, put it through the Cat HTR process, and then basically took that down to you know, working with other lyondellbasell and Amcor and a couple of other the other processes. And they turn that back into KitKat wrappers that were manufactured here onshore in Australia. And I was the first closed loop system that we've seen using locally recycled soft plastic to turn it back into effectively the same thing. Yeah,

 

Jeremy Melder  43:27

which we otherwise can't

 

Justin Bonsey  43:30

do it that hasn't been done elsewhere, as far as we know. So that's a great example of, of a corporation, putting money behind something to really try to find a solution. Yeah, so and that's for things that, like, food packaging is going to be a very difficult one to solve. So recycling is in product stewardship are an important part of that, I think. But that's, that's for the types of things that we can't phase out. So, you know, if we can phase out going back to your question, what can we do nationally? If we can ban single, the unnecessary problematic single use plastics, like not just the light gauge plastic bags, but they're heavier gauge ones? Yeah. bags, yeah. You know, maybe even some of the compostable plastic bags because a lot of those end up. Now, if, if they're certified to the Australian standard for compatibility, there's industrial compatibility and home compatibility. Those are very good standards. Okay. And I would stand behind those. But if that relies on two things, one, the distributor whoever uses that must get that certification, which isn't a difficult process, but it's there and it's there for that reason, to give us as consumers, some confidence that, you know, what we're, what we're using is going to end up in the right place. But there's also having the collection system to make sure that if something is compostable industrially, how does it get there? Yeah. Right. Now, you know, we can, we can't put it on a recycling bin, certainly, because that just stops the process. We can't really compost at home because it requires different conditions, can't really put it in our green bins, because a lot of the processes aren't prepared for that sort of thing. So, what do we do with it? Yeah, well, we could regulate it out. Yeah. You know, these sorts of things. Plastic straws are disappearing, quickly being replaced with paper-based straws, cutlery, polystyrene CVC, all these things are terrible for the environment. And they stuff up the process that converts these materials back into a usable resource to make more products.

 

Jeremy Melder  45:58

I think it's going to be a ban on balloons and plastics in Melbourne. So, I'm going well, even balloons, you know, they're also stuffing up the process, aren't they?

 

Justin Bonsey  46:08

Yeah, they certainly are. And we had this one really bad day. It's one of our bond cleanup two years ago, where a Petrel (Bird) washed up on shore. And it was we don't know when it had died. But it had a balloon string wrapped around its feet and wrapped around its wing. And it was an emotional time to see that a balloon that would have been released, who knows where it was released. But it often ends up back in the marine environment back into an into our rivers and washes into the ocean. And it becomes a major entanglement hazard. So that stand behind the balloon ban, because when we released those, that's just another form of lettering.

 

Jeremy Melder  46:52

Yeah, it is. It's true, very true. Now I'm aware of your time and Justin, and just want to ask you if there were three things that a consumer could think about in making their decisions in reducing their plastic consumption in their household? What are three things that you think they could do?

 

Justin Bonsey  47:17

Well, the first would be to make conscious decisions around what we buy. Before we buy something, look at the packaging, see, what plastic does it have in it. If it minimizes plastic, or uses a highly recyclable material, like a like a paper, or cardboard or something like that, or even glass or aluminum, that's a lot easier. plastics are hard to recycle. So, minimize our plastic as much as we can. There are different ways to do that. We could buy our food in bulk, like there are lots of places where we can do that you can take your own packaging, the big supermarkets are doing that more and more. And that way we can avoid buying things and small serving sizes that come in their own plastic bag and that sort of thing. So that would be a one. But yeah, I would say that the second one is to certainly to bring our own bringing our own reusable containers. So, there aren’t, as far as I'm aware of any laws that prevent us from taking reasonable containers. Ultimately, if let's say one of the major supermarkets doesn't allow it, that's their own policy decision. Yeah. So, there is no law that says, you know, there are hygiene, there's a hygiene risk, therefore, we cannot accept that. That's the wrong decision. Okay. But ultimately, I think, by talking to management, you know, at that at that store, talking to upper management, you know, across their headquarters, for example, and really trying to encourage them to come up with better options. That's, that's something that can help facilitate a change. we've, we've seen where policy lags like it's, it's only recently that a ban on plastic bags has been announced in New South Wales. We saw a couple years ago Woolies and Coles, they led the change away from single use plastic bags, right? by announcing their own their own ban on bags, or at least the light gauge ones. And that had a really, really big impact. And when Coles changed their mind shortly thereafter and said, wait a minute, we're not going to we're not going to we're not going to ban like gauge plastic bags. There was a huge response in the community. And then they had to reverse the decision that they just reversed. Yeah, go back. So, I think industry can play a really big role in creating policy change.

 

Jeremy Melder  49:55

What do you think of number three being the not utilizing the off Have the plastic bags that you buy and taking your own bags?

 

Justin Bonsey  50:05

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's a simple one that everybody can do. And it just takes a bit of practice. Yeah, you know, put some put some reusable bags in the back of your car and your bike or in your pocket or whatnot, and you'll never been lost out. Even if you don't bring a reusable bag, this is a funny one, I've, I've gotten creative, I've taken up my jumper, and I've used that as a bag. You can go up and down the aisles Aldi's quite well they, they provide boxes, I've noticed now that Woolworths providing boxes too where you can find your own box, go up and down the aisles, find some, you know, find an empty box, and just use that instead. I

 

Jeremy Melder  50:43

sometimes I do you know, I think everyone forgets their bags, reusable bags from time to time, and I forget, and I just put in the trolley. And then I go downstairs, I know there's like a liquor land or whatever, and they've got empty cartons of that I can use from one bottle and so on and I just put, I just put them in into my produce into those boxes. So that's all fine from there, you know, so it's not an issue, if you forget your bags, that's fine, you can still put it in your in your trolley, there's bound to be a shop that has some boxes that you can put them in, and they can still recycle those boxes or put them in your  Veggie Garden.

 

Justin Bonsey  51:17

You know, funny you should say veggie garden because that would be that would be another one of my tips, I suppose. It depends on how much space you have. But I think composting at home. This isn't necessarily about reducing plastic, but it does have knock on effects. So, composting. Firstly, reducing your food waste as much as you can, is one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint, composting at home creating our own soil. So, we don't need to go buy fertilizers and all that stuff that comes in plastic bags. But it also enriches the soil so we can grow our own food. And we're not as reliant on supermarkets. And a lot of the food often comes in plastic bags. Yeah. So, you know, that's another good way to do that. I would say another suggestion I would give everyone is get involved. Get involved with that. Talk to your local politicians. Let them know how you feel about things. support organizations that are campaigning to reduce plastic waste. Boomerang alliances a good one. The Australian Conservation Foundation has done a lot of fantastic work, Greenpeace, the nature conservation Council of New South Wales. Get involved in your local organizations. It can be small things, or it can be big things. But if our politicians don't know how we feel about things, they're never going to know which policies to support

 

Jeremy Melder  52:54

yet. So, I agree to get involved. I feel like they’re there needs to be a higher rate of involvement. We need to be the foot soldiers out there that are banging on doors and saying we want to change and if we don't do that, politicians won't hear. That's so true. Yeah. Justin, I want to thank you so much to giving up Sunday to be on Beaming Green and giving us some valuable tips on how we can cut down our plastic consumption. And some insights into you know, learning about the green cafes and, and so on. So, thank you so much. 

 

Justin Bonsey  53:32

Thanks for having me, Jeremy. 

 

Jeremy Melder  53:34

Good on ya mate Cheers. Thank you for listening to this episode of Beaming Green. Now if you got something out of this episode, we'd love to hear what your biggest takeaway was. There are several ways you can do this. You can leave a review on Apple podcasts. Or if you have a Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn social media page, you can leave a review there. But don't forget to tag us so we can thank you personally. Lastly, go to Beaming Green.com and subscribe to our newsletter and receive a free how to be green guide. At Beaming Green, we are committed to providing you with a thought provoking and insightful program that inspires you to live your life in accordance with your true nature and purpose. We do this by sharing stories from people that are walking their talk and are committed to living their lives sustainably with their mind, body, and soul. So, you can share this with your friends and family and leave the planet. The music for this podcast was created by Dave Weir